Frequent any supplement store or even just the beverage aisle of your local supermarket, and you’ll be faced with a plethora of hydrating options. From the gold-standard H2O, to water infused with elderflower and ginger, to the OG Powerade, Powerade Zero and every other concoction of hydrating properties you can throw in a bottle. When it comes to hydration, we take things seriously and after a football match or long run, you’ll likely find us scooping some amino acids into a Yeti bottle and chugging it down with speed. Rarely is it the case that beer takes precedence over water, but if a new study is to be believed, it could actually be a decent post-workout drink.
A systematic review on beer consumption related to endurance sports was recently published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. Key to the findings included int he report was the fact that light beer could be a decent recovery aid post-exercise, with the study’s authors even going as far to suggest it’s up there with the likes of water in some aspects.
Based on the research, a low ABV beer - one less than 4 per cent - can be effective as a post-workout hydrator. The review also says that adding sodium to non-alcoholic beer can improve its rehydration properties, but even the scientists admit that this poses some serious questions when it comes to taste properties.
But, before you go reaching for the beers, keep in mind that once you go above the 4 per cent alcohol content, or have more than one or two 12-ounce low ABV beers, the benefits such a drink poses start to decline. According to Jaison Wynne, PhD student at Old Dominion University and co-author of the review, at this point you risk issues that include higher water loss, reduced muscle gains, less than optimal training and potentially an increase in body fat.
According to Brad Schoenfeld, PhD, and a Men’s Health exercise science advisor and associate professor at Lehman College, “Beer has carbohydrates and some sodium where water does not, which could be beneficial post-exercise.” Add to that the fact we’re quite partial to the taste of beer over water, and it’s a lot easier to see yourself hydrating than if you’re just handed plain water. But as many have noted, during exercise you also lose electrolytes, which makes having food with beer or another non-alcoholic beverage even better.
Wynne adds, “When you exercise you’re also losing electrolytes, not just water.” Food can help replace some of those, but having one or two beers can act as a diuretic and take over, flushing the body of even more fluid.
So, while everyone gives a firm no to beer pre-exercise, it might not be such a bad thing post-workout. With polyphenols, antioxidants and antiviral plant compounds that keep your immune system strong while reducing chances of respiratory infection associated with heavy training, there are some perks. But, have too much and it can be detrimental to performance. “Having a six-pack of beer after a workout isn’t anything a nutritionist would recommend,” says Schoenfeld.