Endurance, Hydration, and the Role of Beer – Cheers to Recovery?

So, get this, a systematic review published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism goes out on a limb to check if beer might not be such a bad idea when it comes to endurance sports and recovery. For those who dig the quick and dirty: light beer might actually hold its own as a post-workout recovery tool, in some respects, even giving good old water a run for its money. And to all those conspiracy theorists and skeptics out there, yeah sure, this study was probably funded by the shady beer industry kingpins.

According to this research, it seems like a low-alcohol beer – we’re talking less than 4% here – might actually be a pretty solid post-workout hydration choice. The review also nods towards the idea that sprinkling a little sodium into non-alcoholic beer could give it a boost in terms of its hydration game. But, and this is a big “but”, the researchers throw in the twist that this might throw the taste off-kilter.

However, if you decide to knock back a beer packing more than 4% alcohol, or down more than one or two 12-ounce beers with low alcohol content, the beer’s benefits start to fizzle out. That’s when you could be staring down a whole lineup of issues, including more noticeable water loss (thanks to the diuretic effect), a slowdown in muscle growth, less-than-stellar future workouts, and potentially, an uptick in fat accumulation.

Here’s the thing: beer’s got carbs and a touch of sodium, which water is missing, making it potentially useful after a workout. Besides, beer’s got that edge over water when it comes to taste, making it easier to quench your thirst and rebalance your hydration. But, if you’re only sipping on regular beer without any food or other fluids and go beyond one or two glasses, the diuretic effect of alcohol is going to kick into overdrive, flushing out even more of the fluids you were trying to replenish.

I’ve got to say this though: don’t knock back alcohol before a workout. But post-workout, beer has another trick up its sleeve: it’s packed with polyphenols, antioxidants, and antiviral plant compounds that could have your immune system’s back and lower the odds of respiratory infections linked to intense training sessions. Even though most types of beer get these polyphenols from malt and hops, the research focused specifically on non-alcoholic beer.

Whether you choose alcoholic or non-alcoholic beer, water, milk, or sports drinks, hydration is still your number one ticket to recovering after a workout. If non-alcoholic (or low-alcohol) beer helps folks hydrate more effectively post-training, then it’s all good. So, here’s a toast to an unexpected recovery buddy – beer!






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