Sponsored by our partner, Athletic Brewing Company
Imagine this: it’s Friday afternoon. You’ve just crushed an epic trail run. It’s hot outside, you have zero plans, and nothing sounds better than cracking an ice cold beer. In fact, just the idea of it makes your mouth water. Yup. We’ve been there.
It may come as a surprise, but your body’s cravings are not far off the mark. What you actually want (physiologically speaking) are carbs and electrolytes to replenish your energy stores and start the recovery process. “The strain of physical activity often leaves us craving a cool, carbohydrate-rich refreshment with hydrating electrolytes. While sports drinks and chocolate milk certainly fit the bill, as it turns out, so does beer,” says Corinna Coffin, MS, RD and Spartan Elite Pro Athlete. Beer, made from fermented grains, provides a rich source of both. “However, there’s one component of beer that stands in the way of making it an ideal post-workout recovery drink: alcohol.”
We all know drinking and training is NOT a good combination. We’re not opposed to the occasional alcoholic beverage, but Spartan CEO Joe De Sena says the worst part to boozing-up while training is that it causes heavy inflammation, making it tougher to bounce back. “You tend to recover more slowly, and make less stoic [read: smart!] decisions when it comes to your training commitment,” says De Sena. In other words: drink less, slack off less.
While it’s true that there are no hard-and-fast rules to combining alcohol and working out (you’re in charge of your own nutrition and health regimen) it’s important to know that alcohol not only affects your hydration, but also blood circulation to your muscles, and even your sleep quality. In short: how much alcohol you put into your system directly impacts your performance (it is a poison, after all).
The good news? There is a way to quench your craving for a cold one that sports drinks just can’t provide. Non-alcoholic beers are on the rise, some actually taste legit, and (believe it or not) drinking N/A beer can help you recover. Coffin says your post-training nutrition should aim to replenish muscle glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates), stimulate muscle protein synthesis (a.k.a. muscle growth), and restore fluid balance. “Alcohol consumption can interfere with many aspects of the recovery process,” she says. “But N/A beer offers the same great taste of regular beer and all the carbohydrate and electrolytes that naturally come with it, without the negative effects of alcohol.” Sans booze, N/A beer actually becomes hydrating, making it a solid addition to the post-workout recovery process, she says.
The German Olympic Ski Team sure thinks so. Johannes Scherr, the team doctor, swears by the health benefits of N/A beer saying nearly all of his athletes drink it while training. (Sidenote: Germans know their brew. So it’s safe to say they’re on to something.) Additionally, a 2019 report from Global Market Insights predicts the market for N/A beer and wine in North America will quadrupel in growth by 2025. As technology to brew N/A beer improves, and the sober-curious lifestyle takes off, consumers are demanding more non-alcoholic options. And craft breweries, like Athletic Brewing Company, have answered the call.
At its facilities in Stratford, CT and San Diego, CA, Athletic Brewing Company engineers their drafts much like normal craft beer. However, instead of a single dealcoholization step (used by most corporate breweries, which strips flavor), they make several tweaks to the traditional small-batch brewing process to achieve fully fermented beer under 0.5% ABV. The result? A cold one that stands shoulder to shoulder with regular beer in full flavor profile, but doesn’t bring on the buzz. (Or the side effects.)
You’re serious about your training (#noexcuses). But when you live the Spartan Way, you know it’s crucial to stay vigilant. One beer may lead to two, and even ingesting small amounts of alcohol will impact your workouts. “When it comes to alcohol, navigating the waters of “occasional” and “moderate” alcohol consumption can be tricky for some,” says Coffin. “This is where N/A beer comes into play, offering the perfect solution to enjoying the refreshing taste of beer without the negative repercussions of alcohol.”
So next time you’re dying for a beer, opt for one of these deliciously crisp, non-alcoholic craft brews. Satisfy your craving, pump yourself with much-needed carbs and electrolytes, and avoid performance setbacks from booze itself. You’re welcome. (And cheers!)
Best Non-Alcoholic Beer for Athletes
THE SUPER-SWEATY APRES-WORKOUT THIRST QUENCHER
Upside Dawn N/A Golden Pale Ale
This refreshing, classic non-alcoholic craft golden ale pairs perfectly with a post-run stretch session in the grass. Subtle floral and earthy notes give backbone to full-body flavor from premium organic U.S. and German malts. Sealed with a kick from English and traditional American hops, this golden ale gets an A+ AROO! as our go-to when we’re craving a cold one. An added bonus? It’s gluten free and only 50 calories. (P.S. Some armchair athletes actually stopped drinking altogether for this beer! If you’re not a convert now, get ready.)
THE BEER-LOVING ATHLETE’S HOLY GRAIL
Run Wild N/A IPA
Aye, it’s true. If you’re a craft-beer freak like us, there’s nothing better than a perfectly balanced IPA — the marriage of hops and malts that create smashing flavor and bite. This Run Wild non-alcoholic IPA is brewed with a blend of five varieties of Northwest hops, and carries just enough bitterness to overtake its malty undernotes. Plus, it’s only 70 calories (most IPAs run 150+) so you can feel good knowing you’re not overindulging. Consider this your best friend when it comes to backyard grill outs this summer. It pairs well with marinated chicken, salmon, veggies, you name it. (Hint: it also works as a placebo beer to calm pre-race nerves the night before you hit the starting line.)
THE RECOVERY-DAY REFRESHER
Free Way N/A Double Hop IPA
If your inner Spartan Warrior wants bold flavor, bold flavor he shall get. This seasonal double-hopped, medium bodied IPA was brewed to inspire the adventurer in all of us. Chock-full of amarillo, citra and mosaic hops, this far-from-subtle flavor profile will blow your mind. We love it as a recovery day pick-me-up, when foam rolling, ice baths, self-massage and protein smoothies are the name of the game. Hard work deserves a little credit. Indulge yourself with this gripping, aggressively hopped IPA. (Citrus notes of orange blossom make this our warm-weather favorite.)
Athletic Brewing Co. is donating a portion of all online sales to the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund to support industry employees directly affected by COVID-19. Place your order today at athleticbrewing.com and get 20% off your first order with code UNBREAKABLE20.