For some, running is heart-pounding, sweaty and exhausting. For others, it’s refreshing, exhilarating and one of the most effective cardiovascular exercises there is. Regardless of the feelings it invokes, running depletes your body of important fluids that need to be replenished.
Beer is a Fluid
So what should you drink? Water for the hydration? A sports drink for the electrolytes?
How about popping the cap on a beer? After all, your body has lost fluids, electrolytes, carbohydrates and proteins — all of which need a fill-up. Beer is a fluid. It’s a carb and has electrolytes, too. It’s often served after 5Ks. But is it a good running recovery drink?
Well, yes and no.
Lots of Research
Studies on the subject have been numerous, looking at everything from the dehydrating effects of alcohol consumption (which are more significant after a run) to how alcohol can impair the body’s ability to synthesize proteins your muscles need to repair after a run. Some research found that the only way to truly reduce the dehydrating effects — and to aid the overall fluid balance needed after exercise — was to actually reduce the alcohol percentage in beer and add sodium. Only then did beer offer “a potential compromise” between the effects of a typical recovery drink and the dehydrating effects of full-alcohol beer, according to the studies published in the journals PLOS One and the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.
Then, to the chagrin of beer lovers everywhere, a recent bombshell scientific study determined that “no level of alcohol consumption improves health.” The study, published in the journal Lancet in August, analyzed data from 195 countries over the course of 26 years.
The Lancet study did not, however, specifically look at whether exercise would mitigate any negative health effects from drinking moderately. But another study had already done so: In 2016, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week could lessen the link between consuming alcohol and death from a variety of causes, including from cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
In other words, all is not lost if you want to drink a beer after a run — as long as you rehydrate and replenish first.
Which brings up another bonus: While drinking solely beer as a running recovery drink might not improve your recovery, it might encourage you to work out more frequently.
When you turn running — or any exercise for that matter — into a social gathering, you’re more likely to keep up with the habit, and that could lead to better fitness outcomes in the long run. In fact, adults who consumed alcohol were more likely to be physically active than non-drinkers, according to the American Journal of Health Promotion.
With the explosion of craft breweries in the United States over the last 10 years, “drinking local” has become a way to become a deeper part of your community. High-quality breweries and their tasting rooms are becoming some of the hottest spots in the region — and many hope to tear down the long-held notion that beer can’t be part of a healthy and active lifestyle.
Breweries Get in the Game
Some craft breweries host running clubs and races, encouraging runners to meet up, run away from and then back to their tasting rooms, where they offer discounted prices to participants. Meeting up with friends and running a 5K before drinking a glass of local beer can be a fun way to socialize and work out.
Maybe not — but it can be part of an active, healthy lifestyle
If you’re looking for the healthiest ways to replenish your body after a run, science says stick to water and to drinks specially designed to replenish what your body loses during a run. But if you’re looking to make running a social hobby — perhaps even a habit in order to reap the long-term health benefits of regular exercise — an alcoholic incentive might do the trick when it comes to getting off the couch and back into shape.