For amateur cyclists nothing tastes better than quaffing an ice cold beer after finishing a tough gran fondo. After all, downing a beer has been a worldwide post ride ritual for over 100 years. Now a recent academic research study published at PubMed and MDPI indicates for athletic performance and post-ride recovery non-alcoholic beer is at least as good, if not better, than regular alcoholic beer or traditional sports drinks.
It is well known that beer is actually a mild diuretic, which is counterproductive when athletes need to replace fluids after a workout or gran fondo ride. The study shows that healthy athletic men who drink beer after a workout produced significantly more urine than if they drank water or a recovery sports drink. Research also indicates that alcohol negatively affects how well muscles recover and grow after exercise, plus alcohol diminishes reaction time, balance, speech and cognitive reasoning.
But what about non-alcoholic beer as a recovery drink for athletes??
A 2012 study of 277 men participating in the Munich Marathon showed those who consumed two to three pints of non-alcoholic beer daily for three weeks prior to the marathon developed three times fewer colds and respiratory infections compared to a control group.
The beer drinking athletes also showed more immune response markers in their blood. “We ascribed these benefits to the beer polyphenols,” said David Nieman, a professor of biology and human performance at Appalachian State University, who co-wrote the study. Polyphenols are natural plant based chemicals that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that are essential for a good post-workout recovery. Beer is very rich in polyphenols, but alcohol in regular beer undermines the beneficial effects from the polyphenols, according to biomedical researcher María P. Portillo at the University of the Basque Country in Spain.
Non-alcoholic beer also aids in rehydration since it is not a diuretic. Athletes who drank non-alcoholic beer 45 minutes prior to an intense sweaty workout in a 2016 study were about as hydrated afterwards as if they drank just water prior to the workout, but with more sodium and potassium remaining in their body, minerals essential for top performance and endurance. In other words, “non-alcoholic beer can be a reasonable recovery drink,” said Johannes Scherr, the head of the University Center for Prevention and Sports Medicine at the University of Zurich.
Professor David Neiman also agrees,“After long and vigorous exercise bouts, non-alcoholic beer provides water, polyphenols and carbohydrates [that] will aid metabolic recovery.”