Malt, hops, water and yeast – these are the only ingredients that may be used to brew German beer. This is how the Purity Law of 1516 defines it. And these ingredients have many advantages.

Beer is often even talked about as an isotonic drink, and indeed the many minerals in beer provide a good all-round carefree package for athletes. But what about the alcohol? How healthy is beer really? We clarify that here.

Is beer healthy?

100 milliliters of beer (Pils) contain 42 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates. The latter is especially important for athletes. Carbohydrates provide your muscles with important energy and ensure that you can perform at full capacity during sports. If you want to push your limits, there is no better fuel for your muscles.

Besides carbohydrates, beer also contains many minerals. When you sweat during exercise, your body loses important minerals. Beer can make up for these losses of minerals such as calcium (4 milligrams per 100 milliliters), sodium (3 milligrams per 100 milliliters) and magnesium (10 milligrams per 100 milliliters). Sodium is extremely important during exercise, as the body reacts very sensitively to a deficiency, for example with cramps or feelings of dizziness.

Potassium (50 milligrams per 100 milliliters) is needed by the body to store carbohydrates in the form of glycogen. Only if you have potassium in your body can your body incorporate the ingested carbohydrates as glycogen into the muscle cells.

Beer also contains sports vitamins, especially B6, without which the body would not be able to build proteins. It is indispensable for muscles and joints, but also for the immune system. A deficiency can lead to increased susceptibility to infections, muscle weakness, anemia and arthritis. Vitamins such as B6 and folic acid are contained in beer via the grain, they are not added – however, manufacturers are not allowed to advertise this property.

What does isotonic mean?

Isotonic drinks have the same ratio of nutrients to liquid as human blood, i.e. the osmotic value is the same.

This means that your body can absorb and utilize the nutrients particularly quickly without putting too much strain on your stomach. The minerals contained in isotonic drinks, including magnesium, sodium and calcium, make up for the losses caused by sweating, while at the same time providing you with sufficient fluid. Are you looking for more drinks? These are the top 10 healthy thirst quenchers

Supermarkets are now full of isotonic sports drinks that are supposed to boost your performance during sports. Because when you play sports, you burn energy. Isotonic drinks provide your body with energy, minerals and fluids. For recreational athletes, however, special sports drinks are not necessary, you can just as well reach for an apple juice spritzer or (non-alcoholic) beer.

Hypertonic drinks that contain too many minerals or carbohydrates, such as cola, reduce your performance. To absorb the nutrients from hypertonic drinks, the body must dilute them with fluid from the blood vessels. This affects the flow properties of the blood. The blood becomes more viscous, its volume decreases and the performance potential decreases. So, instead of reaching for hypertonic drinks, you should prefer isotonic beverages or water.

Alcohol and sports – do they go together?

Unfortunately no, because alcohol is actually detrimental during sports. It makes you sluggish and slow and reduces your concentration and coordination. Alcohol also reduces the release of growth hormones, which are involved in muscle-building processes.

Above all, alcohol deprives your body of water. And that, in addition to the removal of harmful substances, is needed above all to supply the muscles with nutrients, with carbohydrates, protein, but also with magnesium. But there are other reasons why you should drink enough water while exercising.

Is non-alcoholic beer better?

Alcohol-free beer is apparently the perfect sports drink. It is isotonic, has 25 calories per 100 milliliters, which is only half the calories of alcoholic beer, but contains 5 grams of carbohydrates, which is slightly more carbs. You also avoid the disadvantages of alcohol.

Researchers at the Munich Hospital Rechts der Isar have studied 277 runners and found that non-alcoholic beer is beneficial to the health of athletes: those who drink 1 to 1.5 liters of non-alcoholic beer every day for 3 weeks before and 2 weeks after a competition suffer less frequently from respiratory tract infections and inflammatory reactions. The plant substances contained in beer, so-called polyphenols, are responsible for this.

These support the body’s immune system, which can mobilize fewer defenses than usual after extreme stress. They also have a positive effect on the heart, gastrointestinal tract and blood count.

However, a sports drink must not contain too much carbonic acid, otherwise your body will not be able to absorb it fast enough. Wheat beer contains almost as much carbonic acid as champagne.

Pilsner is easier on the stomach because it contains less carbon dioxide. The recommended intake of non-alcoholic liquid for endurance athletes is 0.5 to 1 liter per hour, depending on the weather and training intensity – this means: on hot summer days rather 1 liter per hour.

Conclusion: Alcohol-free beer is a top sports drink

Beer provides energy thanks to its carbohydrates and ensures that you last longer during sports. The minerals contained, such as magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium, as well as vitamins, prevent nasty muscle cramps and support the building of proteins. However, since alcohol has numerous negative effects on your performance, you should always choose alcohol-free beer.