Runners love their post-run beer. So much so that sometimes they’ll drink it mid-run, trying to accomplish the notorious beer mile. Mixing alcohol with exercising tends to get a bad rap. Often, runners will reduce or abstain from drinking while training for a goal race. But, is having a beer (or two) after a long run really so bad?
A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine says maybe not. Researchers from the University of Sydney looked at data from the health surveys in the United Kingdom to examine the effects that alcohol and physical activity had on risk of death from any cause, cancer-related death, and cardiovascular disease-related death.
Participants were divided into groups based on their weekly alcohol consumption: Non-drinkers, ex drinkers, occasional drinkers (didn’t drink in the past week), within weekly drinking guidelines (fewer than 8 drinks for women, fewer than 12 drinks for men), hazardous drinking (more than 8 drinks for women, more than 12 drinks for men), and harmful drinking (more than 20 drinks for women, more than 28 drinks for men).
Researchers found that there was a direct association between ex-drinkers and harmful-level drinkers when it came to risk of death, compared to non-drinkers. They also found the risk of death from cancer increased as weekly alcohol consumption increased. On the flip side, they found that occasional drinking was protective against death from any cause and cardiovascular disease.
Okay, but what about athletes? In inactive study subjects, there was a direct link between alcohol consumption and death from any cause. But all drinkers (excluding those drinking at harmful levels) who met or exceeded the weekly physical activity recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity reduced their risk of death from any cause and death from cancer. Researchers think this could mean that physical activity can temper negative effects from alcohol.
Count your units
NHS guidance says we should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, with two days alcohol-free. Men are recommended to drink no more than four units a day, while women are encouraged to have no more than three. Want to work out what that means in terms of your favourite tipple? Check the stats below.
- Glass of wine (13% ABV): 1.6 units for a 125ml glass, 2.3 for 175ml and 3.3 for 250ml
- Pint of beer or cider (4% ABV): 2.3 units
- Pint of strong beer or cider (5.2% ABV): 3 units
- Pint of extra strong beer or cider (8% ABV): 4.5 units
- 25ml single spirit measure (ABV 40%): 1 unit
This report found that occasional drinkers had the lowest risk of death from any cause and cardiovascular disease. Opt for a drink during special events, and make herbal tea or sparkling water your go-to beverage.
Your regular physical activity can help offset occasional excess drinking. Plan your long run before a party that will have the booze flowing (and make sure to hydrate!).
Hydrate and refuel
Before you toss back a post-run brew, it’s important to get some protein in your system (within 30 minutes of completing your workout) and hydrate with water. Try a banana with peanut butter and a glass of water before your pint.
- Additional reporting by Debbie Fetter