Athletes in most sports enjoy a beer now and then, and runners are no exception. A worldwide running club, the Hash House Harriers, celebrates running with beer, where the drinking of beer is done during and after group runs. The Beer Mile, in which a beer is guzzled after each lap, is a more recent international phenomenon. There's even a shop near the runners' haven of Boulder, Colorado called Shoes & Brews that's equal parts running-shoe store and brew pub.
Should beer and running be considered harmless or even healthy? Or should we fear beer? It all depends on how much you consume and what type.
HYDRATION AND HOPS
There are many worse things you could eat or drink after running or in the evenings than a beer. First, it fulfills the need to rehydrate, which is especially crucial during the hour after a long or warm-weather run. If you're really thirsty and dehydrated after a run, however, it's all too easy to hastily drain a beer or two and suffer negative effects such as dizziness, stomach distress (from the carbonation) and an impaired feeling that could make it unsafe to drive. It's better after running to become a "two-fisted" drinker: drink at least an equal amount of a nonalcoholic beverage (an electrolyte-replacement sports beverage is best) while enjoying a beer. That will rehydrate you and fill you up without ill effects. And don't gulp; drink slowly.
Beer also has nutritional value, more than most alcoholic beverages, as a source of carbohydrates and nutrients. The malted barley (or sometimes other grains and sugars), hops (for flavoring) and nutrient-rich brewer's yeast in beer have led some to call it "liquid bread." But it offers minimal protein (sports scientists recommend a carb-and-protein snack within a half-hour after running) and can contain nearly as many calories as you expend on a short run.
As you move from light beers to dark, heavy bears, there's a surprisingly wide range of carb, calorie and alcohol content, which all tend to be closely correlated. The heaviest beers can have as much as 16 times the carb content, six times the calorie content and four times the alcohol content of the lightest beers. So, which beer you choose matters.
SIP WITH CARE
Runners need to know that their overall good health and fitness, of course, doesn't offer protection against the dangers of alcohol abuse. It should also be noted if you weigh less than the average person (which many runners do), you need to pay even closer attention because you can't drink as much before the negative effects kick in. But by being smart (and practicing moderation) a cold beer after running might be just what you need.
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