Ever since I spent a semester abroad in Germany in college, I’ve been a passionate lover of craft beer. Pale ales, ambers, ESBs, Oktoberfests, stouts, and porters: if given the choice between a a big chocolate chip cookie and a beer, I’ll choose beer.
Which says a lot, considering I do enjoy a good chocolate chip cookie.
I have always considered beer to be my dietary vice, the way some people feel about ice cream or donuts. Rarely a day goes by where I don’t imbibe in a beer. To be clear, I drink in complete moderation – only on special occasions do I indulge in more than two beers. Still, I never considered that this habit could be of benefit to my training, rather than a detriment, until I recently read Matt Fitzgerald’s The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition.
In the book, Fitzgerald advocates a quality-based diet for runners. Vegetables and fruits are at the top of the diet scale, while sweets and fried foods are at the bottom, meant for only the occasional indulgence. Surely, I thought, beer would fall into the sweets category. Instead, he permits and even encourages runners to have one or two glasses of beer or wine a day (any alcohol with mixers falls into the sweets category, however).
Most of us know about the benefits of red wine: it’s full of antioxidants and produces a calming effect. But runners overall have an affinity towards beer: think of all the beer tents at the finish line of races, the running clubs that finish with a pint or two after group runs, or even those infamous beer mile. So what about the benefit of beer for runners?
Let’s first discuss the detriments of drinking beer for runners. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it can dehydrate you; the higher the amount of alcohol in a beer, the more dehydrating it can be. We all know how vital hydration is for healthy, happy, and successful running, so needless to say, this is a downside of any alcoholic beverage. A good rule of thumb is to drink an additional glass of water for each glass of alcohol you consume. Additionally, beer contains a decent number of liquid calories (160-200 per 12 oz.), so if you drink too many on a regular basis and don’t watch the quality of the rest of your diet, you could possibly gain some unwanted weight.
However, the benefits of beer for runners are numerous. Some articles even argue that beer can serve as a good recovery, thanks to its carbohydrates. Others turn to beer as a source of stress relief—few things are more relaxing than enjoying one after a long day—and the management of stress and your emotions can benefit your running. Here’s a concise breakdown of some of the specific health benefits of beer for runners.
Beer contains antioxidants.
The barley and hops used in beer contain flavonoids that, when consumed, fight oxidative stress in the body. Antioxidants play a key role in recovery and in overall health, and the antioxidant levels in beer (especially darker ones) are found to be equivalent to those found in wine.
Beer contains multiple B vitamins.
The malt in beer contains niacin, folate, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, along others from the vitamin B complex. B complex vitamins are essential for metabolism and our body’s conversion of food into fuel. Riboflavin plays a key role in the production of red blood cells, which is vital for runners because of the role red blood cells play in oxygen transport. Niacin promotes healthy good (HDL) cholesterol levels. Vitamin B6 aids in the production and regulation of the sleep hormones, including melatonin and serotonin; we all know how much a difference a good night’s sleep makes in recovery from a hard run.
Beer strengthens your bones.
Studies have found that beer can strengthen bones, especially in women who are prone to osteoporosis. The B vitamin complex also plays a role in maintaining and building healthy bones. Beer contains the alcohol ethanol, which prevents bone loss. That’s not all: beer’s dietary silicon actually plays a role in the growth of new bone tissue. Since a high volume of training and many common medications such as the pill can increase our risk of osteopenia (the reduction of bone mass), a beer or two offers significant benefits for us female runners!
Of course, beer, like all good things in life, should be consumed in moderation of one to two 12-ounce servings per day. But that is still plenty of beer to enjoy! Proust!
Questions of the Day:
Do you drink beer? What’s your favorite type of beer?
Do you participate in any beer related running events?