Chattanooga Now Local nutritionists weigh in on health benefits of beer

Chattanooga Now Local nutritionists weigh in on health benefits of beer

June 1st, 2017 by Myron Madden in Get Out - Departments

Miller Williams, left, takes his beer as Susanna Kirby retrieves her belongings after the running portion of "Running for Brews" Wednesday, September 9, 2015, at the Brewhaus.

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

Before he became a certified sports nutritionist and the owner of CrossFit Brigade, Eric Griffith was a bartender. Night after night, the seats were filled with rugby and Ultimate Frisbee players, Griffith remembers.

Today, they are filled with another group of athletes: runners.

This relationship between runners and beer is bolstered by clubs like Running for Brews, which meets at Brewhaus every Wednesday for drinks after a quick run, as well as events like the Chatt Brew Beer Mile, which lets participants guzzle the good stuff while racing through Finley Stadium.

As the number of beer-related running activities has mounted nationwide, so has the information about the benefits beer can have after a good workout.

"There's a lot of beer knowledge out there with craft beer and [its] popularity but I know there's a lot of lore," Griffith says.

To help you filter fact from fiction, we asked Griffith and Rachel Brimer, a local certified sports nutrition coach and owner of Nourish Nutrition, to weigh in on some of the myths about running and beer.

TRUE OR FALSE?

» Beer has restorative properties.

True. After any endurance exercise, the body's glycogen stores are usually depleted and need to be replenished. Beer does that. It has lots of carbohydrates, sugars and electrolytes that can build you back up quickly. Unfortunately, it's fairly light on vitamins and minerals that would be found in other recovery drinks.

» Beer is most effective with food.

That depends. Fried foods can actually hinder recovery (there goes half the bar menu). All fats — even healthy fats like those found in salmon and walnuts — slow down the absorption of needed carbs, fluids and proteins, and should be avoided right after a workout. Griffith suggests pairing lean meat or other carbs, like fruit, with your brew.

»Beer helps runners rehydrate. 

Doubtful. Most beers are high in water content, but they all still contain alcohol, which dehydrates the body. One drink could have mild hydration effects, but more than that could leave you with a hangover worse than you would have gotten otherwise since you were already dehydrated from the initial exercise. It is best to drink at least one glass of water for each beer you consume.

FINAL VERDICT

Griffith: “I would say, in moderation, the restorative value is very good. Lot of good beers probably have a good benefit to an athlete. But I would say, also, that the same thing could be gained from a piece of fruit and some lean meat. It would probably be a better choice.”

Brimer: “I think that using alcohol as a tool for my athleticism or fitness is a far reach. I don’t think there’s necessarily any benefits, and there’s actually a lot of downfalls to alcohol in fitness. But it does bring people together, and in moderation, it’s totally fine.”

» Beer can be used as a post-race muscle relaxer.

True, in theory. Brimer says you'd likely have to drink too much to make it an effective muscle relaxant. She also points out that, in excess, alcohol draws liquid out of muscle fibers and compresses muscle protein production, lowering the capability of making more muscle tissue. So if you're feeling some post-workout stiffness, she suggests stretching or using foam rollers as opposed to pounding beers.

» Beer is better with friends.

Totally. In fact, Brimer theorizes that the environment in which beer is consumed is more beneficial than the drink itself, and Griffith agrees. Not only is there an uplifting psychological effect from the social interaction, he says, a post-workout beer with friends can also keep the casual runner engaged with the group and continuing to exercise, causing better results in the long run.