July 20 2018
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It’s summertime and that post-race beer is oh so appealing! If you’re like many runners of age, you look forward to that celebratory drink. While it’s important to enjoy your accomplishment, the traditional post-race beer can interfere with recovery and affect performance if you’re not careful. By following these three tips, you can recover from your race without having to forfeit your trip to the beer garden.
Related: How To Recover Properly After A Race
When choosing alcohol after exercise, use the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ principle of moderation, which specifies one drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “one drink” means one 12-ounce beer (at about 5 percent alcohol by volume, or ABV), a 5-ounce glass of wine (about 12 percent ABV) or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof hard liquor (40 percent ABV). And chase your post-race beer with water.
It’s important to remember that, regardless of type, alcohol can impair your recovery process by decreasing glycogen replacement when consumed without food, delaying rehydration and decreasing muscle synthesis and repair. Excessive alcohol consumption in the long term can interrupt normal sleeping patterns, lead to weight gain and increase your risk of injury.
One consideration when choosing to consume alcohol after a race is that it may interfere with adequate nutrient intake and absorption. For example, beer does contain some carbohydrate fluids (roughly 11 grams for every 12 fluid ounces), as well as small amounts of sodium and potassium. However, beer measured at higher than 4 percent ABV has been shown to increase urine output. A study published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2015 compared a light beer and a regular beer with various sodium concentrations and found that, in the case of the lighter beer with sodium (50 mmol/L), urine output was lower compared to the regular beer. That being said, it’s advised that you consume a snack that’s high in carbohydrates and protein along with a sports drink or water before heading into the beer garden.
Various factors affect the metabolism of alcohol and determine whether or not you’ll feel tipsy. Having food in your stomach will slow the speed that alcohol enters the bloodstream and decrease that tipsy feeling (alcohol is absorbed more slowly by the stomach and more rapidly by the small intestines). Consuming alcohol with food can help. If you drink in the absence of food, don’t usually drink or are smaller in size, you might feel the effects of alcohol faster.
A lower ABV (4 percent or lower) might be ideal from a recovery standpoint. The higher a beer’s ABV, the greater its negative effects on performance and recovery. Since beer ABV varies (beers lighter in color tend to have lower ABVs, though this isn’t always the case), choosing the drink with the lower ABV is a better option. Pair your brew with a salty snack (like pretzels) to help your body rehydrate.
When all is said and done, the answer is yes: you can enjoy that post-race brew! Just remember to enjoy it in moderation and pair it with a snack or meal so that you don’t delay your body’s recovery and rehydration. Check with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) or a healthcare professional if you have questions or concerns about your alcohol consumption.