Ask Ann: Beer as an anti-inflammatory?

Ann Trason

Hello Ann! –

I need an expert opinion on this running/beer question. I’ve heard that beer acts as an anti-inflammatory. Have you ever had a “cold one” after a hard run? Do you think it aids in your recovery? I actually prefer a stronger IPA after a hard run. The stronger IPAs have a higher IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating and I am wondering if this better effects my recovery. Any insight into this or your experience and preferences would be wonderful.

Thanks,
Glen

Dear Glen,

What an excellent question. You must be a very smart dude. Scientific studies have shown that IBUs do indeed help with inflammation. There is a direct correlation between IBUs and the beverage’s rich bouquet of polyphenols, chemical substances found in many plants that, among other things, “suppress viral replication” and “influence the innate immune system positively,” all beneficial for fighting off a cold.

Photo: Myles Smythe/Michigan Bluff Photography

Photo: Myles Smythe/Michigan Bluff Photography

I hate to disappoint but the beer of choice among scientists is indeed non-alcoholic. According to the New York Times in April, 2011, “A new study reports that beer is an excellent recovery beverage for marathon runners. But you may not want to start a raucous celebration just yet. The beer was effective only if it was nonalcoholic.”

Glen, you are probably speculating that alcoholic beer would be drenched in polyphenols, too. Dr. Scheer, of the Technical University of Munich, who did the study, did find that indeed alcoholic beer does contain loads of polyphenols. The key issue is the amount of beer a runner would have to consume. For maximum benefit, the runners in the study had to consume a liter and a half of beer a day.

“We do not know whether the side effects of alcoholic beer would cancel out the positive effects caused by the polyphenols,” Dr. Scheer wrote. “Furthermore, it is not possible to drink one and a half liters of alcoholic beer per day, especially not during strenuous training.” We all know that, right?

There are some wonderful non-alcoholic beers, and, yes indeed, I have been known to grab a cold one after a run. My favorite at the moment is Erdinger Weissbier N/A. A good friend has told me her favorite post-run drink is Kaliber (by Guinness). I have also been known to use beer as an ice pack after a hard race. Don’t knock it: when else can you have two brews with one stone?

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Ann Trason

Ann Trason is a 14-time women’s champion at the Western States 100, and set World Records at the 50-mile (5:40:18 in 1991), 100K (7:00:47, 1995), 12-Hour (91 miles 1312 yards, 1991) and 100-mile (13:47:42, 1991) distances. Ann was co- director of the Firetrails 50 in northern California for 10 years, and has taught science at the college level. Ann currently coaches middle school cross country and supports other's ultrarunning achievements by volunteering, pacing and crewing at ultramarathon races throughout the Western US.

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  • Health Lush

    Great read! Being such a big advocate of beer and running, I’m also a realist. I think the alcohol negates any “positive” reactions beer may cause. With high IBUs (usually) comes high ABV. We, as runners, would love to hear that beer is the greatest thing in the world after running. But I don’t see that as fact. We all do it because we feel we can, we just ran. Same reason why some choose to eat cookies, cheeseburgers and brownies after, or even during runs!

  • Ian J Zurn

    I’m thinking there are better things to “aid” with recovery that don’t involve me going on a bender. Many of us also drive home after races.

  • Jay Gleason

    or if you use products of Stone Brewing like Arrogant Bastard that could be perhaps 2 stones :)