Two things I take seriously: my beer and my running.
So you can imagine my excitement when several of the local breweries in my city started running clubs, encouraging groups to meet at the brewery, sweat out a few miles together, then stick around for a couple of post-run hand-crafted beers. (And if you're ready to take your beer run to the next level, click here to read about one staffer's experience running in the Beer Mile World Championships.)
And that got me thinking … could beer be as good as (or quite possibly, better than) a sports drink after a workout? I’ve always kinda hesitated with the sports drinks – more often than not you end up paying for a bottle of neon lime or artic ice (whatever that is) flavored sugar.
So here are the sweaty details: When we exercise enough to break a sweat, we lose fluid and electrolytes as the body attempts to cool itself down. The truth? Most of us don’t work out intensely enough to need electrolytes immediately after exercise. Gatorade was actually created for the University of Florida football players during their two-a-days in the Florida heat. Now that’s intense. And that requires electrolyte replenishment.
But for the average everyday jogger? Yes–we lose sodium when we sweat, but likely not enough that needs replenishment right away. We all get about 50% more than we need in a day anyway. Beer only has about 10mg sodium per 12 fl. ounces, compared to a Gatorade’s 160mg. Unless you’re a Florida football player or training for an Ironman, the electrolyte replenishment really isn’t that necessary.
Here are the stats per 12 ounces:
Gatorade: 80 calories, 21g carb, 21g sugar, 160mg sodium
Bud Light: 110 calories, 6.6g carb, (sugar not listed), 10mg sodium
New Belgium Ranger IPA : 148 calories, 11g carbs (neither sugar nor sodium listed)
A light beer only sets you back a few more calories than a sports drink, and far fewer grams of sugar and carbohydrates. They’re low in alcohol, too, certainly not enough to dehydrate you (remember, folks … alcohol is a diuretic, which dehydrates you more). But me, I prefer the thick, hoppy, heavier craft beers, which aren't exactly light. Most craft beers and IPAs are higher in alcohol and quickly sneak into 150+ calorie range. More ABV (alcohol by volume) generally means more calories. After a few pints you’ve canceled anything that run may have burned (but better to have burned some than not at all!), not to mention the hydration factor will actually reverse itself and start to dehydrate you with more alcohol consumption. Most draft beers in bars and breweries are served as pints – that’s 4 more ounces than the typical bottle or can. Keep that in mind, too.
So here’s my advice: Know your limits and know your beer. Alcohol can weaken the muscle-recovery process, the majority of which happens in the first 30 minutes following a workout. So it’s probably best to start with some water first, maybe take a few minutes to stretch… then sit back and enjoy a beer. It may not be the most protein- and electrolyte-packed choice, but it certainly isn’t sugar loaded, either. And to be quite honest, there’s no substitute for the joy I find in a really cold beer after a good hard workout. Are you with a group? Even better! Few sports drinks have elicited the same camaraderie and enthusiasm as beer … and likely never will.
Running should be fun. If starting at a brewery with your friends is what it takes to get you out to hit the pavement, then by all means … grab your friends, lace up your tennies, and enjoy yourself. In moderation, of course.