Beer and running. The two seem to go hand in hand these days. We put on our own St. Paddy Day Half K “run,” races like the Warrior Dash include a free beer in your entry fee and the Beer Mile is an official Flotrack event. I am an avid runner myself and I have attended races where a keg awaits you at the finish line. But I do not understand the appeal of a beer at the end of a race, mainly because beer makes me poop and so does running. You put those together and the result could be…explosive. But apparently beer might be good for your running.
Beer can act as a rehydrator. Most American beers are about 90% water. Beer also has a little protein and about a third of its calories come from carbohydrates. Beer contains the same compound that red wine does. Red wine is often toted as a healthy option for heart health because of its ethanol content. Like red wine, beer lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and increases HDL (good) cholesterol.
One study at the Technische Universitaet Muenchen at Klinikum rechts der Isar found compounds in beer (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) that play a part in recovery and illness prevention. Participants in the study were split into two groups. Some were asked to drink 1.5 liters of non-alcoholic wheat beer and some drank an identical placebo drink.
Runners experience an inflammatory response after running a marathon due to the increased stress from running such a long distance. The inflammatory response causes the immune system to temporarily “turn off” which can make it easier for cold viruses etc. to get through. Researchers found that those who drank beer experienced fewer illnesses and infections than those who drank the placebo drink. The findings also showed that beer drinkers had better immune systems, fewer colds, and shorter colds compared to those who did not drink beer.
Moderate and I mean moderate benefits also include a lowered risk of gallstones, and Type 2 diabetes as well as better cognitive function believe it or not. One unpublished study by the University of Granada in Spain compared post-exercise rehydration with water only to rehydration with 660 milliliters of beer. The study found that beer followed by water was as effective as water-only for rehydration and recovery. Yet another small study found no difference in recovery from dehydration drinking two percent alcoholic beverages but when drinks contained four percent alcohol (so most beers) the increase in blood and plasma volume slowed, slightly delaying the recovery process.
So I guess there is some sciencey stuff that supports the beer after a marathon celebration but none of it’s totally solid. For me, beer after a race is just not a good idea. I’ll be stuck in the porta-potty that’s been used so many times I’m having Slumdog Millionaire flashbacks and hoping no one notices that I’m missing a sock when I get out. Give me three or four hours after the race is done, then I’ll have a beer…or two…or three…
If you want to test the beer and running theory, we’re a sponsor of the Run Like the Wind running festival. You can find more information here.