According to a new study, nonalcoholic beer makes for a good choice of beverage after a marathon.
The New York Times reports that researchers at the Technical University of Munich asked male runners training for the Munich Marathon to drink a liter to a liter and a half of either alcohol-free beer or a similarly flavored placebo every day, beginning three weeks before the race and continuing for two weeks afterward. 277 men, mostly in their early 40s, agreed to participate.
The researchers collected blood samples from the men several weeks before the race, then at the start and end of the race itself, and on several days afterward. What they were looking for was indicators of inflammation in the men's blood. The men were also told to report any symptoms of colds or other upper respiratory ailments.
The results turned out well for the non-alcoholic beer drinkers.
From the Times:
The men drinking the nonalcoholic beer reported far fewer illnesses than the runners swallowing the placebo beverage. “Incidence of upper respiratory tract infections was 3.25-fold lower” in the nonalcoholic beer drinkers, the scientists reported, in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. They also showed significantly less evidence of inflammation, as measured by various markers in their blood, and lower counts of white blood cells than the placebo group, an indication of overall better immune system health.
“It can be speculated that the training frequency could be higher (with shorter breaks after vigorous training sessions)” for those who drank beer, the study's leader, Dr. Johannes Scherr, told the Times.
The trick seems to come from chemical substances called polyphenols, which are present in non-alcoholic beer. Polyphenols “suppress viral replication” and “influence the innate immune system positively,” according to the study.
Now, it turns out that regular beer has plenty of polyphenols too, but that doesn't mean the researchers recommend pairing it with long distance running.
“We do not know whether the side effects of alcoholic beer would cancel out the positive effects caused by the polyphenols,” Scherr wrote in the study. “Furthermore, it is not possible to drink one to one and a half liters of alcoholic beer per day, especially not during strenuous training.”