Beer is the third most consumed beverage in the world after water and tea.
Although some people promote it as an ideal post-workout drink, beer slightly dehydrates you. Therefore, you may wonder if it’s as effective as other sports beverages like water, protein shakes, and electrolyte drinks.
Possible benefits of a post-workout beer
While beer isn’t an ideal sports drink, some of its properties may support your body after exercise. It’s important to note that there is no conclusive evidence that drinking beer after your workout is beneficial. Therefore, more research is needed.
May be a decent source of carbs
Beer is typically brewed from water, grains, hops, and yeast. As a result, it’s a moderate source of carbs, with the average beer containing 10–15 grams.
During exercise, your body’s stored form of carbs, called glycogen, may become depleted. The extent of glycogen depletion depends greatly on the workout. Aerobic exercise, such as steady running or cycling, tends to deplete glycogen to a larger degree than exercises like weightlifting or short sprinting intervals. Consuming carbs after exercise can replenish your energy stores, so beer may serve as a decent post-workout option occasionally.
However, it’s important to note that the relevant research does not show that drinking full-strength beer offers any significant post-workout benefits compared with sports drinks.
Some contain essential electrolytes
During moderate to high-intensity exercise, you lose electrolytes through sweat. Electrolytes are minerals, including sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium, that carry an electrical charge. They perform various important bodily functions, such as maintaining proper pH balance, balancing water levels, and facilitating nerve transmission. Therefore, traditional sports drinks provide essential electrolytes to help you rehydrate after working out.
Notably, electrolyte beers have become popular because they provide the same effect. These brews contain additional electrolytes, specifically sodium, potassium, and magnesium, making them a viable post-workout beverage. It’s important to note that excessive drinking may hinder exercise recovery, which is why many electrolyte beers have low alcohol content.
May provide some antioxidants
Beer contains a good amount of antioxidants due to the naturally high antioxidant content of hops, a major ingredient in most brews. When consumed, antioxidants combat free radicals, which are unstable molecules that promote chronic inflammation and increase the risk of various ailments.
Specifically, beer is fairly high in polyphenols, which are antioxidants found in various fruits and vegetables. These compounds may be why moderate beer intake is associated with improved heart health and a reduction in cancer risk.
However, excessive beer or alcohol consumption nullifies any benefits and increases the risk of disease. Therefore, moderation is key.
Potential downsides, risks, and side effects
While drinking beer after exercise is associated with potential benefits, several significant downsides may outweigh them. Furthermore, regular alcohol consumption may become addictive, so you should always limit your intake.
May slow protein synthesis
To counteract exercise-induced stress on your muscles, your body stimulates muscle protein synthesis, a complex process that creates new proteins to repair and strengthen the muscle. Several studies suggest that drinking alcohol after a workout may impair muscle protein synthesis, which can delay recovery time.
One study in 8 active men found that muscle protein synthesis decreased 2 hours after exercise when alcohol was consumed. However, it’s important to note that the dose of alcohol used in the study was equivalent to 12 standard drinks, which is more than usual consumption.
Another study suggests that a low dose of alcohol, approximately 0.23 grams per pound (0.5 grams per kg) of body weight, has no effect on muscle performance after strenuous exercise.
Based on current data, it’s best to refrain from consuming large amounts of alcohol following exercise.
May dehydrate you
Hydration is particularly important for sports performance and exercise. Moderate alcohol consumption has consistently been associated with a mild dehydrating effect. This is because alcohol has diuretic properties that slightly increase urine production after consumption. However, lower amounts of alcohol, such as those found in light beer, are unlikely to have a significant dehydrating effect.
Beer may taste refreshing, but it’s not an ideal sports beverage. While drinking beer after a workout may offer a few benefits, it may also impair muscle protein synthesis and promote dehydration. In most cases, choosing a non-alcoholic drink to replenish energy levels and fluids is a better option.
Nonetheless, several beers are specifically formulated to provide electrolytes, which may help counteract these side effects.