This post is not for my underage readers…so please be warned!
Earlier today, I had the pleasure of hanging out with the South Florida Runs group at Okeeheelee Park in West Palm Beach. There was a no-pressure and “no chip” 5K race/run (which I slept too late and missed) followed by a fun, BYO drinks/food/etc to share barbeque. While I missed the start of the run, I learned later that many of the competitors/participants chugged a beer before the start. As I said, this was a “no chip” 5K. Obviously they would be doing nothing of the sort before a real or “chipped” 5K…or maybe not?!?
It made me start thinking about whether drinking a beer before a run is a good or bad thing. Now I will admit, I am not a big drinker – and especially not a big beer drinker – so this is not really something I’ve really ever considered or contemplated…but I’m sure there are many of you that have.
In college at Brown University, the track and cross country teams held an annual relay race (at the end of the year) dubbed the “Beer Mile“ that involved running a lap, drinking a beer, running a lap, drinking a beer…and so on. (There are many track teams, schools, groups that do this – or so I’ve heard.) Now this was of course a game and definitely didn’t lead to any personal records (PRs)…and wasn’t intended to. But for the runners in today’s South Florida Runs 5K and the rest of us (21 and older runners)…should we actually consider adding a beer to our pre-race regimen? Well, I went out there to investigate…
Having a drink/beer the night before:
- Carbo-loading right? Well, according to Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., “A 12-ounce bottle contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, which is equivalent to about half a slice of bread. What’s more, because of the way alcohol is metabolized, most of these excess carbs are stored as fat. So you’re actually fat-loading
- Remember, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning drinking too much the night before a run or race could leave you dehydrated in the morning. (Drinking water before and after that beer may help…)
- Calming the nerves. For some, yes this can be a good idea (especially if you’ve become used to the practice). But for those like me, that don’t usually drink, the night before a race is definitely not the time to start. In fact, some studies suggest that as little as 12 ounces can disrupt the most beneficial kind of sleep.
- Again, it will potentially dehydrate you – especially if you are running in the hot sun, like many of the South Florida Runs guys and gals were today. Make sure you drink a lot of water before and after.
- One runner and writer Christopher Prawdzik, in fact, goes on to say drinking before running can be dangerous. He says: “As alcohol intake increases, blood vessels constrict, reducing blood flow to muscles and therefore reducing endurance during workouts and extending recovery time afterward.”
- Christopher adds: “For long-distance runners, the effects are even more serious. Restricted blood flow negatively affects the body’s heat regulators — and the door swings both ways. That means both the inability to stay cool in high heat and an abundance of heat loss on a cold day. The brain isn’t immune, either. If the heart can’t pump efficiently, the brain won’t get enough blood, so your balance and ability to focus suffer. But this also means the body can’t detect problems down the road. If you can’t balance or focus, you might not know when you’re thirsty. Unfortunately, alcohol’s most noticeable effect helps mask everything mentioned above. Euphoria, a sense of power, reduced inhibitions and an overall calming effect can tell the brain everything is OK.” Read Christopher’s entire article here.
So all in all, most of the “research” I found focused on enjoying running and how those runners that use the beer to relax seem to do better. However, using alcohol to train (like one would use protein drinks or Gatorade) is probably not such a good idea…And moderation is key (as always).
Here is an interesting article with more information on this that you may enjoy: A Beer Before A Run? Some Serious Runners Say Yes