Freewheeling: Move Over Gatorade, Make Room For… Beer

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Could pedal-powered beer-drinking vehicles become the post-ride cool down zones of the future?

Editor’s Note: Freewheeling is the ongoing column of features editor Jason Sumner. From time to time, he uses this space to prattle on about all things cycling, be them interesting, innovative, inane or in this case, potentially amazing. If you have a comment or question, or just want to sound off, drop a note in the comments section below.

Imagine a post-ride beverage that both satisfied the needs of your body (sodium, electrolytes) and soothed the soul (beer). Sounds too good to be true. Well, maybe not.

A team of Australian scientists claim they’ve found a way to combine the re-hydrating properties of Gatorade-type drinks with the delectable adult beverage that the great Ben Franklin famously claimed was “proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

A report on says that nutrition experts at Queensland’s Griffith Health Institute have successfully added electrolytes to beer in order to reduce its dehydration properties, meaning gulping a few frosty cold ones after a long, hot ride could actually be a good idea — and pose less hangover risk the next day.

“We basically manipulated the electrolyte levels of two commercial beers, one regular strength and one light beer and gave it to research subjects who’d just lost a significant amount of sweat by exercising,” associate professor Ben Desbrow from GHI’s Center for Health Practice Innovation told “We then used several measures to monitor the participant’s fluid recovery to the different beers.”

So can you improve the health qualities of beer by combing electrolytes and reducing alcohol? Desbrow claims the answer is a resounding yes.

To test out this potential wonder drink, the team of Down Under scientists had a group of people exercise strenuously (and thus sweat a lot), and then drink one of four beers: light beer, dark beer, electrolyte-infused light beer, electrolyte-infused dark beer. The goal was to consume 150 percent of the amount of lost body mass due to exercise, and do so within an one hour. Sounds like they got to pound a few beers after a hard ride.

“Of the four different beers the subjects consumed, our augmented light beer was by far the most well retained by the body, meaning it was the most effective at re-hydrating the subjects,” continued Desbrow in the report. “The improved light beer was actually a third more effective at hydrating a person than normal beer.”

Of course being conscientious scientists, Desbrow and his team insist they don’t necessarily think binging after biking is a good idea. But they also understand that people are people.

“From our perspective it’s about exploring harm minimization approaches that may still allow people to potentially drink beer as a beverage but lower the risks associated with the alcohol consumption — and hopefully improve re-hydration potential.” he said. “But alcohol in a dehydrated body can have all sorts of repercussions, including decreased awareness of risk. So, if you’re going to live in the real world, you can either spend your time telling people what they shouldn’t do, or you can work on ways of reducing the danger of some of these socialized activities.”

If it’s approved by Saints, why can’t beer be part of one’s post-ride recovery routine?

Of course this leaves us with a few troubling questions. No. 1 is all this business about actually drinking light beer. I for one would rather gulp Gatorade than be caught dead with Michelob Ultra in my post-ride cooler. But if you can infuse Coors Light, why not do the same thing with, say, a bottle of delicious St. Bernardus Abt 12. It has an alcohol by volume of 10.5 percent, so pulling that down to the 6-8 percent range while swapping in some electrolytes could make for a perfect middle ground.

Alas, it’s also not clear what our Aussie scientist friends intend to do with this newfound knowledge. Right now it’s just a proof of concept and there are no plans to bring a new electro-brew to market. But if and when that does happen, it’s a safe bet that the two-wheeled world will provide a very captive audience. I know I’d buy some.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the / staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.

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  • Kiwi Surfer says:

    Too bad Ben Franklin didn’t actually say that. Franklin did write, “Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards, there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine, a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” Poetic license had to be deployed to get to the beer quote, that’s for sure.

    But hats off to my cousins across the Tas for forging ahead with this logical evolution in beer…they need to drink as much as they can as they aren’t contending for the AC and the Bledisloe stays on our shores for the 11th year in a row.

  • Mark Wynn says:

    While stationed in San Antonio in the 90s, a fellow airman and I rode the Shirtz to Shiner Team Race, winning the military division. Finishing at the Spoetzel Brewery, we, of course sat down curbside and drank a couple’ free, Shiner Bock beers out of plastic cups. We were unable to get up … for about an hour. Suggest drink water and electrolyes first … beer later.

  • Nick says:

    God! How embarrassing. Only in Australia.

  • Nick says:

    Just remember guys. You may still have to get home.

  • trevor silvera says:

    Yes beer really work good as a post ride recovery drink. Just one beer does the trick for me.

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