Why it's OK to have a post social run beer

Guest post by Bamini Pathmanathan
MS, RDN, Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist

Health benefits of BEER! That may sound like an oxymoron, but maybe there’s something to it.

Did you know that beer is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea?

And people tend to drink more alcohol on the days they have exercised, especially beer, according to a study conducted at Northwestern University. 

That may be because we tend to reward ourselves for the hard work or we are just too tired to fight logic.

 Photo by  Pawel Kadysz

Photo by Pawel Kadysz

But a recent study by Professor Matthew Barnes of New Zealand's Massey University School of Sport and Medicine found that even consumption of low doses of alcohol before any athletic event should be discouraged for it will have a negative impact on performance. These effects will also inhibit recovery and bodies adaptation to exercise.

Also, beer, in particular, affects the fast twitch anaerobic fibers by inhibiting an enzyme that helps fuel the muscle. When that happens, fibers do not adapt like they should for three days which means longer recovery period. Alcohol also interferes with how your body produces energy because there’s less sugar or glucose to power your muscles.

So, with all these negative impacts of alcohol on our performance and health, why do we tend to drink beer at the end of a race?

Take a look at most races. There’s often beer available at the end of a race, whether it’s a 5k, 10k or half a marathon. It’s like a reward for all that hard work -or maybe it’s a social thing. But whatever the reason, beer is quite often available at the end of a race and found to be refreshing!

But above all, should be done in moderation. It is not a source of fuel.

So what’s the upside to Beer? Is it good for you or rather what’s good about it?

One notion of what makes it “not so bad” is based on what beer is made of--

basic ingredients include: water, grains(starch), hops and yeast.

Each of these ingredients play an integral part in the character of the beer.

Granted beer isn’t your average health food or drink but one or two after a run can be an acceptable option. Most American beers are 90 percent water with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of ~4.6 and a small amount of protein. It also contains approximately a third of the calories coming from carbohydrates.

Water is 90 percent of what makes up beer. Water used in brewing has a big influence on the finished product.

Did you know many styles of beer are known for the water used to make it. For example, a Pilsner uses soft water which is responsible for the delicate, crisp taste. 

Then comes Barley, a grain most common in the beer world. Widely cultivated and used in brewing and stockfeed, it is commonly made into malt before it can be used in beer.

Barley itself is a rich source of many nutrients.

Hops are the spice of beer! It’s a plant grown in many regions of the world, with Pacific Northwest as the “hop capital” of the United States. Hops add bitterness to balance out the sweetness from the malt. It also gives the flavor and the aroma.

Did you know that the time at which hops are added to the beer determines their bitterness? Adding hops early makes the beer more bitter. Add it later and it will be less bitter.

Last but not least, comes Yeast. It’s job is to convert sugar in beer into CO2 and alcohol. It adds the spicy or fruity note to a beer. So, the type of yeast used determines if the beer is an ale or a larger. Amazing how each of these ingredients truly make the beer into what it is!!

Granted beer isn’t your average health food or drink but one or two after a run can be an acceptable option. Most American beers are 90 percent water with an alcohol by volume (ABV) of ~4.6 and a small amount of protein. It also contains approximately a third of the calories coming from carbohydrates.

Even though beer has higher water content, which is one of the positives, it is still an alcohol. Please note that alcohol is a diuretic and can be dehydrating.

But it can also be viewed as a decent rehydrator as long as it’s accompanied with water. It’s important to hydrate with water and other drinks with electrolytes, especially sodium, after all forms of exercise.

Beer, in this scenario, becomes the vehicle to drive more water into your body. Some also see it as a pain management tool. Numbing your aches and pain from a run, for example! Alcohol can have an effect on the nerve endings allowing you to mask that pain. However, it is definitely not a long term solution to any pain

Balance is essential to healthy living.

As always, with anything, moderation is the key.