Go ahead and crack open that beer. Turns out a brew or two is actually beneficial to your health—and won’t damper your running game. Studies show that beer has health benefits when consumed in moderation (one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.) Properties in beer can help prevent disease, reduce inflammation, help you sleep better, and so much more.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you should go straight from the trail to the brewery. If you want to get the maximum benefits from your run, registered dietitian Dawn Holmes recommends you get in your rehydration and recovery fuel first. “Otherwise, your body postpones recovery to address the toxin you just introduced,” she says. Otherwise, rewarding yourself with a drink after a run is not going to undo your training efforts. And you might appreciate some of the additional health benefits of beer.
8 Scientific Reasons to Pour Yourself a Cold One
It prevents colds and viruses.
In 2009, Dr. Johannes Scherr led a study with 277 runners three weeks before and two weeks after the Munich Marathon. This became known as the “Be-MaGIC,” (beer, marathons, genetics, inflammation, and the cardiovascular system) study, which explored the connection between polyphenols in beer and a runner’s health.
Two groups were created, the beer drinkers and the non-beer drinkers. The first group drank 1.5 liters of non-alcoholic wheat beer daily, while group two drank a substance that smelled and tasted like wheat beer but did not have polyphenols. Polyphenols have been found to help reduce inflammation and alleviate stress placed on the body; these things can prevent illnesses like colds and viruses.
The study found that group one had fewer colds and viruses. Those who did have a cold from group one did not have it as long as those in group two. So make sure the beer is rich in polyphenols to support the body’s immune system.
It keeps your ticker ticking.
You’ve probably heard a glass of red wine a day can provide the antioxidants your body needs to prevent heart disease. Well, the same is true with beer. Studies suggest that the cardiovascular benefits of wine are equal in beer and spirits. Therefore, moderate consumption of any alcoholic drink can help to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. (Beer, however, has more protein and B vitamins, which arguably makes it a stronger candidate health-wise).
On the flip side, too much of any alcoholic beverage can increase your chances of heart disease. So it’s best to stick to one a day to maximize your benefits.
(Non-alcoholic) Beer gives you a balance of electrolytes
You read that right. Because of it’s high sodium content, researchers believe non-alcoholic beer could be an excellent pre-run beverage. A study published in the journal Nutrients found that runners who drank around 23 ounces of non-alcoholic beer 45 minutes before running on a treadmill maintained electrolyte homeostasis better than the participants who drank an equal amount of water before the run. They also tested a group drinking alcoholic beer before the run, which ended up much more depleted in sodium by the end of the experiment (and we’re sure they didn’t feel great, either).
It’s a stress-reliever.
Whether your body is tight from a long run or rough day at the office, a cold beer can help relax you by reducing tension and stiffness. This can help alleviate that pesky soreness as well.
Beer may help reduce inflammation.
Many scientific studies focus on non-alcoholic beer specifically because many of the nutritional benefits of beer come from the base ingredients, like the grains, hops, and barley. Some of those ingredients you really only interact with in the context of a glass of beer, which means you’re only getting specific benefits from beer itself. Xanthohumol, for example, is a polyphenol found exclusively in hops and studies have shown that this specific polyphenol can reduce inflammation.
It improves your gut health.
As a fermented beverage, beer has the ability to benefit and grow healthy gut bacteria. Studies have shown that the polyphenols act as a prebiotic, which feeds the healthy bacteria in the gut. Gut health is important for runners to reduce GI distress, improve sleep, and boost immune function.
Beer builds strong bones.
Although this likely needs further study, research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming at least on glass of wine or beer per day increased hip and spine bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. Conversely, drinking more than two glasses per day tended to reduce bone mineral density.
It promotes better sleep.
Lactoflavin and nicotinic acid are both found in beer, which can help boost sleep. And, of course, sleep is so important for recovery and for keeping the immune system strong.
Bottom line, one or two beers won’t ruin your training routine. The health benefits of beer include better recovery, boosted immune system, and much-needed stress relief. However, it’s important to always drink responsibly and supplement with water. Everything in moderation is key.