Science confirms what I’ve known for years: Beer = Better Marathon Recovery!

Ok, by now you’ve all probably seen the study that was released yesterday linking beer drinking to improved marathon recovery.  If you’ve been under a rock and haven’t heard about it, check out one article from the NY Times blog here.

The catch?  It was non-alcoholic beer that they studied.   Apparently they wanted to study the polyphenols in beer, but were worried that the negative effects of alcoholic beer (read:  hangover) would cancel out what they presumed would be the positive effects of the polyphenols.  I don’t get this quote from the article:  “Furthermore, it is not possible to drink one to one and a half liters of alcoholic beer per day, especially not during strenuous training.”  I believe that is the equivalent of 3 pints of beer a day.  While that probably isn’t ideal during strenuous training, I know many a runner who could take on that challenge and do well in a marathon!

What are these polyphenals? They are a chemical substance found in many plants that, among other things, “suppress viral replication” and “influence the innate immune system positively,” which are all beneficial for fighting off a cold.

Anyway, they apparently had a bunch of runners in their early 40’s who were training for the Munich Marathon to participate in the study and drink 2-3 pints of non-alcoholic beer a day during the 3 weeks of taper and 2 weeks post-marathon.  They had a control group drinking a placebo (read:  fake, fake beer).

The results:  those runners that drank the beer:

  • Reported far fewer illnesses (upper respiratory infections)
  • Had significantly less inflammation
  • Had markers of a better immune system
Well, you all know that beer is my preferred adult beverage.  And, when I’m not in Operation Spin Dry, I consume a a few beers each week.*  While I haven’t consumed beers to the extent that the study participants did, I do drink several beers a week during intense training and even during taper (and more than several during post race recovery week).  And, although my study is by no means formal or scientific, I seriously DO believe that drinking a beer or two the night before a workout (not necessarily a hard track workout, but definitely a medium effort workout) improves my performance.  Seriously.  I wish I had been recording this in my runningahead log, because I’d probably be (in)famous if I published these results, but I can think of dozens of times that I’ve been out at night and had a couple beers and thought “Uh oh – I hope I don’t regret this on my run tomorrow”, and then I’ve woken up and had a FABULOUS run.
If there are any scientists/researchers reading this blog now, feel free to sign me up for the alcoholic beer marathon training study.  Oh – and if you know of a Nutter Butter Blizzard marathon training study, I’ll be a test subject in that one too. 
*Contrary to what you may think from the frequency with which I blog about beer, I actually don’t drink a ton.  I typically limit myself to 2 beers max, maybe 3 if I’m feeling crazy.  Why?  I’m getting old and lame. I HATE being hung over.   I’ve got too much to do to spend the day with a headache!

9 thoughts on “Science confirms what I’ve known for years: Beer = Better Marathon Recovery!

  1. Brandy

    Love the post! post chicago (i.e. that NIGHT), I drank a ton of beer and was quite drunk. However, I had no ill effects the next day – not even a wee bit of a headache. I am normally quite the lightweight when it comes to drinking so this was a complete surprise. I wonder how that scenario plays into this study 🙂

    Also, I would be game for being part of the Nutter butter study as well. Heck, I think I am having one after my long run on Sunday!

    1. I think you may be on to something! Post Little Rock I drank quite a bit too and was just fine the next day. Hmmmmm.

      And I think I will participate in the informal nutter butter blizzard study this weekend too! Check back with me on Monday and we can compare notes on the healing effect of nutter butters. Dang, those things are good!

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