In the past five years, I have participated in numerous races from Rock’n’Roll Half Marathons to the Skirt Chaser 5K and one thing all of these races have in common is beer being poured at the finish line. When I moved to Denver, I was introduced to the bar run club scene. There is a bar run club almost every day of the week. So this got me thinking, what is the correlation between beer and athletics?
Beer at the finish line is a sign of a job well done, but can that beer also be an aide in the recovery process? How does wheat and barley replenish carbs that the body has lost? Are there electrolytes in beer? I set out to find the answers and conduct my own study.
In 2007, The Telegraph published an article on a study conducted at Granada University by Professor Manual Garzon. According to Garzon, the carbonation in beer helps to quench thirst and the carbohydrates replace the lost calories. The study also found that those who drank beer had higher hydration levels then those who don’t.
Last week, I sat down with local dietitian and nutritionist Jill Latham to discuss the relationship between beer and exercise in more detail. While exercising you burn both glucose and glycogen. Glucose is what supplies energy during the first few minutes of any activity, where as glycogen is used for more endurance activities longer than 20 minutes (road races, half-marathons, etc).
Upon completion of exercise, the body needs to replenish glucose, carbs, and protein within 30 minutes for optimal recovery. Also, the body will absorb fluids, beer, better after exercise as opposed to an egg and bacon sandwich. So the big question, does beer have what it takes to replenish the body after moderate exercise?
According to Latham, one beer contains plenty of carbs and glucose to replenish some that was lost. What about the alcohol and the diuretic affects? Answer: since your body will be dehydrated and rehydration is of utmost importance, one beer most likely won’t act as a diuretic, as your body will hold onto all the fluid you offer it. However, always proceed with caution if your post-workout beverage of choice contains booze.
I researched and I spoke with the experts, now all I had left to do was “test” my theory out for myself.
Here are my results:
Workout: 45-minute high intensity circuit training and 30-minute bike ride
Beverages: Dry Dock Apricot Blonde
Results: The cold beer was amazingly delicious and refreshing. It completely quenched my thirst. Leaving the bar, I felt fine and not completely wiped out. The next day on my 3-mile run my legs did not feel tired and I actually ran about a minute faster than I normally do.
Workout: 3-mile treadmill run and light weight lifting
Beverages: Moscow Mule
Results: The Moscow Mule was delicious and thirst quenching. However, the next day my legs felt a little tired and I felt a little more dehydrated. I did not workout the day after.
Workout: 3.26 mile run around Wash Park
Beverage: Two mimosas
Results: I felt the mimosas gave me some good energy and were great compliments to my runner’s high. The following day my legs were a little tired but my heavy lifting and yoga workouts were still completed with good form.
The bottom line: If you do enjoy one or two beers after a race or hard workout along with alcohol-free beverages like water, you probably won’t notice a big difference in your recovery. It feels good to sip on a beer and if it feels good for both mind and body then that is all that really matters.