In Defense of Beer: Non-Alcoholic Beer and Marathon Recovery Story Misleading; Beer With Alcohol Would Work As Well

Twitter and Facebook were abuzz this week with a story on NYTimes.com “Non-alcoholic beer aids marathon recovery.” Cute story that followed up on the positive effects of polyphenols in workout recovery. Problem is, the lead paragraph was pretty misleading, indicating that the beer must be non-alcoholic to have the beneficial effect.

The lead paragraph says, “the beer was effective only if it contained no alcohol.” That’s not what was tested or what was demonstrated. They tested non-alcoholic beer against a similarly flavored placebo. They didn’t test beer containing alcohol, although the lead author of the study indicates that the same substances in non-alcoholic beer that speed recovery are contained in greater quantity in alcoholic beer. He seems to conclude that it would be impossible for a runner to drink two pints a day of alcoholic beer during hard marathon training periods. I have seen examples to the contrary.

“‘Alcoholic beer happens to be drenched in polyphenols, too — even more than nonalcoholic beer,’ Dr. Scherr said — but has the signal disadvantage of being alcoholic. ‘We do not know whether the side effects of alcoholic beer would cancel out the positive effects caused by the polyphenols,’ he wrote. ‘Furthermore, it is not possible to drink one to one and a half liters of alcoholic beer per day, especially not during strenuous training.'”  Ummmm… I haven’t tested it, exactly, but that doesn’t seem a tremendous amount of beer. Two pints a day?

To add to this a bit more, a study out of Spain a few years back actually did test beer with alcohol in it. They found: “The rehydration effect in the students who were given beer was ‘slightly better’ than among those given only water.” The study’s author believed: “the carbon dioxide in beer helps quench the thirst more quickly, while beer’s carbohydrates replace calories lost during physical exertion.”

Your thoughts? Ever have a cold beer after a marathon?

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