How beer helps you in muscle recovery

The World Cup is now over and France triumphed against Croatia, which played 100 minutes of total play more than its rivals. However, the French team has faced challenges that can be considered more demanding, both from the point of view of energy consumption and from that of recovery times. And this is precisely what every coach, together with his team, is concerned about when facing a competition as close and full of events as a World Cup.
Participating in a World Championship, for a team aiming to get to the final, means planning training sessions and defining a nutritional plan to face 7 matches in a month. Moreover, athletes are coming right at the end of the sports season and are already exhausted by their normal football clubs.

Just think of somebody like Luka Modric, the Croatian team captain who was awarded best player in the world by FIFA and who, even before the start of the world championship, had played 49 matches for a total of 3,878 minutes.

How can we help players recover quickly and in a healthy way?

In such cases, the risk of injury is very high. To avoid this, in addition to relying on specialists in physical preparation and match analysis, the teams turn to experienced nutritionists for support.

Beer as you wouldn’t expect

In Greek mythology one can find various references to ambrosia, a drink that would have been able to confer immortality on anyone who drank it. There aren't many clues as to what ambrosia really was, but it certainly made you drunk.
However, some time ago the science of nutrition discovered that there is another golden drink that has unique qualities: beer. Yes, the same beer you drink at the bar, the one that makes you fat, however, if drank in moderation it can become a great ally for muscle recovery.

The role of phenols

The most cited beer health benefits refer to plant-derived compounds called phenols. David Nieman of Appalachian State University has studied the health effects of these organic compounds, finding that phenol-rich diets tend to reduce inflammation and thus reduce the risks of disease.

In 2011, Nieman and Johannes Scherr of the University of Munich studied the effects of beer, which contains about 50 phenols, on athletes - whose intense physical activity can also compromise immune activity. When marathon runners were trained to drink 1.5 liters of non-alcoholic beer per day, their risk of upper respiratory infection was drastically reduced. The activity of white blood cells, in fact, was reduced by up to 20%, a clear sign of an improvement in the state of health of the immune system.

Scherr, author of the study, has also worked closely with the German Olympic Committee for several Olympics, always stating that consuming non-alcoholic beer is an advantage for most endurance athletes, but that doing the same thing could be less useful, if not harmful, in sprinting competitions or those based on strength, where muscle inflammation issues are minor.

A team of Chilean researchers arrived to give him a safe hand. In 2016, he published a study on the relationship between beer consumption and football in the journal Nutrients. The research team found that non-alcoholic beer, when drunk before a workout, helped several "endurance" players stay hydrated longer than those who only drank water.

Yes to beer, but only if it’s non-alcoholic?

At this point you might be wondering: why do we keep talking about non-alcoholic beer? Can alcohol have negative effects? This is explained by a research conducted by the Department of Clinical Physiology at the Karolinska Institute of Sweden. Researchers studied the direct effect that alcohol had on the leg muscles of five volunteers. What they found was that, after treatment with ethanol, glucose absorption in the legs decreased and blood flow was significantly reduced, probably due to a constriction of the muscle vessels.

In theory, this means that players who drink alcohol the evening before a major game may have less energy and less oxygen for their muscles the day after, causing the so-called "heavy legs" effect. From here, the advice is not to drink more than an average beer, or perhaps drink a non-alcoholic one, in order to avoid the negative effects that alcohol has on the body in terms of sports performance.

Luca Gatteschi, doctor in the Italian National Football Team, has explained on several occasions how beer, if taken away from physical effort, can have extremely positive effects. Thanks to the lower amount of sugar, the higher contribution of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and vitamin B, beer can be considered more valuable than many other energy drinks. For this reason, even the players of the Italian national team are allowed to drink beer - in moderation - during their training periods.

So, if you were watching a World Cup game while sipping a fresh beer and you'd ever wondered how those players played so often and recovered quickly, perhaps the answer was right under your nose.

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