Why Beer Might Actually Be an Effective Post-Workout Drink

How many is too many after a hard run, though?

beer after workout
A recent study supports the "earn your beer" ethos. Here's what you should know.
Igor Alecsander/Getty Images

My track club generally heads down the street to a pub after hard workouts. There’s nothing performance-minded about the tradition. It’s just seen as a chance to unwind and commiserate after a hellish hour. You know, “earn your beer.”

But according to a recent study, a post-workout pint may have actually have tangible benefits for beleaguered bodies. The paper, which was published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism earlier this summer, concluded that low-alcohol beer (think less than four percent) has rehydration properties that could prove useful in post-workout situations.

Thanks to its natural mixture of carbohydrates, sodium and polyphenols — which convey antioxidant effects — sampling a bit of beer after a tough run or class isn’t going to hurt you. It could actually send your muscles on their way to recovery.

How much is too much, though? You probably want to stop at two. After just a couple 12-ounce glasses of four-percent-or-less ABV beers, the body’s recovery process will start heading in the wrong direction. Remember: alcohol is a diuretic. It dehydrates the body and forces organs to work harder. (Less than ideal, after you just put your organs through the ringer.) Drink too much, and you’re looking at water loss and reduced recovery. Do it every time you work out, and you could easily end up sabotaging your entire routine, leading to weight gain … as opposed to muscle gain.

Alcohol is the crux of the issue. Isolate alcohol from the situation, and you can take advantage of the hearty, health benefits of beer. It’s one reason the non-alcoholic beer movement is now taking off (read more about that here), and why some low-alcohol beers have been built and brewed, from the ground up, as a post-workout alternative for athletes. One of our favorites, based out of San Francisco is called Sufferfest Beer Company. Check it out here.

Just keep in mind: beer may have some nutritional advantages, but ultimately it’s empty calories. Have one or two for the post-session vibes, but if you’re looking for pure hydration, water is always the best choice.

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