By Associate Professor Ben Desbrow, Griffith’s Centre for Health Practice Innovation
A cold beer after a hard day at work can be a great way to relax. The trouble is that one can lead to another… and another.
Because of its alcohol content, the fluid in beer is poorly retained by the body. This can lead to a hangover and other dangers, like a decreased awareness of risk.
While you could say the best option is to simply not drink, the reality is people having been drinking beer for almost 5000 years — and they’re probably not about to stop.
Here at Griffith University’s Centre for Health Practice Innovation, we’ve found that it’s possible to improve the hydrating effects of beer, without killing off its taste. Therefore people who enjoy a cold one at the end of a hard day’s labour won’t be at risk of dehydration.
While beer has long been known to contain positive nutrients resulting from its plant origins and fermentation process, the alcohol content means that the fluid in beer goes out faster than seen with non-alcoholic drinks, which results in poor rehydration.
Increasing the likelihood of risky behaviour
The consumption of alcohol by people who are dehydrated is also known to increase the likelihood of risky behaviour.
Here we have been looking at improving the health qualities of beer by combining electrolytes and reducing alcohol to see if hydration can be improved. The short answer to this question is yes, by a substantial margin.
We have done two separate studies where we have manipulated the electrolyte levels of three commercial beers, one regular strength, one mid-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.
Of the different beers the subjects consumed, our augmented light beers are by far the most well retained by the body, meaning they were the most effective at rehydrating the subjects.
The ‘improved’ light beer was actually a third more effective at hydrating a person than normal beer.
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While we are not encouraging people to drink beer after strenuous exercise, in reality 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.
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 my work are published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism