By Stephanie Lim
We’ve all been there. It’s the weekend, you’ve just finished your long run, and you have a serious thirst to quench. What better way to refuel after many sweaty miles than with brunch and a beer? Before you order that post-run mimosa/cocktail/beer, you may want to consider how alcohol can affect recovery.
Alcohol can hinder muscle recovery
The hours following a long run or workout are crucial for recovery. Proper refueling techniques help the body recover so you don’t feel sluggish during your next run or race. Picking the best post-run foods and drinks can optimize recovery, which can increase performance on your next run.
During exercise, the muscles experience damage, which is repaired during the rest and recovery period. When the body goes through this process, it releases a hormone called Growth Hormone that can actually speed up the muscle recovery process. Alcohol actually suppresses the release of Growth Hormone, which impedes the body’s ability to rebuild the damaged muscle.
Alcohol consumption also increases cortisol, a stress hormone that inhibits muscle rebuilding and promotes further breakdown. While a couple of beers right after your run might not seem like a big deal, those drinks have the potential to hinder your muscle recovery.
Alcohol can lead to dehydration
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases the frequency of urination. Hydration is incredibly important during a run to maintain energy and performance. Even those who properly hydrate during a run may end the run in a dehydrated state.
Not all fluids are created equal when it comes to rehydrating after an intense or long workout. If you’re consuming alcohol after a run (even if it’s paired with water), the increased urination could cause you to continue losing fluids faster than you’re replacing them. This can lead to further dehydration.
Not only can dehydration be dangerous, but it can also slow down your rate of recovery. Your muscles need to be hydrated in order to properly recover. Additionally, your digestive system is less efficient when dehydrated, which can cause stomach issues and slow down your body’s ability to absorb the necessary nutrients for adequate recovery.
Alcohol can negatively impact sleep
Alcohol can disrupt your natural sleep cycles, which can lead to a poorer night’s sleep. Even having less than one drink (for women) can lead to a 9.3% decrease in sleep quality. Poor quality sleep can leave you feeling groggy and lethargic, which can negatively impact your performance. Poor sleep can also dampen your immune system’s ability to fight off invaders. This could increase your risk of picking up a cold or flu, resulting in time off from training or races.
Sleep is an important time for our body to repair and build muscle. Growth Hormone is released as we sleep to aid in that rebuilding process. When our sleep is disrupted, such as with alcohol, the release of Growth Hormone can be disrupted. This disruption in the hormone release can negatively affect the body’s ability to fully repair and rebuild the muscles that were damaged during the previous day’s exercise.
How to incorporate a beer into your running routine
All of this is not to say that you can never enjoy a cocktail or two every now and then. However, if you’re in training for an important race or your body is in need of real rest and recovery, perhaps reconsider that alcoholic beverage.
You could also try some non-alcoholic alternatives, such as
- Athletic Brewing Co. Non-Alcoholic Beer
- Orange Juice + Seltzer
- Lemonade + Seltzer
- A ‘virgin’ version of your favorite cocktail
- Flavored Seltzer
If you are looking to indulge in a true alcoholic beverage, try to wait at least a couple of hours after your run or race to allow for proper rehydration and refueling first. Additionally, aim to finish any alcohol consumption at least 4 hours prior to bed so that your body has enough time to metabolize it before sleeping. This should help prevent some of the sleep cycle disruption associated with alcohol. Drinking plenty of water alongside your alcoholic beverage of choice can help to prevent dehydration as well.