Many Ashevilleans have an affinity for fitness, beer and any combination of the two. This seemingly paradoxical pairing — alcohol and exercise — goes much deeper than paddling to The Bywater or providing fodder for online dating profiles. There is no shortage of organized opportunities to sweat and imbibe in Asheville, and the list is growing.
Craft beers are passed out like medals at organized races. Bend and Brew Yoga is regularly hosted at local brewpubs. Running clubs meet at different breweries almost every day of the week, and some groups do not even wait until after the workout to indulge.
But many fitness-focused individuals wonder: Does drinking after a workout cancel out its benefits? Health experts say it depends.
“One post-run beer, of any kind, is generally not going to negate the benefits of the exercise,” says Dr. Jeff Graham, an endurance athlete and Crossfitter who’s also UNC Asheville’s medical director. In fact, “responsibly consumed beer post-workout can be a very effective refueling tool.”
How can this be? Beer contains water and carbohydrates, which the recovering body craves. Thanks to hops, yeast and barley, it also contains plant-based nutrients and some electrolytes. “Studies have shown you can get the same benefits from a PBR that you can get from slamming an electrolyte mix,” Graham points out.
Amateur researchers looking into this matter may stumble across a highly publicized 2007 University of Granada, Spain, study that takes this notion a step further: “Suitability of Beer as a Rehydrating Drink After Sport Practice” indicates that one light brew is a slightly better after-sports hydrator than water.
But don’t raise a glass just yet. The “Suitability” findings were presented at the sixth European Beer and Health Symposium but were not published in any scientific journals. And the study focused only on hydration; it did not address other health concerns, such as muscle growth or performance.
While one post-run beer is probably fine, it is by no means an invitation to sip without restraint. After the first beer, diuretic effects kick in. “With less fluid in the body, blood volume starts to drop,” Graham explains, “and ethanol concentration gets higher. When this happens, the effects of alcohol are felt more strongly, and dehydration sets in.”
So people having multiple beers after a workout should take extra care to replenish their bodies. Graham suggests eating something and drinking at least 1 pint of water for every beer, more if the workout was a heavy sweat session. Sticking to lower ABV (alcohol by volume) beers is also a good idea, he says.
Graham warns that these precautions only cover casual athletes, people who just want to avoid a hangover and general malaise. Those with more ambitious fitness goals should consider their libations more carefully.
For instance, if weight loss is a concern, then consuming caloric craft beers is counterproductive, especially for people prone to the “beer munchies.” After all, several recent studies (published in Current Biology, the British Journal of Sports Medicine, and Health Psychology) report that exercise alone is not likely to lead to weight reduction and may even prompt overeating due to an inflated sense of reward.
Alcohol consumption can also stymy the training goals of performance athletes. A well-regarded 2014 study — “Alcohol Ingestion Impairs Maximal Post-Exercise Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Following a Single Bout of Concurrent Training” — states that drinking after a workout reduces protein synthesis. What suffers? Muscle recovery and growth.
So what should an active Beer City citizen do? Proceed with caution. The consensus is that a pint or two won’t spell disaster for your fitness level — especially if it serves as a motivation to get moving. The health benefits of exercise extend far beyond weight loss and athletic performance, so no need to feel guilty about bellying up.
It can also make sense value-wise. Instead of paying for an expensive gym or training-class package, participants can work on their fitness and enjoy a brew on a low-cost, drop-in basis. And one would be hard-pressed to find a better organized social outlet for adults. These groups attract everyone from novices to hard-core athletes, locals and transplants alike.
And after all, happiness is important too. If one enjoys pounding pints as much as the pavement, then there’s benefit to doing both.
FOR MORE INFO
Local pub runs are plentiful; those listed here are a few of the popular picks. Looking for more? Check out meetup.com or ask for a referral from local running shops.
Asheville Runners holds Tuesday Brewsday runs at 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday. The group does not have a home location; rather, it meets at different breweries and switches things up every few weeks. It’s an ideal group for runners who thrive on variety.
Routes vary, but at least three distances — between one and five miles — are premapped by the organizers. Visit facebook.com/Ashevillerunners for the latest info.
Highland Brewing Co. Run Club meets 6:15 p.m. each Wednesday in front of its namesake. Participants run a 1-, 3.5- or 6-mile out-and-back course that crosses through Azalea Park. The run is supplemented with an abdominal workout on the second and last Wednesday of every month, and a yoga session is occasionally included as well. Facebook.com/HBCRunClub.
The Asheville Hash House Harriers is a ribald group of running revelers. If you’ve ever encountered a conspicuous pack of runners stopping and singing an expletive-laced drinking song, you may already be familiar with the “Hashers.” This group is not for the easily offended or faint of heart.
The runs are based on a “haring” premise, in which the pack pursues the “hare” — a runner who sets the course. Combine the chase with booze consumed along the way, and the result is a very unpredictable good time. Schedule varies. Meetup.com/AVLH3-On-On/
The Asheville Track Club holds a weekly group run Sunday mornings at 11:15. It meets at Urban Orchard, and runners can choose a 1.5-mile walk, a 3-mile loop, or a 6-mile course consisting of two loops.
“All paces and abilities are welcome, and it is a very casual group run,” says coordinator Sherry Stoneman. “We wait at two key places in the 3-mile run for everyone to catch up, and if you do the [6-mile], we wait at two other spots. So, nobody is left behind, and there is always someone to run with.” Urban Orchard offers a 10 percent food discount to the group. No ATC membership required. Ashevilletrackclub.org/resources/group-runs/
FOR THOSE WHO HATE RUNNING
Staunch nonrunners have plenty of options as well. Asheville Sports and Social Club (formerly Everplay Asheville) is popular among young professionals. It operates seasonal leagues for bowling, cornhole, dodgeball, kickball, volleyball and more. According to co-owner Chris Biggs, the club fields about 2,000 participants yearly. “Players can sign up with an entire team with friends or by themselves as ‘free agents,’ and we’ll assign them to a team,” says Biggs.
Individual fees range from $29-$59, depending on the sport and season. Certain sports activities include free pitchers of beer during or after game play. Champion teams earn the luxury of sipping a victory brew from a 6-foot-tall trophy. Koozies, T-shirts and other swag are also included. Visit ashevillessc.com.
Bend and Brew yoga sessions are hosted in different breweries each week. The $18 cost includes a yoga class and the opportunity to gather afterward: bendandbrew.yoga.
Mountain bikers and road cyclists who do not have a group to ride with should consider stopping at a combination bicycle shop/watering hole for a beer and conversation. Top choices include The Hub and Pisgah Tavern in Pisgah Forest and SQUATCH Bikes and Brews in Brevard.