Are There Benefits Drinking Beer After A Run?

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Having a post-run beer has become trendy, but is it just a celebratory tradition or are there benefits to drinking beer after a run? It might seem like an excuse to drink, but science might suggest otherwise!

Whether you’re a post-run beer drinker or not, you may be surprised to learn that it has some pros. But those pros come with some cons too, so don’t rush out and dive into a pitcher before you read through the info below!

beer benefits after run

The Science Behind Beer and Running

If you’re serious about running, getting fit, and improving your performance, you’ve probably seen a lot of information about the negative effects of alcohol.

Alcohol can potentially diminish your gains, impair your recovery, and ruin your progress. But beer is different from hard liquor in its composition, and when it comes to beer, we are ok with drinking in moderation – a single beer – and not going overboard.

The reason drinking a beer after your run can be good for you comes down to the nutritional value of beer. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Water Content: Water is the primary ingredient in beer, so having one after your run will help you rehydrate.
  • Carbohydrates: The grains in beer are carbs, so when you grab a beer after your run it helps to replenish your muscles’ glycogen stores.
  • B-Vitamins & Minerals: A variety of B-vitamins and essential minerals help to metabolize waste faster, increase energy, and kickstart your recovery.

And if you don’t like the alcohol that comes with beer, you can get these same benefits with non-alcoholic beer.

Let’s go into more detail…

The Benefits of Beer After a Run

Yes, there are benefits to drinking beer after a run! The key here is “a” beer… Not many beers. So here’s your license to crack open a cold one the next time you finish a run, and if your friends ask why, you can tell them all about these benefits.

Replenishes Your Energy Stores

All beers have a slightly different ingredient list, but they all contain some kind of grains. The most common is malted barley, but depending on your chosen beer, it may contain sorghum, oats, wheat, maize, or even rice.

During the production process, the starches get converted to soluble sugars, which are easily absorbable. When you drink a beer after a run, your body makes the most of these quick-absorbing carbs to replenish the depleted glycogen stores in your muscles.

It’s Good for Your Heart

Numerous studies show that moderate alcohol consumption can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 40 percent!

If you’re the type who enjoys a glass of wine every evening to help lower your chance of heart disease, you may want to add a beer after every run, because the vitamin B, extra protein, and minerals in beer may make it a better choice.

***We’re saying this with a grain of salt because some of these studies have come under scrutiny – there is no clear-cut answer.***

It’s a Natural Anti-Inflammatory

Certain compounds found in beer may have an anti-inflammatory effect. Many studies show that this is strongly true for non-alcoholic beers in particular because they’re richer in hops, barley, or other grains.

But that being said, you can get similar benefits from alcoholic beer thanks to the ingredients, which are unlikely to be consumed in any other drink or food.

One specific polyphenol, xanthohumol, is said to reduce inflammation noticeably, which could help you to recover faster and experience less muscle pain and stiffness after a run.

It’s a Source of Antioxidants

A moderate serving of beer regularly also keeps you topped up with antioxidants, which fight and eliminate free radicals in the body. This effectively reduces your chances of developing disease and helps speed up recovery.

Boosts Your Immune System

Back in 2009, a study known as “Be-MaGIC (beer, marathons, genetics, inflammation, and the cardiovascular system) proved that runners who drank beer daily had fewer colds and recovered faster from their colds than other runners.

Thanks to the polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals in beer—both alcoholic and non-alcoholic—regular consumption can help boost your immune system, keeping you healthier overall.

This is great for a change of season when colds and flu strike. Drinking a beer after every run can help you stay healthy and keep training, rather than needing to take some time off to recover.

May Speed Up Post-Run Recovery

All those anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties come in handy for recovery. Less inflammation means the nutrients and oxygen in your blood can move more freely throughout the body, reaching the muscles and organs needed for recovery.

You may experience less muscle soreness than usual in the days following your run, and you should also find that your cardiovascular system has an easier time bouncing back.

Can Improve Your Bone Health

Some studies have shown that darker beers with a higher hops content have more silicon in them, which can be very beneficial for the health of your bones and connective tissues.

More study is warranted, but current research suggests that drinking a glass of dark beer a day can help increase bone density and help counteract conditions like osteoarthritis, particularly in older folk.

Be careful, though—drinking more than one glass daily can have the opposite effect, making you more prone to injury.

It Promotes Better Sleep

Sleep is one of the most underrated factors of performance. The good news is that a beer after your run can actually help improve your sleep quality, which can have a positive knock-on effect to your running performance.

This increased sleep quality is most likely due to the riboflavin and nicotinic acid content in beer. Riboflavin, one of the B-vitamins, plays a big role in energy production and a deficiency can cause sleep disruptions.

Nicotinic acid hasn’t been studied in as much detail, but this research indicates that supplementation with it can increase prostaglandin production, a compound that plays a large role in sleep quality.

Helps Keep Your Gut Healthy

Beer—alcoholic and non-alcoholic—is a fermented drink, which means it contains healthy probiotic bacteria that can bolster your gut health. Not only that, but polyphenols in beer act as prebiotics, feeding the good bacteria in your gut.

This is beneficial for running, because nobody wants to suffer gastrointestinal troubles while running. But it’s also beneficial for everyday life. They say your gut is your second brain, so drinking a beer after every run can also lead to better cognitive function, less brain fog, and better concentration.

