Does Beer Affect Your Training?

Whether grabbing a drink with a friend, recovering from a long week at work, or celebrating a recent accomplishment, it seems like the beer glass can always be filled and raised for a toast.

You might think that this doesn’t make sense for runners. Why would health-conscious individuals indulge in something considered so unhealthy? Is it the carbs? The cool refreshment? What does it do to our bodies and how can it affect our performance? Here are a few things to consider before cracking that beer.

Before The Race

Since beer has carbs, it has to be beneficial for carbo loading the night before a race, right? Sadly, no. The amount of carbs that are in one beer are only equivalent to about half a slice of bread. What’s more, because of the way alcohol is metabolized, most of these excess carbs are stored as fat. So you’re actually fat-loading.

Alcohol is also a diuretic, which means drinking too much the night before a run or race could leave you dehydrated in the morning. To avoid the effects of poor hydration–lack of coordination, less oxygen to the muscles, which can slow you down–drink water before and after your beer.

In addition to dehydration, alcohol consumption may interrupt sleep, leaving you feeling groggy on race day. As little as 12 ounces can disrupt the most beneficial kind of sleep.

Race Day

Oddly enough, some runners have a beer during a race. In fact, groups like the Hash House Harriers map their runs around local bars, using them as aid stations.

While running tipsy may be a little more fun than running sober, it really isn’t going to help your training. Again, since beer is a diuretic, it can ultimately affect your performance. And since it can also impair your judgment, it may not be the safest thing to do while running.

However, occasionally having a cold one during your run isn’t going keep you from completing that marathon. Just don’t expect it to be the most efficient of training sessions.

Race Recovery

Sure, an ice cold beer tastes great after a long run, but what does it do as far your recovery? For one, alcohol’s diuretic properties can hamper your hydration, which is vital for recovery. Have eight to 16 ounces of water or other fluids and about 200 carb-and-protein calories before you start toasting.

Alcohol is also processed through the liver, an organ that is vital for muscle recovery. With the liver already overworked from the alcohol, your bodies’ ability to properly recover is reduced.

The Bottom Line

From these angles, drinking and endurance training don’t necessarily look like a good mix. But, in moderation, drinking while training is usually OK. Remember to drink plenty of water while at the bar and don’t drink too much that it interferes with your nutrition and sleep cycle, both of which are important.

Just remember that moderation is key.

About Jonathan

Jonathan is a distance runner, cyclist and aspiring triathlete. With no formal training or running background Jonathan emerged on the local running scene in the spring of 2010 at the age of 27. Quick to get involved with local runners and pick up guidance, Jonathan saw efficient returns on his efforts and began to constantly ramp up training. With quick improvements, Jonathan was soon running sub 3:00 marathons and helping others get fit and fast. Jonathan has become heavily involved in the lower Hudson Valley running scene and founded Hudson Valley Running in 2013 to help other aspiring athletes get started and improve. Jonathan is currently an active member of Rockland Road Runners, New York Road Runners, USATF, Outer Loop Running Club, and 50 States Marathon Club.