Setting myself challenges and goals gives me a great buzz. I challenge myself to keep fit and healthy. No matter what I do, I always give it my best. I train hard for any event that I do. Earlier this year, I completed the Spartan ‘Super’ Obstacle Course Race (OCR) which is a gruelling 16km rugged terrain run with 29 obstacles to overcome. If you fail any obstacle, then you complete 30 burpees before you move on! I was chuffed to bits when I came in 1st in my age group and 6th/1302 runners. To celebrate jumping the last obstacle which was the fire jump, crossing the line, I was given my ‘Super’ medal, some healthy snacks and treats and a nice cold beer. This got me thinking………
The Spartan ‘Super’ OCR was the 18th race which I have taken part in and after each one, I have been provided with a beer to celebrate crossing the finish line. I love a beer, don’t get me wrong, but is this the best thing to drink after putting your body through these tough endurance races?
My most recent OCR was the Spartan ‘Beast’, 26km of gruelling terrain, 30 obstacles and to make matters even worse, the wind was sideways and the rain fell down heavily throughout. It was a true mind over matter scenario to get a good time. Again, true to form, awaiting me at the end was a cold beer! The last thing I wanted to be honest, whilst shivering uncontrollably, teeth chattering away and covered in good old mud.
So why a beer?
Proponents argue that beer provides the body with carbs and electrolytes, which both are needed after a tough endurance race or high intensity workout. Whilst others say that it’s a way to celebrate with friends so that keeping fit and healthy is a regular occurrence. So having a beer has nutritional benefits and being social, all in one? Erm….Not exactly!
Hanah Abdulaziz Feeney said “ Having a beer after a workout is not hugely detrimental as long as it’s with water and food, but it is absolutely not positive or beneficial”. Well, at least I did get some healthy snacks after crossing the finishing line to complement my beer.
It is true that beer has some electrolytes, which regulate the fluid balance and assists in muscle contraction, carbs, the body’s preferred energy source, and also polyphenols, anti-inflammatory & antioxidant compounds. The electrolyte contained within most beer is potassium and you don’t deplete much of this during your workouts. What is depleted in larger quantities is sodium chloride through sweat. And guess what? Beer cannot provide it!
I was once told that a beer is like having 2 slices of bread. So a great carb source! However, the drink puts strain on your liver and other organs to metabolise the alcohol by the use of the body’s nutrients. Oh, not such a great carb source! The nutrients wasted in metabolising the alcohol could be put to better use by helping your body to repair muscles and support glycogen production from the food we eat.
With further research, gone are the days where you hear someone saying, “I’ll have a pint of Stella to quench the thirst!” Why? Because alcohol is dehydrating which is the opposite effect you want after a long jaunt across the beautiful countryside. Recovery will take longer to occur and your fitness level will result in slower adaptations. A study I read on Plos One detailed that consuming beer reduced Muscle Protein Synthesis, repairing and building muscle after exercise, by 24-37%. This report did take place with a high amount of alcohol.
So the evidence is there. If you want to reap the benefits of your training, workouts or recovery then having a beer might not be the best idea.
However, the practice of handing out a beer after a race like the OCR’s that I compete in, or having one or two post workout beers with your friends has very little harm in my mind. I am not a super human athlete. I am not a professional sportsman. I am merely an ordinary guy who loves to train hard, play sport, and compete in OCR’s including having a few beers with family and friends. So having a beer after my run? Yes please! I have worked damn hard for it!