We've heard that chugging chocolate milk after a hard workout is a great way to help your body recover, but beer?
According to NPR, Lean Machine Brands, Inc. announced that it intends to release a new low-calorie, protein packed "muscle beer" marketed to fit guys. It begs the question: Could a real, alcoholic brew serve as a viable workout recovery drink? The answer may surprise you.
Putting your body through the strains of exercise depletes a lot of important vitamins, hydrating electrolytes, and carbs. That's why athletes chug Gatorade or coconut water and eat fruit after an intense workout—they're all full of good sugar and nutrients that replenish your body. Beer's got some of that good stuff, too: sugary carbs, a hint of electrolytes, and a few helpful plant-based nutrients that come from the hops, yeast, and barley.
Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to cardioprotective benefits, improved immune response and reduced inflammatory factors. Also you may have heard of red wine's polyphenols and reservatrol helping to combat oxidative stress, which has been implicated in several diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. As with fruits, a darker variety of wine or beer will tend to have a higher polyphenol content. More benefits include improved blood flow through vasodilation of blood vessels and increased levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
A 2011 in Germany suggested that polyphenols in beer may be especially useful for those who go through prolonged strenuous exercise, which tends to lower the body's immune function.
In the study, those who were given nonalcoholic beer every day for three weeks before and two weeks after a marathon reported fewer incidences of upper respiratory tract infections and were up to three times less susceptible to the common cold.
But the main drawback — and it's a doozy — is that alcohol pretty much screws up everything.
Not only does alcohol leave you dehydrated, but a recent study suggests that excessive amounts can impair protein synthesis, the process by which your muscles repair themselves after exercise, according to a study published last month in PLoS One.
"It impairs some of what we call the protein signaling molecules in the body. These are the traffic lights that turn on protein synthesis," says John Hawley, an exercise and nutrition researcher at Australian Catholic University, who led the study. "[Alcohol] dims the traffic light signals. So ultimately, that whole muscle protein synthesis is slowed down."
His study found that when athletes binged on alcohol after an intensive strength-training workout, their protein synthesis decreased by nearly 40 percent.
Now, the athletes in Hawley's study did a lot of drinking: They consumed roughly eight shots of vodka mixed with orange juice over a three-hour period. Hawley says it's not clear how more moderate drinking affects the recovery process, but "my guess is that any alcohol impedes it a little bit."
So in order for you to get any of the good stuff out of beer, you'd have to take out the one big ingredient that makes it enjoyable in the first place. (Of course, this is why Lean Machine has been brewed to contain about 0.5% alcohol, which makes it about as strong as a rotten banana.)
We wouldn't recommend getting sloshed after every mile you've run, but having a beer after a vigorous workout might not be as bad for you as you'd think. A little moderation and a ton of water could be the perfect reward for yourself after a particularly grueling session.
» NIH: Muscle weakness in alcoholism linked to mitochondrial repair issues