If you're an athlete, then you understand the importance of knowing what goes into your body. As more new data links alcohol consumption to poor sleep and recovery, pro athletes and health-conscious amateurs alike have been in search of healthier drink alternatives.

But here's the real question — what if you'd still like to savour the crisp, malty taste of a beer after a victory with your team? Or simply want to relax on the weekends? Believe it or not, non-alcoholic drinks are emerging as an uncompromising way to enjoy those moments as an athlete.

We know from personal experience having a big night out on the turps does nothing for our gym goals. So, check out our top reasons why non-alcoholic drinks are fantastic in supporting athletes and aiding in their recoveries.

The downsides of alcoholic drinks

It's no secret alcohol can take a toll on your health. But as an athlete, its effects can wreak havoc on your game-time performance. Don’t just take it from us either. According to Elmer Whatley at Stamina Comfort, there are plenty of downsides linked to consuming alcohol:

  • Dehydration
  • Sluggishness
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Hangovers
  • Poor muscle recovery
  • Liver disease
  • Electrolyte imbalance

As a result, more athletes are opting for non-alcoholic drinks as a post-game celebratory, cooldown alternative. Not only do they eliminate the effects of alcohol, but they pack some added benefits in.

The benefits of non-alcoholic drinks for athletes

Is non-alcoholic beer healthy? Accepted wisdom used to be that it was at least better than booze, but we now know non-alcoholic drinks can help you hydrate, boost your energy levels and even help in recovery after a strenuous workout so it’s no wonder they’re growing in popularity. Let's dive into the main benefits athletes experience when swapping alcohol for non-alcoholic drinks.

1. Better sleep and better mornings after

If you’ve ever felt unsettled in bed after a night of drinking, it’s not just you. According to a 2018 study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, less than 2 servings of alcohol can decrease your sleep quality by 9.3%. Alcohol disrupts your natural sleep patterns by suppressing REM sleep which is critical for memory consolidation, emotional processing and healthy brain development. Moreover, alcohol can interrupt your body's circadian rhythm by contributing to sleep apnea.

Substituting alcohol for a non-alcoholic option can go a long way for your sleep. Not only does your sleep quality improve, but you can say goodbye to nasty hangovers! Hangovers are the hellish product of electrolyte depletion. By swapping out alcohol for a non-alcoholic drink, you can maintain a healthy electrolyte balance when you wake up and jump straight into your morning routine without hesitation.

2. Improved recovery and muscle healing

It’s been well established by bodies like the National Academy of Sports Medicine that alcohol disrupts protein synthesis and induces insulin resistance. Furthermore, alcohol is a diuretic that dehydrates your body very quickly.

Instead of affecting muscle recovery and dehydrating your body, non-alcoholic drinks can replace lost electrolytes, provide hydration and allow your muscles to heal more efficiently. Non-alcoholic drinks are also a good source of antioxidants which are essential for heart health. Quite simply, that spells better recovery, hydration and overall health.

3. Reduced risk of injury

The link between alcohol consumption and injury is abundantly clear. According to the National Library of Medicine, alcohol contributes towards 5% to 40% of injuries that result in an emergency room visit. And let’s face it, how likely are we to get into more trouble after we get a few alcoholic drinks in?

The pharmacological and physiological effects of alcohol aren't something to muck around with! As an athlete, your body is your most important gear. Instead of jeopardising your ability to perform, simply choose non-alcoholic drinks over alcohol to drastically minimise injury risk and stay on top of your game.

4. A boosted immune system

Trust the Germans to find a way to fuse beer and sports together at last. It was during the 2018 winter Olympics that the clever Krauts brought something to the rest of the world’s attention when their athletes were seen drinking sports beer! The beverage in question was in fact, non-alcoholic beer. Beer is known for having a high level of polyphenols, a micronutrient that naturally occurs in plants which supports the immune system and reduces inflammation. Remove the detrimental alcohol element and you're left with a potent brew for better immunity.

In a 2011 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, marathon runners were instructed to drink 1.5 litres of non-alcoholic beer per day. As a result, their risk of upper respiratory infection decreased and their white blood cell activity (an indicator of inflammation) reduced by 20%. It is believed the polyphenols were responsible for the lowered inflammation and improved immune system observed in the study. And that’s hydration we can certainly get behind.

5. Bloody good taste

In the past, non-alcoholic beers may have tasted lacklustre when compared to their alcoholic counterparts. Today, with innovative companies like Athletic Brewing blazing the trail, non-alcoholic drinks have never tasted more flavourful and delicious!

If you’ve been hydrating with sugary sports drinks during a game or a workout, that crisp bitter taste of non-alcoholic beers can now be a welcoming refreshment too. Add to that the health benefits and non-alcoholic beer might just be the best sports recovery drink yet!

In addition to quenching your thirst with non-alcoholic beer, there are smoky, non-alcoholic spirits like whiskeys and bourbons available to help athletes kick back and enjoy after a long season.

Discover the best non-alcoholic beer for athletes

If you'd like to start upping your performance game, Craftzero has a handpicked collection of the best non-alcoholic beers to aid in recovery after a workout. Our sports beers specifically include a boost in calcium, potassium, magnesium, fibre and electrolytes to facilitate better recovery. Even if you’re a retired athlete, these options are fantastic for anyone striving for healthier living! Oh — and if sports beer isn’t your thing, we reckon we’ve got the best non-alcoholic drinks of all stripes too!

Irene Falcone
Tagged: beer