Oak Cottage KwikSpar Mountain Drive Half-Marathon winner Lungile Gongqa. The race took place in Grahamstown on 9 August. Photo: Sean Thackeray

Cheers to the Finish!


Let’s face it, beer is part of our South African culture, especially after a strenuous event or training session. Instead of completely ruling it out as detrimental to our performance, let’s see how we can make it part of a healthy balanced lifestyle

A cold one after your finish – something that you feel like you’ve earned after your hard run. Afterwards, you might feel like you’ve taken a couple of steps backwards as an athlete but there is no reason to feel guilty having a pint or two. Let’s explore the positives, negatives and facts we need to consider when drinking beer. The answer? Be beer sensible!

The Facts

One small (330ml) bottle of 5% alcohol beer is equivalent to 1.6 unit of alcohol
A 300ml bottle of beer contains 142 calories which is equivalent to 2 slices of bread or ½ burger.
It would take the average 68kg man around 14 minutes of fast running to burn this off.
One pint is equivalent to 3.9 units and 324 calories.
One pint is equal to 4 slices of bread or 1.1 burgers and would take around half an hour of fast running to burn this off for the average man.

Beer Badies

With 7 calories per gram, alcohol has almost the same calorie content as fat.
Alcohol has no nutritional value, and despite the calorie content, may make you feel hungry as it lowers your blood sugar.

Some people think beer is a good source of nutrients for recovery post exercise but if you compare it to a glass of orange juice, unfortunately beer does not come close. A glass of OJ supplies four times the amount of potassium and almost three times the amount of carbs. It would take 11 beers to obtain the B-vitamins needed on a daily basis.

It’s about timing, too. Training or competing after drinking would never be recommended. Dehydration can lead to reduced athletic performance and while alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it makes your kidneys produce more urine, exercising straight after drinking can make dehydration worse because you sweat as your body temperature rises. You need to stay hydrated when you exercise to maintain a flow of blood through your body, which is essential for circulating oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.

Alcohol can also make you more prone to injury. This happens in a variety of ways such as altering your sleep cycles, which reduces your body’s ability to store glycogen. Alcohol also increases the level of the stress hormone cortisol, which slows down healing.

Drinking has an enormous impact on muscle protein synthesis, the process where muscles generate new proteins, which are necessary for skeletal muscles to benefit from training by recovery, growing and adapting. Alcohol can reduce muscle protein synthesis by a third leaving you unable to ever improve and build strength.

Beer Benefits

It’s not all bad news though! Moderate beer drinking (and I stress moderate) in context of a healthy lifestyle, may be linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease, lower risk of kidney stones, lower risk of type 2 diabetes, lower risk of high blood pressure as well as boosting your immune system and helping fight infection.

When it comes to the benefits and risks of drinking alcohol or beer, it really comes down to the amount consumed. The health risks are mostly linked to high alcohol consumption, whereas low to moderate consumption may actually be beneficial.

Moderate intake is loosely defined as no more than 3 standard drinks per day for a man and 2 for a woman. The take-home message is that if you’re generally eating healthily and exercising, don’t worry about throwing back one or two beers. Just keep your consumption moderate and look at your beer drinking as a training tool.

Being Beer Sensible

Pre-event: Avoid alcohol beyond low-amount social drinking for 48 hours
Post event: Rehydrate first and consume food to retard any alcohol absorption.