A lot of people enjoy a beer together after they exercised. But is this smart? A review1 looks at all the available experimental studies to come up with advice: low-alcoholic beer, preferably with added sodium, may help with rehydration after exercise. If you do drink regular beer, you should limit your consumption and pair it with non-alcoholic options. Apart from rehydration, drinking non-alcoholic, polyphenolic-rich beer could be an effective strategy for preventing respiratory infections during heavy training.
What is already known? When you drink a lot of alcohol, it impairs neuromotor functions and muscle protein synthesis which can lead to suboptimal training. On top of that, it increases the production of urine which can lead to dehydration.1 But moderate consumption could have some positive effects for people that regularly practice sports.
What does this study add? This review systematically studies all the experiments towards beer consumption on sport performance and recovery. The authors include 16 experiments in total.
Improved hydration after exercise
When you exercise, you lose fluid. The fluid needs to be replenished afterwards. From all the experiments where participants could drink beer after sports, the authors conclude that choosing lower alcohol beer and/or adding sodium (Na+) may help with fluid retention. But although adding sodium helps, people often find it less tasty.
When you do want to drink regular beer (with more than 4% alcohol), you should limit the amount (less than 700 ml) while also drinking water, sports drinks, or other suitable rehydration beverages.
Beer before exercise?
There is only one study where participants consume beer before exercise. This study did not find any positive effects. Although alcoholic beer contains carbohydrates and fluid, the amount that would need to be consumed to meet standard pre-exercise recommendations would be too much. When drinking more than one liter, people experience negative neuromuscular effects: balance is affected for up to 90 minutes after, and reaction time is also impaired in the hours after consumption.
Whether non-alcoholic beer can serve as a suitable pre-exercise beverage has not been thoroughly studied. But it typically contains less carbohydrates than sports drinks, and significantly less sodium.
Preventing respiratory infections
Based on studies that look at the effects of beer consumption for a longer period, the authors conclude that ingesting non-alcoholic, polyphenolic-rich beer could be an effective strategy for preventing respiratory infections during heavy training. And if consumed in moderation, body composition and strength seem largely unaffected by beer.
- Systematic review
- Only experimental studies included
- Most studies only have small sample sizes
- Most of the studies focus on men