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Recovery Beer: Score or Swindle?

After a long run, is there anything more satisfying than a cold one?

As it turns out, physical activity and beer consumption have a strong correlation—for more reasons than just refreshment.

A study conducted by Pennsylvania State University found people who engage in more physical activity consume more alcohol on average than their less-active peers. A similar study conducted by the University of Miami found that moderate drinking is associated with a 14.3 percent increase in the probability of vigorous exercise. In layman's terms, athletes drink more than non-athletes… and we’re not just talking about professionals.

Why do athletes drink so much, you ask? It’s certainly baked into our culture—many races have a beer tent at the finish line, while others are simply known as beer races. Grabbing a beer after a run or game is commonplace—but it also might be baked into our DNA. A third study found that exercising and drinking alcohol both trigger the reward systems in the brain. What goes up must come down, and the same is true of a runner’s high. Why not keep it floating for a little while longer with some brew?

Beer, however, is not known for being a “healthy” post-workout drink (though there are quite a few unsubstantiated claims around hydration, vitamin B, and phenols).

The Market Gap

Eyeing a window between craft beer and Gatorade, new products are hitting the taps. New recovery beers serve up a hoppy-ale flavor with added electrolytes and reduced alcohol. Here are some of the players:

  • Avery Brewing, known for their strong and delicious craft brews, recently released Go Play IPA, which is activated with potassium and sodium to replenish your body.
  • The aptly named Sufferfest Beer Company has 5 different gluten-removed, low alcohol content (some as low as 3.5%) beers which contain added electrolytes. P.S. Sufferfest was bought by Sierra Nevada.
  • Harpoon crafted Rec. League to be your number one cool down companion—“low in alcohol, light on calories.”
  • Zēlus Beer is founded by an athlete and chemist duo and offers seven different running-focused beers, including Race Pace and Long Run, which provide drinkers with sodium, calcium, and potassium.


So, Score or Swindle?

Is adding salt to beer all it’s cracked up to be, or is this another case of good (bad) marketing? In our eyes, there are two important factors here: taste and function.

The good news is, most recovery beers taste just like regular beer. The salts are almost undetectable. The bad news? Well, “recovery beer” might not be worth the hype.

“It's still beer, and while delicious it's not exactly the ‘best option’ for anything except enjoying yourself,” says Brian Rigby, MS CISSN. “Salt (sodium chloride) is the only important electrolyte we lose when we sweat, and you'll get significantly more of that from a post-workout pizza.”

“For recovery, most of the stuff they're adding is probably functionally worthless,” Brian explains. “The only thing beer (even recovery beer) has that we can really say would be beneficial is the carbs, the rest is inconsequential.” In fact, there is evidence that specially formulated beers are not significantly more hydrating than regular beers.

Grasping At Straws

The “wellness beer” trend might be a sign that beer companies are hurting. Over the last year, we’ve seen alcohol sales drop. Hard Seltzer, however, is all the rage.

“I think this speaks to a bigger trend of slower craft beer sales,” says Evan Butteris, Room 214 Designer and host of Two-Minute Tastings. “The wellness trend is real and things like the Bud Light ingredient label are trying to remind people of the unhealthy amount of calories in beer. It's a big reason why spiked seltzers have become so much bigger in the past year.”

“Many people are active and love drinking a beer after a ride, run or climb. Canning helped bring beer into our play-places and now maybe this is a continuation of that trend,” Evan continues, “I would typically buy a 6 pack of Coors for post ride tailgating since it's lower ABV and less filling, but maybe I'll look for something that's engineered for such a circumstance.”

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For media inquiries please email fwt@room214.com

Caitlin Sherwood


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