Fitness: Canadian rituals of sun, exercise and a cold beer

There is some indication that beer can be a training aid, provided you choose the right product.

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Enjoying a cold beer with some friends after a lively game of softball (or tennis, pickleball, soccer, etc.) on a beautiful summer afternoon is a Canadian ritual.

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Not to be outdone, runners, cyclists and swimmers have been known to enjoy a malt drink or two after a group outing. And every year, runners flock to the annual Beer Mile World Classic, where competitors down a 12-ounce beer every quarter mile until they cross the finish line—officially four beers. the men’s world record for the beer mile is held by a Canadian. Corey Bellemore of Tecumseh, Ontario finished the course and beer in 4:28.10.

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Canadians bought about 2.1 billion liters of beer in 2022, according to Statista. One of the oldest and most consumed beverages in the world, beer and sport go hand in hand, with many victories celebrated and defeats pityed over a frothy pint or two. Consumed in moderation, beer is good for you. Stronger bones, reduced cardiovascular risk, and additional anti-inflammatory and immunological benefits have all been linked to beer consumption.

Based on water, barley, malt, hops and yeast, the health properties of beer are associated with their own polyphenol content. Natural plant-based compounds have antioxidant properties that boost immunity and reduce inflammation. Other nutrients found in your favorite pint glass are carbohydrates, amino acids, minerals and vitamins. Keep in mind not all beer recipes are created equal and most of the immune benefits of beer are found in barley malt (about 80%) and hops (20%), the type of beer you choose can impact the amount of healthy ingredients.

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Since beer has more to offer than an excuse to sit around a table and tell stories of past wins and losses, do beer’s wholesome ingredients offer performance-enhancing properties that might interest the average athlete?

Studies on the effects of beer on exercise (yes, they exist) have primarily looked at the results of drinking after a workout. Most have focused on the acute effects of beer on post-exercise hydration, with study subjects consuming beer within 30 to 60 minutes of finishing a bout of exercise. Some studies have also looked at moderate beer consumption for a week or more to determine its effects on training and performance, and some have tested the effects beer has on athletic performance when consumed before exercise.

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In an effort to bring together all the relevant studies on beer and exercise, a team of researchers set out a systematic review of 16 relevant studies on the effects of beer on performance and recovery. Bearing in mind that protocols varied considerably between studies, most analyzed the effects of beer consumed immediately after exercise, varying the volume or alcohol content to see how post-exercise rehydration was affected.

Several studies have shown that when regular beer (more than 4% alcohol) is consumed in standardized amounts after exercise, fluid balance and hydration are slightly worsened.

It turns out that trying to replace lost fluids with beer prompted more trips to the bathroom. The more beer, the greater the urine output, efforts to rehydrate are unsuccessful.

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In practice, this would be problematic when an athlete has short recovery between exercises, the researchers said.

But the low-alcohol beer didn’t seem to have the same diuretic effect as the standard four percent beer. Adding salt to beer also helped promote better hydration, although study subjects found the beer less palatable. Given the evidence, the best option for beer-loving exercise enthusiasts is to switch to a lower-alcohol beer or drink water along with your favorite malt beverage. This is especially important in the heat, when fluid losses during exercise increase.

For individuals who wish to prioritize rehydration by consuming regular or high-alcohol beer after exercise, they should consider drinking a limited amount (700mL) focusing on co-ingestion of water, sports drinks, or other suitable rehydration drinks, the researchers said.

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As for whether the health-promoting properties found in beer may offer benefits when consumed regularly while exercising, there are some indications that beer can be a training aid, provided you choose the right product.

The polyphenol-rich, non-alcoholic beer was observed to provide respiratory protection after a marathon, suggesting it could be a strategy to prevent respiratory infections during training, the researchers said.

What does all of this mean for athletes who like to end the casual workout or game with a cold beer? Go light and/or order a glass or water with each beer. And don’t think the healthy effects of beer give you the green light to have a couple more. Heavy consumption of beer leads to calories and unwanted consequences.

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Guidelines relating to alcohol consumption declaring more than two drinks per week (341 ml/12 oz of 5% ABV beer) increases the risk of several types of cancer, including breast and colon cancer. And while exercise eats up energy, you may not be working out enough to burn off all of the added calories that come from a night spent enjoying a few cold calories.

Finally, given the neurological effects of alcohol (balance, coordination and spatial awareness are all negatively affected), no studies suggest that drinking a pint or two before a practice or game is beneficial. And despite beer millet, beer during a bout of exercise isn’t a good idea either.

But for those who enjoy a cold beer after a hot, sweaty workout, go ahead and enjoy yourself, just make sure you’re making healthy choices.

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