PUMPING IRONY: Raise a Pint for Good Hydration

After years of downing a few cold ones after a workout, I’m happy to learn that beer could be just as beneficial as water for rehydration.

Twenty-five years ago, I spent a couple of delightful hours over lunch with the late Michael Jackson, who was at the time probably the foremost beer connoisseur in the world (and, I suspect, a much better interview than the old Jackson 5 refugee with whom he shared a name). We dined at some suburban steakhouse and quaffed a few pints of our new local microbrew while discussing the many virtues of various ales, lagers, stouts, and pilsners — not necessarily in that order.

Jackson was no beer snob. When I asked him about the differences between the exquisite European beers and America’s mass-produced brands, he was quick to laud Budweiser and the rest for their thirst-quenching qualities. “Those are lawn-mowing beers,” he said.

In the years since, I’ve had multiple opportunities to test that theory — often after a summer afternoon of yard work, but also following a good sweat-a-thon at the gym. In fact, it’s long been a tradition among my Monday night slow-old-guys basketball league that we reconnoiter at a local bar for a few cold ones after the game.

I’m not the sort to lose sleep over my choices of post-workout hydration (I don’t lose sleep over anything, actually). We drink plenty of water during the two hours we spend pounding up and down the hardwood, and I always figure fluids are fluids, when it comes to replacing all that sweat we generate.

And now I find out my (beer) gut instinct is correct.

As Jen Miller reports in this New York Times piece, researchers at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, have found that drinking beer helps you recover from a workout just as effectively as drinking water. The research team, led by Ben Desbrow, an associate professor in the school of public health, gave study participants one of four fluid replacements after their workout: light beer, light beer with added salt, standard beer, and standard beer with added salt.

(The salt-in-your-beer option reminded me of my late father, who always salted his beer after he got home after a hard day of — you guessed it — delivering beer all over St. Paul, especially in the summer.)

The verdict? Light beer with added salt offered the greatest rehydration benefits, Desbrow said. Stronger beer, he added, can further dehydrate your body after a workout. “The point is not to get nondrinkers to drink beer, he explained, “but to provide beer drinkers with a healthy alternative.”

Point taken, Mate. I’m not about to descend into the “lite” beer world, but it’s good to know that my thirst for a good lawn-mowing brew after working up a sweat isn’t going to derail my rehydration scheme. And when I sprinkle a bit of salt in my glass, it’ll remind me of my old man.

, an Experience Life deputy editor, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

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