Is Performance Beer Healthier Than Regular Beer?

Beers with electrolytes belong to a new class of so-called “performance” beers. Just like Gatorade created electrolyte drinks for fitness enthusiasts, some breweries add electrolytes to the beer so you can enjoy one after a workout.

Key takeaways:
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    Just like Gatorade promotes beverages for fitness enthusiasts, beers with electrolytes aim to offer a healthy alternative for those who enjoy a beer after a workout.
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    However, a beer with electrolytes is still an alcoholic beverage, and it does not replace a post-workout drink.
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    Beer with electrolytes tends to be lighter, has lower alcohol content and fewer carbs, and has more minerals and nutrients than regular beer.
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    An occasional beer will likely not cause any harm. However, excessive drinking negatively impacts athletic performance and overall health.

What is the purpose of drinking beer with electrolytes?

Drinking alcoholic beverages after an intense workout or a long run may not make sense, as fitness is usually associated with a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Yet, Geoffrey Pedder, the founder of Zelus Beer Co, a brewery that sells performance beers, believes there is a demand for his products.

As an avid marathon and triathlon runner, Pedder often enjoyed a cold beer with his team after completing a run. Athletes have a few good reasons to drink. One is camaraderie. A second reason is the rewarding feeling after an intense workout.

Some performance beers have added electrolytes, while others include buckwheat and bee pollen to reduce the effects of dehydration. Beers with added chia seeds and buckwheat kasha contain more B vitamins and minerals.

Overall, a beer with electrolytes has fewer calories and lower alcohol content compared with regular beer. Furthermore, some brands offer non-alcoholic options.

There are quite a few options currently available on the market, and an estimated 1% of the craft beer market is classified as “performance” beer.

Is beer with electrolytes healthier than regular beer?

This type of beer taps into the market of health-conscious individuals, so the obvious question is: is a beer with electrolytes healthier than regular beer?

On the one hand, performance beers could be considered a healthier choice because they are often lighter, with lower alcohol content and fewer calories. They also have added electrolytes and other nutrients found in sports drinks.

However, on the other hand, just like most beers, they should be treated as an alcoholic beverage — not as a post-workout or recovery drink. In addition, even if a beer contains electrolytes, it’s a diuretic, which means it promotes the elimination of water from the body. Therefore, it’s not effective for rehydration.

Moderation is the key, whether you drink regular or performance beer.

The best way to replace water and electrolytes lost during a workout is still drinking water with added minerals or post-workout drinks. A snack with some carbs and proteins is also recommended.

Weighing the benefits and drawbacks

The pros

Social bonding, more consistent routines

According to one study from Northwestern University, active people tend to drink more on gym days. Another study found that those who consume alcohol in moderation are more likely to be consistent with a fitness routine.

Consuming alcohol in a social setting may enhance positive emotions and social bonding and relieve negative emotions among those drinking, according to another research paper. However, while these studies show some benefits of having an occasional drink, this doesn’t mean that non-drinkers should start drinking alcohol in an attempt to boost social bonding or exercise regularly.

Socializing in a coffee shop is an alternative, as caffeine is a healthy choice for athletes and can be consumed before and after workouts. For social drinkers, it is important to remember that moderation is key. Though most medical professionals can’t seem to come to a consensus, many consider the safe limit to be one drink for women and two drinks for men daily. People with a history of alcohol abuse should maintain abstinence.

Beer as a source of nutrients

Beer is a source of B vitamins and carbs, and these nutrients are beneficial after a workout. Health experts recommend eating about 0.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight within 30 minutes after a workout. In theory, a beer could help replenish these carbs. However, there are plenty of non-alcoholic options that provide carbs and vitamins, including post-workout drinks, coconut water, and regular milk.

The cons

Risk of abuse

General alcohol consumption, and beer in particular, often is perceived as unhealthy for athletes and non-athletes alike. However, the truth is, many people can’t stop at one or two drinks. Unfortunately, binge drinking often leads to alcohol abuse.

Short-term consequences

When consumed in excess, alcohol causes dehydration, hangover, and inflammation throughout the body. In addition, heavy alcohol consumption leads to an increased risk of injuries and car crashes, violence, and risky sexual behavior.

Long-term consequences

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic alcohol consumption is associated with serious liver and other digestive diseases, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, brain degeneration, weakened immune system, and several cancers, including breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon cancers.

Negative impact on athletic performance

Excessive alcohol intake causes inflammation and interferes with the body’s ability to repair and recover as the body processes the alcohol. The alcohol is eventually broken down into a substance called acetate, which inhibits the body’s ability to burn fat. Testosterone, a key player in muscle growth and repair, also drops after consuming alcohol.

Causes beer belly

Beer is high in calories and carbs, leading to weight gain and the characteristic beer belly. Midnight munchies and disrupted sleep further promote weight gain. Besides the fact that a beer belly isn’t a symbol of an athletic body, it is also linked with an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

If you enjoy regular exercise and an occasional beer with your buddies, go ahead and try a beer with electrolytes. Classified as “performance” beer, it contains added electrolytes and other nutrients found in energy drinks. This beer is also more likely to be lower in calories and alcohol content when compared with regular beer. However, experts recommend avoiding excessive amounts of any type of beer with alcohol.

Do not consider beer with electrolytes as a replacement for your post-workout drinks. You lose water and minerals during a workout, and these are best replaced with water and electrolytes or special post-workout drinks.


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