Is It Healthy to Drink Beer After Running a Big Race?

It's tradition for many to drink a beer after crossing the finish line. We asked a sports nutritionist whether it's a good idea.

May 04, 2021
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Photo by: tomorca/Getty Images

tomorca/Getty Images

It's common to have a celebratory beer after a marathon, half marathon or even 5K race. All your hard work paid off and you can check that race off your bucket list. After weeks of training sessions, countless pre and post workout snacks and hours of foam rolling, you crossed the finished line! But is it time to crack open a cold brewski? Find out.

What Your Body Needs After a Race

Exercise expends precious nutrients and refueling afterwards is vital to making that next exercise bout a success. Post workout calls for replenishment of what was lost during exercise. Carbs to refill energy stores, protein for muscle repair, and finally fluid and electrolytes to replenish sweat losses are all required. It is generally suggested to consume these nutrients in a timely fashion and to continue refueling and rehydrating consistently the rest of the day. Over time, poor fueling and inadequate hydration can lead to fatigue, decreased performance and increased risk of injuries.

Is There a Link Between Beer and Exercise?

Some tout beer as the ideal post workout beverage, highlighting that it checks many of the boxes required to refuel post workout. Others argue that despite the presence of carbs, fluid and micronutrients, beer can do more harm than good thanks to alcohol, a well-known diuretic.

If rehydration is stifled by those sips of beer, perhaps it is not such a good idea?

An average 12 fluid-ounce bottle or can of regular beer is 4 to 5 percent alcohol by volume (% ABV) and contains 145 calories, 11 grams carbs and 1 gram of protein. There are also small amounts of micronutrients including B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and sodium — the exact amounts vary by the style of beer. As many beer lovers know, many of the uber-popular craft beers have much higher ABV, which means more alcohol and calories per serving.

What Does Science Say?

Believe it or not beer drinking and exercise has been scientifically explored. Studies to date have been small in size, but have not found beer to be incredibly detrimental to rehydration post exercise. A study published in 2015 found that drinking a combo of beer and water did not negatively impact hydration status following a run in hot and humid conditions, but there are other factors to consider. Another study pointed that those who consumed alcohol when dehydrated from exercise demonstrated increased deficits in areas such as cognitive function and reaction time compared to those who were adequately hydrated. According to another small study, there is a possibility that the high sodium content in non-alcoholic beer can benefit electrolyte levels when consumed before exercise.

Bottom Line: It's OK, Once in a While

If the mood strikes (and you aren’t driving) enjoy a post race beer with friends on occasion, but be warned that if you are dehydrated, the effects of alcohol may be exacerbated. While some small studies haven’t identified beer as harmful, water and sports drinks remain the best options for replenishment when crossing the finish line.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition. She is the author of four cookbooks First Bites: Superfoods for Babies and Toddlers, The Healthy Air Fryer Cookbook, The Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook and Healthy Quick and Easy Smoothies.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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