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Beer for Hydration

Most of us know that sticking to the right diet is the key to achieving your training and weight goals. Which can be hard when it’s the weekend and everyone’s going out drinking and eating delicious, but calorie laden meals. The key though, to successful and long term compliance to your diet is to always allow some leeway. So if you’re having a night out, it’s about allowing yourself the guilt-free freedom to drink and eat whatever you want to an extent. You can also adjust your food and drink choices so that it makes the least amount of impact on your waistline and your gains. This idea was most likely the stimulus for a group of researchers from Griffith University in Australia who examined different types of beer and their effects on rehydration after exercise.

Having a schooner or pint of beer after a sporting or physical event is practically tradition, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make that beer work for you. In fact, beer could be manipulated so that it can help to support post exercise fluid retention. The study took twelve male volunteers and exercised them in order to have them lose around 2% of their body weight in fluid. The participants were then randomised to four different types of beer on four separate occasions:

  • Low alcohol beer with 25 mmol·L-1 of added sodium
  • Low alcohol beer with 50 mmol·L-1 of added sodium
  • Mid-strength beer (3.5% ABV)
  • Mid-strength beer with 25 mmol·L-1 of added sodium

The researchers found that low alcohol beer with the greatest amount of added sodium was the best choice of all four options to assist with fluid replenishment and retention. This adds on to the authors previous studies in which they found that low alcohol beer presents a novel drink to help restore fluid loss. The electrolyte concentrate is by far the most important factor though.

The study itself isn’t the most well designed, however it does provide an opportunity to still have a beverage with high social acceptance without necessarily compromising your recovery.

Practical Applications

If you still want to enjoy a beer after a hard session at the gym or after a physical event such as a fun run, a marathon or a Tough Mudder, you can rest easy knowing you can still regain the fluid you lost and support your recovery. Try having a low alcohol or light beer and add a bit of salt for best effects. Future studies might want to look at whether you have to had the sodium in the beer itself or just on your food. Regardless, it’s pretty good news for avid beer loving trainers everywhere. Cheers to that!

1. Desbrow B, Cecchin D, Jones A, Grant G, Irwin C, Leveritt M. ‘Manipulations to the Alcohol and Sodium Content of Beer for Post Exercise Rehydration.’ Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2015 Jan 14.
2. Desbrow B, Murray D, Leveritt M. ‘Beer as a sports drink? Manipulating beer's ingredients to replace lost fluid.’ Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013 Dec;23(6):593-600.
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