Posted by Dave on June 24, 2011 | 6 CommentsThe other day on Facebook someone put up a link to this article on something called either abcactionnews or nbcactionnews, depending on where you look on the page. The proposition: Beer is better than water for rehydrating after a hard workout.
The article cites study results “published in the British newspaper The Telegraph.” This “news” already has at least two red flags, and we haven’t even gotten to the study itself: It’s reported in a sketchy online outfit, and the original research was published in a newspaper rather than a scientific journal. So I searched the Telegraph’s web site and found the original 2007 report there: Beer after sport ‘is good for the body’. This article at least gives us a little more information, but also raises more flags:
In a rare piece of good news for those who like a pint, Spanish researchers say beer can help someone who is dehydrated retain liquid better than water.
Prof Manuel Garzon, of Granada University, also claimed the bubbles in beer help to quench the thirst and that its carbohydrate content can help to replace lost calories.
Prof Garzon asked a group of students to do strenuous exercise in temperatures of around 40ºC (104ºF). Half were given a pint of beer, while the others received the same volume of water.
Prof Garzon, who announced the results at a press conference in Granada beneath a banner declaring “Beer, Sport, Health”, said the hydration effect in those who drank beer was “slightly better”.
Apparently the Telegraph wasn’t reporting on published research, just a press conference. This is not how science is done, people. In order for scientific research to be accepted, it must be subjected to peer review from scholars in the field. This appears to be a case of a researcher with a taste for both beer and publicity.
Undaunted, I tried to see if Garzon did manage to publish any of his research in a scientific journal in the intervening four years. Unfortunately, a pubmed search revealed no beer hydration research published by Garzon. Most likely, this means that when Garzon’s work was actually subjected to peer review, it didn’t pass muster.
So is there any evidence that drinking beer or other alcohol after a hard workout can actually help you rehydrate faster than good old water? Sadly, no. The closest thing I could find was an abstract for a 1997 study that looked at the effect of alcohol on rehydration. They did find that drinks with up to 2 percent alcohol did not appear to affect hydration, but drinks with 4 percent alcohol were detrimental. How much alcohol does beer have?
If there is a god, he/she surely blessed the internet, because among its many wonders is a website entirely devoted to the alcohol content of various beverages, including beer. I spent a good 20 or 30 minutes examining this table, and found that nearly all beer that doesn’t advertise itself as low- or no-alcohol, indeed has more than 4 percent alcohol.
What does this mean for you? Based on all available evidence, despite what abc/nbcactionnews.com says, beer is not better than water for rehydration. There are probably worse things to drink than beer after a hard workout, but from a health perspective, beer is almost certainly not the best thing you could be drinking.