Is Beer the New Recovery Drink?


Whether you tuned in to watch the entire Super Bowl, or just to see Queen Bey slay her half-time performance (Yes, Chris Martin and Bruno Mars performed too, but, well, you know…), chances are you caught a couple of the now infamous commercials. One that made us do a double take: Michelob Ultra's "Breathe."

Weighted back squats, battle ropes, boxing, a lot of heavy breathing—at first you probably thought you were watching the latest campaign from some big athletic brand, right? Then came that shot of the twist-off cap at the end, followed by the words: “Brewed For Those Who Go The Extra Mile.”

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Smart move, Michelob, sneakily suggesting that a cold one is what your body needs after a kick-ass workout. After all, research does show that folks are more likely to imbibe on days they sweat. But how good is a post-exercise beer (or two) for your body, really?

“It might be 'natural' for folks to think that beer would be a good recovery drink since it contains electrolytes and carbs," says Michele Olson, PhD, an exercise physiologist at Auburn University at Montgomery in Alabama. "However, after exercise we need to rehydrate, and alcohol can be dehydrating.”

If you are about to cite that 2013 study from the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism in defense of your must-have draft, don’t. That research is not necessarily condoning sipping on suds after a workout as a means of rehydrating, but rather saying that if you are going to booze it up, a low-alcohol beer—one with 2.3 alcohol by volume content (ABV)—with added sodium is a sufficient compromise. (FYI: Michelob Ultra’s ABV is 4.2)

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Plus consuming alcohol after getting it in in the gym can impair muscle growth and protein synthesis. In other words, all of your hard work may be for naught. What’s worse: Drinking could interfere with your future workouts, too.

Not feeling this whole choose-between-your-favorite-brew-and-your-workout scenario? Olson says that if you are going to imbibe, select “a very light beer, but don’t forget to chase it with water and proper nutrients.” Your best bet though, "Always rehydrate with water and consume easy-to-digest protein (such as low-fat yogurt) along with a carb source (such as a banana) to improve recovery after exercise,” she says.