What Type of Beer Should You Drink After a Run?

Not all beer is good is equal when it comes to a post-run beer. Before you go out and start taste-testing every beer in the bar over the next few months, here are the kinds of beers you should opt for if you want the full benefits and fewer of the downsides.

Light Beers

Alcohol isn’t the point of drinking here, so choosing a beer with a lower alcohol content—2 to 4 percent alcohol by volume—will benefit you most.

Another big bonus of opting for a light beer is that they’re usually significantly lower in calories, so you won’t feel like you’re drinking back a chunk of the calories you burned during your run.

Session Beers

A session beer is technically the same thing as a light beer, but they’re generally more flavorful than a light beer. Session beers clock in at 5 percent or less alcohol content, but they’re full of all the good stuff you need after a run.

IPAs: India Pale Ales

IPAs have an ABV of between 4.5 and 7.5 percent, but be careful—choosing a double or triple pale ale will land you with a drink of 10 percent or more.

These beers are known for their distinct hops flavor, which is achieved by various hops additions in the brewing process. You may get some extra benefit out of these beers thanks to their slightly higher hops content.

Non-Alcoholic Beers

If you aren’t a drinker at all, you don’t have to miss out on the benefits of drinking beer after a run!

Like regular beers, non-alcoholic beers are brewed with water, grain, yeast, and hops. That gives them the exact same benefits as alcoholic beer, just minus the alcohol.

Potential Drawbacks of Drinking Beer After a Run

Of course, drinking a beer after you’ve gone for a run does have a few potential drawbacks. BUT… These downsides are usually a result of overdoing it and drinking too much. Moderation is key!

Individual Tolerance

If you’re not a beer person, drinking one after each run might sound like a pretty bad idea, even if it is non-alcoholic. Pushing yourself to drink something you don’t enjoy isn’t going to be worth the benefits you’re getting.

Dehydration

Alcohol does dehydrate you, so if you’re drinking a beer that’s got a significant ABV percentage, there’s a chance of becoming more dehydrated. However, this can easily be remedied by choosing a lighter beer, although it depends on your own tolerance.

Once again, this really comes down to how much of it you’re drinking. If you’re having one beer, it’s not likely to be an issue. On the other hand, if you’re already significantly dehydrated when you finish your race, it might be best to stick to water.

Impaired Recovery

Too much alcohol in your system ruins all those antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. If you drink too much, you might find that it takes you longer to recover, even if your muscles reap the benefits of less DOMS.

Tips for Enjoying a Refreshing Beer After a Run

Planning on drinking a beer after every run to get the benefits? Here’s how to do it smartly so you can get all of the pros without any of the cons.

Be a “Two-Fisted” Drinker

When you finish a run, you’re most likely going to be thirsty, which makes it easy to down a beer or two without even thinking about it. But if you can get into the habit of becoming a “two-fisted drinker,” you’re much more likely to avoid negative effects.

This means having a beer in one hand, and another non-alcoholic drink in the other—preferably an electrolyte replacement drink. Sip from one, sip from the other, and you’ll manage to stay balanced, rehydrate, and not overdo it accidentally.

Opt for Light or Low-Alcohol Beers

Don’t make the mistake of choosing a beer with a high level of alcohol in it. You might enjoy it, but you won’t get the benefits because the alcohol content will most likely negate them.

Choose a light beer or even a non-alcoholic beer for the best results. It’s the perfect way to still “have a drink” with your buddies without overdoing it and ruining any positive effects.

Moderation is Key

Drinking too many beers is the easiest way to ruin the benefits. One beer after a run is ideal—even two beers is pushing it past the beneficial point, depending on their alcohol content.

Stick to one beer and one other non-alcoholic drink, in “two-fisted drinker” style. Drink slowly and savor both—they should last you at least an hour, at which point it’s probably time for a shower and some rest!

Pair with Snacks

It’s a great idea to have a protein- and carb-rich meal or snack along with your beer. After a run, your body needs replenishment, and you should be eating too.

If you’re at the finish line, a quick beer might stand in place of a snack until you can get somewhere to sit and eat. But if you’ve headed away from the race and you’re sitting down to have a drink, eat something as well.

Not only will it help you replenish those glycogen stores faster, but it’ll stop you from drinking too much as a way of curbing hunger.

Skip Sugary Mixers

Adding some sugar-laden mixer to your drink will only add calories and give you a sugar rush! Plus, sugar feeds inflammation, meaning all those anti-inflammatory benefits will go to waste.

Know Your Limits

One beer is great, but we all know it can be tough to stick to that one. If you’re going to have a few, make sure you’re aware of your limits. It does depend on what you’re drinking to an extent, but make sure you don’t push yourself too far.

Not only will this ruin the gains you made in your run, but it’ll have a detrimental effect on your training in the days to come, as well as your sleep.

Listen to Your Body

Not feeling it? Don’t force yourself to drink a beer after your run just because of the benefits you’ll get from it. As always, listen to your body, gauge how you’re feeling, and make the decision from there.

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AUTHOR

Ben is an avid road and trail runner, and has completed multiple marathons and ultras. A former running store owner, he now shares his knowledge and experience writing these articles.