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Can beer be a good post-workout recovery drink?

At gyms and in social media, people express widely different options on the topic of beer as a recovery drink. Some swear by a restorative pint after a gym workout. Is it alright to go for a beer after the workout or will alcohol negate the benefits of the exercise?

The importance of recovery in a physically active lifestyle cannot be exaggerated. Besides exercise, muscle maintenance and the right kind of nutrition, the body also needs time for recovery. We asked an expert, and she tells that beer is not a good recovery drink—for several reasons.

“Beer is ill suited as a recovery drink because of its poor nutritional value. It contains hardly any proteins, which muscles need to recover after exercise,” tells licensed dietician, Master of Health Science, Marianna Hölttä.

Beer also does not contain enough carbohydrates to replenish the muscles’ glycogen reserves that have been depleted during the workout. Furthermore, Hölttä points out that alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it increases the production of urine. Because of this, drinking for example beer after a workout can have an adverse effect on the fluid balance and increase the risk of dehydration.


Does alcohol completely undermine recovery?

Consuming large amounts of alcohol may effectively undermine recovery. Alcohol slows down getting rid of lactic acid in the muscles, which in turn slows down recovery after a workout.

It is a particularly bad idea to consume alcohol after physical exercise late at night. Alcohol has a negative effect on the quality of sleep and disturbs recovery during sleep.

“Especially alcohol that is consumed at night after exercise can undermine recovery and make you more tired on the next day,” tells Marianna Hölttä.

Efficient recovery is important for people with a physically active lifestyle, who want to be ready for the next workout as soon as possible. Even just a couple of pints after a workout can take their toll in the following days.

“The hangover, tiredness and sickness caused by alcohol often postpone the next workout,” Hölttä continues.

One small glass of beer is not enough to negate all the benefits of a workout. Nevertheless, our expert recommends choosing another recovery drink.

“That small amount of alcohol does not benefit your health or recovery from the exercise in any way. If you want to make the most of your workout and recover fast, it is wiser to choose some other recovery drink.”

If you nevertheless crave for a frosty beer after your gym workout, it is best to choose a non-alcoholic option from the store shelf. As the name suggest, non-alcoholic beer contains no alcohol at all. Therefore, its consumption does not cause the same kind of harm for recovery as regular, alcoholic beer.