Alcohol-free beer and training?

I love training and in the weekends i also love to hang out with friends and enjoy the time we share together. Going of my diet sometimes and having quality time to relax after a though workweek is important for me. Still i also don’t want to ruin the work i did during the week to much, with this the question rises is alcohol-free beer a good option?

What does the research say?

When we drink beer we know it is not that beneficial in combination with our training, but is this also the fact for non-alcoholic beers? A 2016 study¹ looked at effects of non-alcoholic beer before exercise on fluid and electrolyte balance in athletes. The results where that the non-alcoholic beer could help maintain electrolyte balance during exercise, which is beneficial. Electrolytes are minerals in our body that have an electric charge. They help regulate important functions like hydration, nerve signals, muscle contractions, and maintaining the right balance of acids and bases.

Another study² about alcohol-free beer is from 2012 in which marathon runners drinked non-alcohol beer 3 weeks prior and 2 weeks after running a marathon. What they found was that inflammation from the marathon was reduced compared to the control group and that there where less Upper Respiratory Tract Infection incidences.

The last study³ i want to include looked at the suitability of beer as an alternative to classical Fitness Drinks. To summarize, yeast-clouded, alcohol-free beer is a beverage that contains minerals and is isotonic, suggesting it could be a good option as a sports drink. However, they noted that since it lacks sodium, the actual benefits of this beverage may decrease.

In conclusion we can see that the alcohol free beer won’t harm your training, in fact it may even be beneficial according to some studies.

The impact on my diet

When are we looking at drinking alcohol free beer and your diet we schould also look at the calories it contains. We can compare some common beers according to their calorie content:

BrandAlcohol free variantNormal variant
Jupiler35kcal per 100ml43kcal per 100ml
Heineken21kcal per 100ml42kcal per 100ml
Grolsch23kcal per 100ml40kcal per 100ml
Warsteiner26kcal per 100ml42kcal per 100ml
Alcohol free beers compared to their alcoholic variant

As we can see the calorie difference can change per brand you are drinking. So it is always good if you substitute to look for what excatly you are substituting it in your case. If we are looking at the biggest difference (Heineken) we can see that it will add up quickly. With a beer being 300ml, meaning you are saving 61 calories per beer you drink. Cola also contains around 42 calories per 100ml and with beer in general being a low sugar drink it can be a good option.

Also take in to account that where with some people one alcoholic beer can lead to many more with non-alcoholic beer this won’t be the case so quickly. You probably will have less which you should also take into account. But if you have struggled with alcohol or your diet in the past alcoholic-free beer can also bring you into temptation to drink normal beer. Alcohol free beer can for some people be a stepping stone to alcohol instead of a substitute. You know yourself the best and know what is wise in your situation. For example if you are trying to stop with alcohol for some people it would work better to not be brought into temtation by something that looks and taste simular. For others it can be just the right fit to still be able to join the social occasions with friends that like an alcoholic drink or two without feeling excluded.

Is alcohol free really alcohol free?

What you need to watch for while drinking “alcohol free” beer is that it still contains alcohol. If you are pregnant or you are in a situation you are not allowed to drink a drip of alcohol it is still not recommended to drink alcohol free beers. Next to that the percent of alcohol allowed to be able to call it “alcohol free” can differ per country. In Germany it is allowed to put this label on if it contains less then 0.5% alcohol, which is little but still can contain 1/10th of a normal beer. If we are looking at the UK the rules say it should contain less then 0.05% alcohol, which is less then 1/100th of one normal beer. On the picture below we see a Heineken beer with 0.0 on the label. This means that it contains less then 0.05% alcohol.

Wrap up

If you like alcohol-free beer it is a good option that doesn’t impact your training negatively. In the end look at your personal situation and if you can’t make up your mind, try it for once.

1.) Castro-Sepulveda, M., Johannsen, N., Astudillo, S., Jorquera, C., Álvarez, C., Zbinden-Foncea, H., & Ramírez-Campillo, R. (2016). Effects of Beer, Non-Alcoholic Beer and Water Consumption before Exercise on Fluid and Electrolyte Homeostasis in Athletes. Nutrients8(6), 345.

2.) Scherr, J., Nieman, D. C., Schuster, T., Habermann, J., Rank, M., Braun, S., Pressler, A., Wolfarth, B., & Halle, M. (2012). Nonalcoholic beer reduces inflammation and incidence of respiratory tract illness. Medicine and science in sports and exercise44(1), 18–26.

3.) Krennhuber, K., Kahr, H., & Jäger, A. (2016). Suitability of beer as an alternative to classical fitness drinks. Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science Journal4(Special Issue Nutrition in Conference October 2016), 26-31.

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