One problem is that alcohol tends to make you pee more, so it may not be very effective for rehydration and therefore could be harmful for recovery from exercise.
People take up running, and other types of exercise, mainly to get fit and lose weight. But there’s often a social aspect, too. After a gruelling run, some people like to retire to the pub or club house for an ice cold beer.
It can’t do any harm… can it?
If we simply look at numbers, running mainly uses the body’s carbohydrate (sugar) and fat stores to provide energy for muscle activity, with the average 70kg person burning approximately 120 calories per mile covered.
A pint of beer or lager contains about 200 calories, so modest beer consumption after a run is unlikely to lead to excessive weight gain. Still, all else being equal, the number of calories in beer means that fairly long distances have to be covered to make up for heavy consumption.
Watch: How much sugar is really in your favourite drink? Post continues after video.
So, the odd beer after a run is not going to make you fat. But could it also have benefits?
Prolonged exercise results in depletion of the body’s liver and skeletal muscle glycogen (sugar) stores. These stores are important to offset fatigue and maintain exercise performance so you don’t “hit the wall”. As such, high carbohydrate diets are often recommended for ardent exercisers.
During exercise – particularly in the heat – water and electrolytes are lost through sweating. Following exercise, it is important to rehydrate, as well as to supply the body with adequate nutrition to help it recover and adapt.
To achieve this, many take to sports drinks, which contain electrolytes such as potassium and sodium – important for the body’s functions – as well as carbohydrates which are used as an energy store. Despite containing less sodium, beer can in fact be remarkably similar to many sport drinks.
So you might ask: why should I not just drink beer instead since it contains many of the beneficial nutrients of a sports drink? There may be downsides…
Slooooow down. Image: Trainwreck/Universal Pictures
The potential downside of having a beer after exercise comes from the alcohol content (most beers are between four and five per cent alcohol by volume). One problem is that alcohol tends to make you pee more, so it may not be very effective for rehydration and therefore could be harmful for recovery from exercise.