Which would you prefer after a long workout: a sports drink or a beer with friends? Researchers in Australia have published a new study that shows the beer may actually be a good choice. Just make sure to choose a beer with a low alcohol, high sodium content.
Ben Densbrow, Ph.D. is an associate professor at Griffith University. He and his research team designed a trial with twelve male athletes whose nutrition and fitness levels were rated average prior to each visit. Each phase of the trial included a bout of physical activity geared to assist volunteers in losing weight, and following each session, each participant drank a test beer. Two types of beer were used: one with low levels of alcohol with 25 mmol/L added sodium, low levels of alcohol with 50 mmol/L added sodium, mid-strength alcoholic beer, or a mid-strength beer with 25 mmol/L of sodium. The participants were observed for four hours after consumption of the beer to monitor their fluid balance and other physical markers.
The study concluded the athletes’ fluid retention was greater when they drank the beer that had the highest sodium content combined with the lowest concentration of alcohol. It should be noted that while this beer improved hydration, none of the participants returned to the level of hydration they had before the workout. Densbrow adds:
The most important aspect of any rehydration solution is the amount of volume you can consume … and people not only like drinking beer, but they like drinking large volumes of beer.
Conventional wisdom would say beer would be likely to worsen hydration when compared to non-alcohol drinks, due to its diuretic properties. However, Denbrow says the body is biologically predisposed to retain any kind of fluid after exercise. His research shows how to exploit this predisposition. Dr. Denbrow continues:
It’s not just about the nutritional profile. It’s also about the social context people are involved in following exertion. People like getting together after work or sport and beer is a natural accompaniment to that congregation.
Dr. Denbrow adds he wanted to know,
If somebody’s going to drink beer, are there properties within beer we can manipulate to make it better?
We’ll raise a glass to that.