If you asked every beer-drinking patron at a happy hour why they were there, most would probably say “stress.” And while most of us view drinking after a long day as just a way to numb and even kill off some brain cells, for some professionals it can actually have healthy applications. Some people drink to alleviate mental stress. But beer can actually alleviate physical stress, too. That’s right. When someone hands you a drink and says “loosen up” they are more on target than they know.
Research has found that wheat beer can reduce muscle inflammation and the occurrence of upper respiratory illness. One study took 277 marathoners and split them into two groups. One group drinking non-alcoholic beer and another a placebo drink. The participants drank 34 to 50 ounces of their respective beverages every day for 3 weeks leading up to the Munich Marathon, and for two weeks after.
What did the study find? That the athletes guzzling the actual beer were more than 3 times less likely to develop respiratory infection and had 20 to 32% less inflammation than the placebo group.
Why? Because beer contains polyphenols, antioxidants that regulate the immune system and suppress genes involved in provoking stress and inflammation. Fruits and plants contain polyphenols as well, but these antioxidants are more effective when found in a combination, which they are in beer. The multiple polyphenols in beer even make it more effective at reducing inflammation than ibuprofen.
The participants in the study were drinking non-alcoholic servings, but don’t feel guilty for getting a little buzz with your benefits if you prefer the real deal. Alcoholic beer contains twice as many polyphenols, so you can reap the same benefits from just half as much beer—that’s 1 pint per day—leading up to a marathon or physically taxing event.
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