With the arrival of spring and summer, surely you are asking yourself, “is that beer after my ride good for my recovery?” Beer is a mixture of water and barley that is fermented. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who might not be the best example for everyone to follow as far as recovery and athleticism, said that his favorite post exercise meal was a whole chicken and a pint of beer. Most cannot stomach a full chicken and a pint of beer post exercise. But there is really cool research suggesting that one or two drinks post exercise really isn’t going to harm recovery all that much, if at all, and it might even help.
Let’s see what’s in beer.
Water is the primary ingredient in beer. Most beers contain 80 to 95% pure water. Since the water is pure, there are not a lot of minerals. A blond beer contains less water at 88%, a dark beer contains about 90%, an ordinary beer contains about 93%, and a beer without alcohol contains about 95% water.
Pros: beer contributes to our recovery just by the fact it contains water, expanding our plasma volume after a big ride. The volume of most beers is about right for a recovery drink. Assuming the beer is cold, is it refreshing and helps to decrease our core temperature.
Cons: The water contained in beer is pure and does not contain a lot of minerals. Minerals are essential for recovery.
Assuming there is only alcohol from fermentation (none added), the grams of alcohol vary from 10 to about 60.
Pros: One gram of alcohol gives about 7 calories versus 1 gram of sugar gives about 4 calories. Depending on the alcohol content, beer may provide 20 to 120 calories. However, these calories are not used by the body in the same way.
Alcohol is a psychotropic drug, it actually causes a mild sedation or relaxation, which can be a good thing after a stressful race or training session. Of course we are talking about small doses of alcohol.
Cons: The calories obtained from beer are considered to be “empty.” Alcohol calories actually require energy to be metabolized (much like fructose). The calories obtained from beer are not optimal for energy purposes. Again, if we are talking about one beer, this is still a minor point.
Carbohydrates in beer usually come from wheat and barley. Like all grains, wheat is rich in sugars. However, most of the sugar in beer is consumed by the fermentation process. So in reality, beer is not a significant source of carbohydrates.
Pros: The carbohydrates in beer can be a good thing for recovery, but again the amount is limited.
Cons: The calories from grains that exist in beer are stripped of their vitamins and minerals. This of course would not be a good thing for recovery. And if you are trying to limit your carbohydrate intake, then beer may not be a good idea.
Hops is a plant that frees the essential oils and is what gives beer its aroma and bitter taste.
Pros: Hops is also a type of sedative, aiding in the relaxing effects after consuming a beer.
Yeast is very rich in vitamins and minerals. If it was not for the presence of yeast in beer, there would not be any minerals or vitamins.
Pros: Yeast contains mostly B vitamins (B2 and B6). Yeast also delivers a little bit of potassium and magnesium. In the case of Guinness beer, it contains a significant source of iron, which is a great thing for recovery.
Cons: The absence of sodium is a minus for recovery.
The number of beers consumed
When you get into the 3 to 4 drink ranges, this is where some of the really negative effects of alcohol exist.
Pros: probably none.
Cons: Reduced protein synthesis and a decrease in in the body’s ability to repair its muscles. Also, more than one or two alcoholic drinks at a time, especially close to bed time can reduce sleep quality, which is an important component of recovery.
Beer is a tool for rehydrating, but not necessarily recuperating. Alcohol can be bad for recovery from different perspectives, but keeping it in moderation which is generally one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men, is probably going to be okay. Drinking a beer after a ride is not a bad thing, just keep in mind what it can do and not do. Consuming beer in moderation is fine, but remember that you will need to get your recovery nutrients elsewhere.