Drinking Beer and Running
You can run your race and drink your beer, as long as you are smart about it.
Aside from meeting at the local coffee shop after a long Saturday morning run, meeting at a bar for a pint seems to be equally as popular. And why not hoist a well-earned brew? Beer, like red wine, does provide some health benefits. The malt and hops used to make dark beers contain flavonoids, the same heart-healthy compounds in vegetables and wine that counter cell damage, thus reducing your risk of heart disease and cancer. Beer also contains B vitamins and chromium, which aid in converting carbohydrates to energy. However, because beer is less potent than liquor, it may be too easy for some runners to overlook its five percent alcohol content. Besides causing embarrassing lapses of judgment, too much beer can dehydrate you and slow recovery. The key, as with any indulgence, is moderation. There’s no reason for runners to feel like beer can never cross their lips, you just need to drink it at the right time.
The Night Before :Some runners order a beer and joke about carbo-loading. However, it’s not so. The idea that beer provides a significant amount of carbs is a misconception, a 12-ounce bottle contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, which is equivalent to about half a slice of bread. What’s more, because of the way alcohol is metabolized, most of these excess carbs are stored as fat. So you’re actually fat-loading. And if you’re drinking a lot, you may be running to burn off beer calories rather than combusting body fat. Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means drinking too much the night before a run or race could leave you dehydrated in the morning. To avoid the effects of poor hydration-lack of coordination, less oxygen to the muscles, which can slow you down–drink water before and after your beer. (That’s right, one beer. Unless you’re a large guy who drinks beer regularly, in which case, a second should do no harm!
Beer on the Run: While you obviously don’t want to replace a mid-marathon sports drink with a beer, a few sips on a short fun run isn’t such a big deal. In longer events, you’re already partially dehydrated, so even a small amount of alcohol can impair judgment and coordination. Alcohol can also dilate the skin’s blood vessels, which promotes heat loss and may make you colder. Hot days are no better; they speed dehydration. And carbonated beverages empty slowly from the stomach, increasing the risk of bloating and cramping.
The Party After: Hooray, you’re finished! Now you can belly up to the bar. But drink something else first since alcohol can interfere with refueling, which delays recovery. Have eight to 16 ounces of water or other fluids and about 200 carb-and-protein calories before you start toasting. If you’ve suffered an injury, however, it’s best to wait. Alcohol can delay the body’s ability to heal, it seems to limit the production of natural anti-inflammatories. After 36 hours, however, the inflammation should have subsided, at which point you’re free to head to your favorite pub.
So while a pint or two wont cause any ill effects on your running it is still advised to drink plenty of water especially when the weather gets warmer. I am not saying that just because you run you should drink since that is certainly not on everyone’s exercise or social agenda. However, if you do choose to celebrate your long run, fun run, or race with a frosty beverage do so responsibly and be sure to stay well hydrated.
Written by: Nicole Flanagan
Publishers Note: This column is reprinted from May 2012. We think it is worth repeating!!