The drinking runner’s handbook

It’s that time of year. You’re inevitably going to imbibe something stronger than coconut water. But a well-chosen tipple will minimise damage to your running body.


by Jonathan Thompson
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Bitter (Pint)

ABV: 4%

Alcohol units: 3

Calories: 182

Protein: 1.7g 

Carbs: 13g

Running plus: Bitter is sweet stuff for your bones. As one of the best sources of silica and boron, a pint a day is an effective way to keep your running chassis strong and osteoporosis at bay.

Health bonus: Vitamin B6 helps strengthen your nervous system and tackle stress. Plus, scientists at the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki found a pint a day can slash your risk of kidney stones by a colossal 40 per cent. That pint also packs in 34 per cent of your RDA of folic acid, which helps convert food into energy and is important for proper brain function. 

Imbiber beware: Bitter contains high levels of purine, which increases uric acid in your joints, and can lead to gout. 


White wine (175ml) 

ABV: 11% 

Alcohol units: 

Calories: 130

Protein: 0.2g

Carbs: 1g

Running plus: A drop of white eases joint pain. It contains tyrosol and caffeic acid, which, according to Italian scientists at the University of Pisa’s Neuroscience Department, can help suppress inflammatory reactions. 

Health bonus: When drunk moderately (no more than three small glasses a day), US scientists at the University of Buffalo found white wine can help keep your lungs healthy. It contains antioxidants that stop the creation of harmful molecules in that area. 

Imbiber beware: Vin blanc makes your stomach secrete extra acid, irritating the lining and inflaming your digestive tract, which can lead to nausea. It’s also thought that the sulphur dioxide – used to preserve the grapes – can trigger asthma. 


Gin and slimline tonic (Single with 125ml tonic)

ABV: 6.5% 

Alcohol units: 1

Calories: 72

Protein: 0g

Carbs: 0g

Running plus: The juniper berries that flavour gin were traditionally used as a herbal remedy for kidney and liver ailments. They can help to keep your weight down by flushing out your system.    

Health bonus: Juniper has anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve rheumatism, arthritus and gout. It’s also a short-term solution to bloating – especially in women with PMS.

Imbiber beware: Mother’s Ruin will make you need to urinate sooner than other alcoholic drinks, as the juniper berries are strongly diuretic. This will aggravate the dehydration caused by alcohol intake.


Vodka and Diet Coke (Single with 125ml Coke)

ABV: 6.5%

Alcohol units: 1

Calories: 80

Protein: 0g

Carbs: 0g

Running plus: Highly distilled and purified, vodka is the best alcohol for your stomach, unlikely to irritate it before tomorrow’s run.

Health bonus: Vodka is less likely to give you a hangover as it’s free of preservatives, congeners and colouring. For example, it has only one six-thousandth of bourbon’s headache-inducing methanol levels.

Imbiber beware: In a study published in theAmerican Journal of Clinical Nutrition, volunteers’ fat-burning rates dropped by a huge 73 per cent for several hours after drinking two vodkas with soft mixers. 


Champagne (125ml) 

ABV: 12%

Alcohol units: 1.5

Calories: 95

Protein: 0.4g

Carbs: 1.8g

Running plus: A recent Reading University study found that champagne had a positive effect on endothelial function, a strong indicator of heart disease. The researchers concluded that daily moderate consumption may improve your vascular performance.

Health bonus: Bubbly may benefit your brain. The Reading study also found that grape varieties used in champagne can aid memory via a compound called phenolic acid. Their conclusion: three glasses a week after the age of 40 could stave off brain disorders including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Imbiber beware: Fizz combined with alcohol can weaken the valve between your stomach and oesophagus, leading to reflux and heartburn. 


Lager (Pint)

ABV: 5%

Alcohol units: 3

Calories: 230 

Protein: 2.84g

Carbs: 17g 

Running plus: A pint supplies a 10th of your body’s RDA of niacin, which boosts energy levels. It also delivers selenium to support immune function, plus a healthy injection of other essential minerals, including calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Health bonus: Scientists at the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute in the Netherlands found that levels of C-reactive protein – an agent known to cause heart disease – plunged by 35 per cent after three weeks of moderate beer drinking, compared with three weeks on non-alcoholic beer. They also found beer swiggers’ ‘good’ cholesterol rose by 11 per cent in the same period. 

Imbiber beware: Lager is not only calorie-laden but also a powerful appetite stimulant, causing you to crave inappropriate fatty food late at night: two factors that contribute to increased weight – and running times. 


Red wine (175ml)

ABV: 11%

Alcohol units: 2

Calories: 120

Protein: 0.8g

Carbs: 4.4g

Running plus: Compared with white, red wine packs more potassium, iron and phenolics (antioxidants that mop up damaging free radicals released during intense exercise).

Health bonus: When drunk in moderation, red wine is the best alcohol for your overall health, according to the British Nutrition Foundation. Red-wine drinkers can reduce their risk of heart disease by as much as 50 per cent, thanks to its flavonoid antioxidants, which prevent clots and protect you against artery damage. 

Imbiber beware: Red wine will give you a worse hangover than white because, like other dark-coloured drinks, it contains congeners. These constrict the blood vessels in your brain, causing headaches and nausea. 


Cider (Pint)

ABV: 5%

Alcohol units: 3

Calories: 200

Protein: 0g

Carbs: 14.8g

Running plus: A single pint supplies a fifth of your recommended daily dose of iron – crucial for muscle control and oxygen delivery. The fruity tipple is also high in potassium, an important electrolyte for a healthy nervous system. 

Health bonus: Cider fights anaemia. It’s proven to protect against high blood pressure and heart disease too, with the Institute of Food Research in Norwich finding it to have the same level of antioxidants as green tea. 

Imbiber beware: Sweet cider squashes a hefty 250kcal into each pint – that’s 25 per cent more than dry cider. 


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