It’s St. Patrick’s Day. Here in Wisconsin, that means one thing: Beer. Lots and lots of beer. But how does our favorite frosty cold one impact our fitness? Are we undoing all our time in the gym by grabbing a brewski after our burpees?
What’s in Beer?
Let’s start with the bad news: your favorite beer is not paleo. If you’re a CrossFit athlete following the program’s nutrition plan, beer isn’t allowed, strictly speaking. Of course, a good, cold beer every now and then isn’t going to destroy your progress.
Beer is made using grain (usually barley, but there are also many wheat beers), hops, yeast and water. There are endless varieties and brands, especially with the increased popularity of the local micro-brew. Dark beers, light beers, seasonal beers, you name it! You can even brew beer in your own garage if you’re into that sort of thing!
Here’s the catch: all that grain, hops, and yeast means your beer is packed full of calories and sodium. So while it’s perfectly fine to have a mug or two, athletes should take a moment to consider beer’s impacts on their overall performance.
Beer’s Benefits After a Workout
Here’s the good news: a good beer after a workout can be beneficial. While more research is needed, there are some indications that beer (in moderation) can help your sports recovery.
First, beer is a decent source of carbs, replacing those you’ve lost during intense exercise. Aerobic activities deplete your carbohydrate stores – specifically glycogen – faster than weightlifting. So you might consider going for a run before treating yourself to a pint.
Some beers also contain electrolytes. While they’re nothing compared to a sports recovery drink, they can replace some of the sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium lost during workouts. Of course, keep in mind that drinking in excess will inhibit your body’s ability to absorb electrolytes, leading to potentially dangerous health problems.
There are also indications that drinking beer can reduce inflammation. This is excellent news for athletes since inflammation is one major contributor to injuries and soreness.
Finally, beer contains several antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage. There is some evidence that beer could help improve heart health and reduce your risk of some cancers when consumed in moderation.
The Downsides to Beer for Athletes
Just like any alcohol, beer can have its downsides too. First and foremost, many beers are packed with calories, so you’ll have to factor that into your nutritional program. You can also choose a low-calorie beer instead.
It’s also important to drink beer (and other alcoholic beverages) in moderation. Overindulging – especially regularly – can lead to drastic consequences for our bodies. Beer can cause dehydration, interfere with muscle growth, slow reaction time, and deplete your energy. Athletes, in particular, may want to think twice before having that second drink.
A good beer on St. Patrick’s Day is fine, but several beers every day may indicate a problem.
The Best Beers for Athletes
If you’re an athlete (and yes, that means YOU, strong lady hitting the gym several days a week), it’s worth weighing the pros and cons before pouring yourself a cold one.
The best solution is to stick with non-alcoholic beers. We know, we know: it’s just not the same. But if you are training intensely towards a fitness goal, consider trying one of the many tasty non-alcoholic beers on the market.
Of course, many of us are willing to swap those empty calories to have a good time. If that’s you, consider your options. There are many light beers on the market that have fewer calories with the same great taste.
This St. Patrick’s Day, go ahead and have a cold one. Whether you choose a non-alcoholic option or a full-bodied local brew, drinking in moderation isn’t likely to undo all those hours you put in at the gym.