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Can you drink non-alcoholic beer after a workout?

With many of plunging headfirst into our fitness goals with renewed vigour as the new year gets underway, you may well be wondering how best to recover after a high octane workout. Well as it turns out, non-alcoholic beer is better than regular beer, and may even rival sports drinks when it comes to recuperation. 

Can you drink non-alcoholic beer after a workout? - Man enjoys a beer after a run

Firstly, it’s worth pointing out that the relationship between fitness and alcohol is a well researched one. A study published in 2022 in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise examined the correlation between moderate and high levels of fitness in both men and women, finding that both groups were more likely to consume more alcohol than their less physically fit counterparts.

Now clearly, drinking an alcoholic beer after a workout might not be the most productive or sensible thing to do. For one thing, as The Washington Post, points out, alcoholic beer is a mild diuretic, increasing the production of urine.

If you’re trying to re-hydrate after a heavy session or run, that’s not ideal.

Having said that, Dr. Stuart Galloway, of the University of Stirling reported that the drink contains electrolytes, sugar and salt, which helps the body retain fluid, rather than it flushing it out straight away.

On balance though, it seems likely that beer’s mild diuretic properties coupled with the notion that it may disrupt protein synthesis make it a poor choice for a suitable post-workout drink.

Having said that, there is plenty of evidence that people, including high-performance athletes, have used non-alcoholic beers as a successful recovery drink after a workout.

In a 2018 article, NPR told how Olympians had been drinking non-alcoholic beers, largely those made by Bavarian producers Erdinger and Krombacher in the Olympic Village.

As with much of the research surrounding potential health benefits of alcohol, in particular red wine, it is believed that phenols, in particular polyphenols. Very broadly speaking, a polyphenol-rich diet can lower inflammation – something that may well be of interest to athletes.

A 2012 study that looked at how marathon runners were affected post-race by consumption of non-alcoholic beer also found benefits from consumption. The study asked a group of runners to drink two-to-three pints of non-alcoholic beer per day for three weeks before the race and two weeks post-race.

Researchers found that those who drank the beer experienced a “3.25 fold lower” incidence of upper-respiratory-tract infections compared with those who did not.

The study’s authors ascribed this amelioration in risk of upper-respiratory-tract infections to polyphenols found in non-alcoholic beer.

But it is not merely the presence of phenols that might make non-alcoholic beer a suitable drink post-workout.

Non-alcoholic beer is considered a “natural isotonic drink” since it tends to contain a comparable amount of salt and sugar as to those found naturally in the human body.

Isotonic drinks are used to replace fluids and electrolytes lost through sweating after heavy workouts, in particular by endurance athletes.

Indeed, it may well be that – depending on the brand you choose – a non-alcoholic beer may contain less sugar than your average sports drink (though clearly this depends on a number of factors).

As always, if you’re considering a change to your ‘normal’ diet and workout routine, consult your doctor.

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