What Really Happens When You Drink Beer After A Workout

While cracking open a cold beer after a hard workout might sound like a perfect way to finish a sweaty session, it might not be the ideal recovery beverage. There are a few benefits to sipping on a beer post-workout, though. If your friends are opting to end a run or bike ride at the bar, you can still indulge knowing it won't completely undo any gains you made, though it's important to drink responsibly.

Beer is a source of carbohydrates, which helps restore glycogen that's depleted during your workout. On average, a pint of beer contains around 17 grams of carbohydrates. Beer also contains some of the vital electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, and sodium that need to be replaced due to in-workout sweat loss (via USDA). In fact, some beers are even being marketed as "recovery beers" and targeted towards athletes thanks to added electrolytes (via GearPatrol). 

2016 study also found that regular exercise helped offset some of the long-term risks associated with drinking alcohol. Rather than thinking of your beer as your reward for exercise, you may want to start thinking about exercise as a necessity in order to enjoy a drink.

The downsides of a post-workout beer

Beer is a source of empty calories and can potentially lead to dehydration if you're not also drinking water along with it. Alcohol itself isn't going to aid your recovery, but will boost the caloric content of a pint of beer. Depending on what type of beer you sip, caloric content can range from sub-100 calories in a light beer to 300 or more in a darker Belgian beer or stout (via Vox). Drinking any alcohol post-weightlifting is also potentially hindering your recovery process, Dr. Jakob Vingren, a professor of exercise physiology, told GQ. And perhaps most importantly, post-workout, your body may already be dehydrated, which means that alcohol can have more intensified effects, including impaired judgment, chiropractor Lev Kalika told Livestrong, so be careful how much you're drinking.

Ultimately, while there are some potential upsides to sipping a beer, it's important to note that drinking alcohol is never going to be the ideal way to replenish and recover. Ensure that you're also getting enough water and protein to help speed up the recovery process if you do decide to indulge (and avoid a post-workout hangover).