Before our lives became littered with brightly coloured lolly water and protein drinks there were two fluids a sportsman or tradesman drank, water and beer.
While water keeps you hydrated it has no nutrients and tends to go out as fast as it goes in, so sometimes a salt tablet would be added, in the 90s this salt picked up the name electrolyte.
Beer, on the other hand has lots of nutrients resulting from its plant origins and the fermentation process, but also contains alcohol, which means it goes out faster than water and has all sorts of physical and neurological side effects.
Can we make beer healthy?
But nutrition researchers at Griffith Health Institute have noticed something about beer men have known for centuries, it has no satiation point. A person can drink it and drink it without ever getting sick of it.
“This is pretty unusual in a fluid”, said Associate Professor Ben Desbrow.
So the next thing a scientist does is combine the electrolytes and reduce the alcohol and find if hydration can be improved, the answer is yes, by a substantial margin.
“We basically manipulated the electrolyte levels of two commercial beers, one regular strength and one light beer and gave it to research subjects who’d just lost a significant amount of sweat by exercising. We then used several measures to monitor the participant’s fluid recovery to the different beers,” he said.
“Of the four different beers the subjects consumed, our augmented light beer was by far the most well retained by the body, meaning it was the most effective at rehydrating the subjects.”
The “improved” light beer was actually a third more effective at hydrating a person than normal beer. The increased hydration may also reduce the possibility of a hangover.
Improving safety, desreasing risks
Neither GHI nor Associate Professor Desbrow think it a good idea to drink beer after strenuous exercise.
“Definitely not, but what we’ve found is that many people who sweat a lot, especially tradesmen, knock off work and have a beer, it’s pretty normal. But alcohol in a dehydrated body can have all sorts of repercussions, including decreased awareness of risk.”
“So, if you’re going to live in the real world, you can either spend your time telling people what they shouldn’t do, or you can work on ways of reducing the danger of some of these socialised activities.”
The results of Associate Professor Ben Desbrow’s work have recently been published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.