By Dr. Mike Roussell
Every GORUCK Event that I’ve done has always ceremoniously ended with beers in the parking lot. I will wager that this is the best tasting beer you’ll ever have in your life…but isn’t beer dehydrating?
Surprisingly, not necessarily.
Let’s look at the science a little bit.
A 2016 study from Netherlands found that when people drank any of the following: alcohol free beer, light beer (2% alcohol), regular beer (4% alcohol), or a sports drink post exercise, they were still equally dehydrated after 5 hours. That’s right, even after drinking enough sports drink to replenish the fluids they lost during exercise, those people were still just as dehydrated as the people that drank beer.
There were a couple things from this study that we can learn from.
- Drink More (Water) – The people in this study were only given enough to drink to replace what they sweat during their workout. A good recommendation is to drink 150% of what you sweat out. Since most of us aren’t measuring how many droplets of sweat we sweat out during a ruck, we need to have a general idea of how much we sweat (this is largely impacted by the intensity and duration of our workouts plus the temperature outside) and then drink more than we think we should. More will allow us to capture that extra 50% we need to fully rehydrate. While in this study, the participants exclusively drank what they were given (for example, if you were in the light beer group, you could only drink light beer), you should be drinking water in addition to whatever beer you have.
- Get Some Salt - There aren’t very many electrolytes (e.g. salt) in beer, it is pretty much just water and alcohol. But I cringe when I see scientists recommending that people add salt to their beer! Let’s NOT do that. Instead, have some nuts or beef jerky. That will give you all the salt you need, helping you rehydrate a little faster. The salt will also stimulate thirst, getting you to drink more fluids and further helping with rehydration.
- Enjoy, but Don’t Go Overboard - Alcohol itself can promote dehydration through what’s called “alcohol-induced diuresis” (AID) - basically, it makes you pee more. This phenomenon can kick in as quickly as 20 minutes after your first drink! The effect actually varies greatly but generally tracks with the amount of alcohol you consume (more alcohol means more peeing). So, you probably want to avoid the fancy craft microbrew that are 8% ABV post ruck. In a review of beer and exercise, researchers from the Human Performance Laboratory at Old Dominion University recommended that you keep your beer consumption below 24oz to “minimize any increased fluid loss” (e.g. excessive peeing). Basically…1 or 2 celebratory brews and then water it is!
So, if you want to enjoy a post ruck beer with your Tribe, go for it. But don’t forget to drink water and have a small salty snack too.
Dr. Mike is known for transforming complex nutritional concepts into practical
nutritional habits that his clients can use to ensure optimal performance and long-lasting health. He holds a degree in biochemistry from Hobart College and a doctorate in nutrition from Pennsylvania State University. In addition, having published over 500 articles on health and nutrition, Dr. Mike has authored and/or served as the consulting nutritionist for 10 books about health, nutrition, and performance. He’s been a member of our GORUCK community since 2014 when he participated in several GORUCK Challenges and a part of GORUCK Tribe since its inception.