Non-Alcoholic beer has well established itself into our local Bottle-o’s, Supermarkets, Health food stores and now at the finish line of endurance events. Advertised as a recovery drink with their witty marketing strategic names of ‘Athletic Brewing Company’ and ‘ Zero+ Sports Beer’, are these drinks actually helping you enhance recovery or is it a little bit of commercial propaganda? Let’s take a closer look.
Let’s recap some physiology of what happens to our body fluids when we exercise. When we exercise we cool ourselves down via excreting water and electrolyte droplets onto the exterior skin which act as our own air conditioner, commonly known as sweating. Electrolytes include sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium and magnesium. The amount of sweat and the chemical make up of our sweat is individualised. For effective rehydration after bouts of endurance or intense exercise it is necessary to replace fluids with both water and electrolytes (1, 2, 3, 4,5). This can be consumed by either drinking a water with electrolytes mix or by eating solid food with water.
Non-Alcoholic beers contain both water and electrolytes, so can they rehydrate us equally as good as a specific hydration drink? To compare the two we will look at the 3 major players in creating the optimal hydration solution; Carbohydrates, sodium and potassium. To create the ultimate hydration solution we need to have a liquid that contains a 3-4% carbohydrate solution, 180-225 mg of Sodium and 60-75 mg of Potassium (6,7).
Zero+ Sports Beer contains 7g of carbohydrates per 375mL can (1.9%), 71mg of sodium and 113mg of potassium. Athletic Brewing Company contains 11.5-14g of carbohydrates ( 3.2%), 11.3-15mg of sodium and 125mg of potassium. In summary they both contain some electrolytes to help initiate the rehydration process, however they are not high enough in sodium. However Athletic Brewing Company has nailed the carbohydrate percentage and if supplemented with a SaltStick - Electrolyte FastChews - Sachet or a salty meal, these fashionable beers are right on the mark for rehydration.
Levels of Alcohol
The secondary component we need to take a look at is the alcohol consumption in these beverages. In contrast to their names, non-alcoholic beers actually do contain some alcohol.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) state that non-alcoholic beverages and brewed soft drinks and are to “contain no more than 1.15 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV). Zero+ Sports Beer had 0.4 percent alcohol by volume while Athletic Brewing company is less than 0.5 per cent alcohol per volume.
Interestingly it has been studied that the ingestion of drinks containing small quantities of alcohol (under 2% ABV) appear to have no negative effect on hydration status after dehydration has occurred (8). Non-Alcoholic beers have also been shown to have no diuretic effect. This is due to their null effect on the circulating vasopressin levels. Circulating levels of vasopressin levels largely determine urine production levels (9). They also contain mostly water (it is often the first ingredient) which also assists in rehydration, with no negative effect on further water loss.
Therefore non-alcoholic beverages do not enhance further water loss after bouts of dehydration and may assist the rehydration process by the endogenous consumption of water with small electrolytes quantities.
In summary these non-alcoholic beverages have earned their place at the finish line tent as a healthy refreshing option for athletes. However to ensure optimal rehydration, if you choose to drink non-alcoholic beers straight after endurance events or bouts of intense exercise, I would advise to have them with a salty meal to ensure optimal sodium intake to enhance rehydration status.
Accredited Practicing Dietitian
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