It’s no secret. Many endurance athletes love to have a beer “for recovery,” after a long day of exercise, training, or a race. It affords the opportunity to slow down the pace of life and socialize with others. Although alcoholic beer is known to have many negative effects on an athlete’s physiology, recently released research also shows favorable effects – for non-alcoholic and perhaps even alcoholic wheat beer. This article in no way argues the negative effects alcohol has on performance and recovery. It merely points out, that drinking a specific type of beer may also have positive effects very relevant to endurance athletes.
The Research on Beer for Recovery
A study conducted by Johannes Scherr, David Nieman, et al., tasked healthy male runners to drink 1 to 1.5 liters (33-50oz) of non- alcoholic beer daily, three weeks prior to their marathon, and two weeks after. That equates to roughly 5 to7 eight-ounce glasses per day. It reported that the polyphenols found in a specific type of non-alcoholic wheat beer reduced post-race inflammation and the likelihood of upper respiratory tract infections (1).
Polyphenols are aromatic compounds found in plants. Evidence strongly supports their prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis, neurodegenerative diseases and even diabetes mellitus (2). The alcohol-containing beer reportedly has twice the amount of polyphenols than its non-alcoholic partner. What’s beneficial for endurance athletes is that these high polyphenol beverages have strong antioxidant, anti-pathogenic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Endurance athletes put their bodies through stress on a daily basis, whether extreme or mild. The effects of the recurrent stress can cause over-training syndrome (burnout), immunosuppression, and musculoskeletal repetitive stress injuries. The polyphenols in these beers have shown that they can combat and minimize these detrimental effects.
More Questions Than Answers
Although this study answers a few questions, it raises several more. For instance, does someone have to drink a full liter of non- alcoholic beer daily to see results? And, what if alcoholic wheat beer is used instead? After all, it’s the alcohol in the beer that slows us down figuratively and literally — but also lubes us up for socialization. Even so, surely it’s not healthy when someone consumes that much alcohol on a daily basis. So, is there really a performance benefit to drinking beer during a training block? Unfortunately, consuming alcohol has known detrimental performance effects, so in order to see any good in this; one may opt for the non-alcoholic wheat beer for recovery instead. Future studies should focus on answering these and other new questions.
- Scherr J, Nieman DC, Schuster T, Habermann J, Rank M, Braun S, Pressler A, Wolfarth B, Halle M. Non-alcoholic beer reduces inflammation and incidence of respiratory tract illness. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012; 44(1):18-26. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182250dda
- Scalbert A, Manach C, MorandC, Rémésy C, Jiménez L. Dietary polyphenols and the prevention of diseases. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2005;45:287-306. DOI: 10.1080/1040869059096