There’s a growing trend among athletes, even Olympic competitors in Bavaria: non-alcoholic beer for workout recovery. There have been a number of breweries in the last few years that have expanded their line of beverages to include a non-alcoholic option. When some of these beers found their way into the hands of Bavarian Olympians, many questioned why.
What Is Non-Alcoholic Beer?
It’s exactly what it sounds like: Non-alcoholic beer is simply beer that, by US standards, has less than .5% alcohol in it. There are many methods to removing the alcohol from the beer. Our belief in the secret to crisp tasting brew is in a specific technology. Many non-alcoholic beers use heat to remove the alcohol, which as a result distorts the taste of the product. However, when using advanced filtration, this cycles water and alcohol through, leaving nothing but a true beer flavor.
The process is complex and new methods continue to arise as well. It’s been called “biological wizardry” by some and brewers are even looking at genetically modified yeasts that can produce low-alcohol beers.
Benefits Of Non-Alcoholic Beer for Workout Recovery
Scientists are finding there are several important benefits of drinking non-alcoholic beer, both in your recovery from exercise and your general health:
- Hydration: A 2013 study found that athletes who drank a reduced-alcohol beer with added electrolytes could retain more fluids, essentially helping them rehydrate after a workout. Other follow-up studies have confirmed this. While it hasn’t proven to be more hydrating than regular light beer, some brewers are saying that by adding electrolytes, their non-alcoholic and low-alcohol beers are better at rehydrating athletes, especially when compared to the diuretic effects of regular beer. The key appears to be having less than 2% alcohol to keep from increasing the urine output and supporting hydration.
- General Post-Exercise Recovery: There’s an obvious mental connection between a frosty glass of beer and relaxation. It turns out the sodium in non-alcoholic beer can actually benefit your body following exercise. One reason might be that it restores the levels of glycogen, a sugar-based compound our bodies use to store energy.
- Improved Copper Metabolism: When you have a copper deficiency, you might experience joint pain, anemia, and weak bones. A component of non-alcoholic beer may help improve your copper metabolism and lower the severity of a copper deficiency.
- Phenols: Phenols are plant-derived organic compounds with defining tastes. One example is the spiciness of peppers, which comes from the phenol Capsaicin. David Nieman of Appalachian State University has studied the health effects and benefits of phenols. They’ve found that a diet rich in phenols can reduce inflammation and the risk of illness, along with having general anti-viral properties. Regular beer has approximately 50 phenols. Nieman and others investigated how phenols could help athletes who put their health at risk because of their rigorous exercise routines. They found that the activity of white blood cells that could indicate inflammation reduced by about 20 percent.
- Heart Health: Researchers believe polyphenol xanthohumol, a compound derived from hops, could improve your cardiovascular health. Specifically, researchers have found that drinking non-alcoholic beer could lower your blood pressure, inflammation, and homocysteine levels. Additional research found that drinking beer can increase endothelial progenitor cells, the stem cells that repair and maintain the endothelial wall of your blood vessels.
Other Reasons To Drink Non-Alcoholic Beer for Workout Recovery
Sure, non-alcoholic beer sounds great to those who are already beer drinkers. But what if you aren’t traditionally one to reach for a brew? There are still some benefits to adopting non-alcoholic beer as part of your regular diet.
- Reduced Risk Of Osteoporosis: One of the non-alcohol components of beer is silicon. This may increase your bone mineral density, thus reducing the risk of osteoporosis. If you’re looking to take advantage of this, look for a non-alcoholic beer with higher levels of malted barley and hops.
- Better Sleep: Just like traditional beer, hops play a big role in non-alcoholic beer because of their preservative capacities and distinct beer flavor. Within hops are the compounds xanthohumol and myrcene which have a sedative effect and could improve your sleep. It works by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). With higher GABA levels, there comes lower neural activity, meaning your brain can chemically relax. A study of stressed-out nurses found that drinking non-alcoholic beer in the evening during a two-week period did in fact improve their sleep quality, allowing the nurses to fall asleep faster and have a less restless night. Another study found that non-alcoholic beer could improve the sleep patterns of university students during stressful exam periods.
- Less Sugar: Next time you reach for a sports drink, check the sugar content. Gatorade for example has 34 grams of sugar in a single bottle! For many athletes who are avoiding sugar, non-alcoholic beer might be the answer. It will provide similar electrolyte benefits as a sports drink without having a bottle of sugar water. You need the electrolytes, but the sugar can go and with non-alcoholic beer, that’s what you get.
A cold brew at the end of the day can be relaxing, but non-alcoholic beer could have even more additional benefits. From helping athletes recover from their intense training to helping you get a great night’s sleep, you might find that non-alcoholic beer is the beverage you’ve been missing.