Gary here. I drank two beers Saturday afternoon, in the hours following a 21-mile training run on the North Shore trails at Clinton Lake.
Good or bad?
Well, they were damn good. Especially since I don’t drink beer during the week, for training purposes. So what’s the story on beer and running, racing and training? Ok to drink before, after, or during runs?
Let’s start with drinking the night before a run.
A few beers won’t have any direct affect on performance. Alcohol does dehydrate us, however. So unless you compensate for the brewskis with plenty of water, drinking beer before a run could have you going into that run dehydrated.
Dehydration causes lots of problems, which we’ll discuss in another post.
Drinking during a run? The answer is “don’t do it.” Beer and other alcohol is not helpful for running. According to Tim Noakes, MD, in his big book Lore of Running, alcohol makes a poor fuel for our bodies, and offers no special benefits.
In fact, he writes, alcohol has important negative effects, such as interfering with our bodies’ ability to make glucose. That means alcohol reduces endurance. It can lead to hypoglycemia — the same condition we experience in a long race when we haven’t been taking in enough calories.
Add in its other well-known negative effects — clouding of judgement, decrease in physical coordination, and you clearly don’t want to drink while running — even if you do want to drink while running.
And after? Well, it’s a nice change from sports drinks. It can provide a pleasant anesthetic effect for aching muscles, and it’ll help you pee, which Dr. Noakes says could be important in helping to prevent kidney stones.
I don’t drink during the week because I find, now that I’m in my 50s, that it puts weight on me that, with a slowing metabolism, is ever harder to lose. But after the Saturday long run, with a rest day coming up, I’ll treat myself. And frankly, a week of pleasure deferred makes those few weekend brewskis taste damn good.
And of course thinking about those beers waiting for me, whether during a training run or a race, definitely helps me hustle into the finish.
I agree with Gary…. beer is a wonderful gift given to us and we had best partake in it! I personally prefer to do most of my beer drinking in the “off season” when running is just for fun and having a beer or 2 afterwards with friends is the best way to spend a cold evening. I love to sample different types of craft beers or even enjoy a crappy yard beer at a good rock show, but once those early season races start looming, my alcohol consumption goes way down.
I know many people have a beer or 2 the night before a race to settle the nerves and help them sleep, but actually, alcohol can interfere with the sleep cycle and cause a poor nights sleep. Studies show that even just moderate consumption of alcohol 6 hours before bedtime can cause fitful, restless sleep in the second half of the evening. In other words, you may fall asleep quickly, but it isn’t going to last! A poor nights sleep may be OK the night before a 5K, but you certainly want to have the best sleep possible the night before a 100 miler!
So… like anything in life.. chocolate, running (wait… what??), the internet, alcohol is best enjoyed in moderation (and probably not the night before a big race). Like Coach Gary says, the evening after a long run makes for the perfect time to imbibe, gives you something to look forward to and you can catch a good buzz on less beers! Just don’t forget to alternate water with that beer….. and a good early morning run can help shake those cobwebs off the next morning if you have a few too many.