So, How Many Hats Do You Wear?

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Pensacola, Florida, United States
Husband. *Dog Dad.* Instructional Systems Specialist. Runner. (Swim-challenged) Triathlete (on hiatus). USATF LDR Surveyor. USAT (Elite Rules) CRO/2, NTO/1. RRCA Rep., FL (North). Observer Of The Human Condition.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

B Double E Double R U N?

Sometimes I am amazed at the questions which are not asked by runners.  Especially when it comes to food and drink.  Especially drink.  Especially alcoholic beverages.  Especially beer.

In the interest of clarity I'll say I like beer:  I serve on the management of a Hash House Harriers "kennel," a group of runners whose focus is as much on the beer as on the trail run.  There also is a restaurant that, during the summer months, sees us after our Sunday morning "sorta-long" run; their taps open not long after their doors.

It is humorous, especially if you are not from this area of the country, to hear runners talk about beer like it's a given at a running event.  A young lady last weekend said she was surprised to see folks drinking beer at 9:45 in the morning after our Running of the Bulls.  

I responded, "are you kidding?  If you are a race director in this town and you want turnout at your event, beer is almost a necessity.  It's not so much a 5K run with a beer fest during the post-race as much as a kegger with a 3.1-mile run - more or less, from my own professional viewpoint - as a prelude."  

I continued:  "Want to know how much runners like their beer here?  Remember the race that was cancelled on the beach a month ago, because of the rainstorms?  Since the kegs were there the athletes decided to tap them just a little earlier than the originally-planned post-race." 

Yes, there are successful events here where no beer is served, but you can also tell the demographic difference in the clientele.  It doesn't make beer at races right or wrong.  It's just different.

Every once in a while I hear people complain (starting with me) about the onset of the middle-age spread. Like an old college classmate of mine used to say; 'for every action there is an equal and opposite justification.'  So I started to ask a few questions:

Do we justify our beer intake as a form of carbohydrate replenishment?  I know a lot of runners - including myself - who consider our "barley pop" a way of restoring the carbohydrates we burned off during the run.  Well, a pint of typical (non-light) beer has about 15 grams of carbohydrate, which is anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of the carbs burned in a mile of running.  So there's good news and bad news.  The good news is, for those runners whose intake is "a-beer-a-mile," you're not taking in too many carbs.  At least in liquid form.  That same pint has about 200 calories, and anywhere from 3-to-14 percent of alcohol.

Do alcoholic beverages cause weight gain?  A statement said in passing by climber Marc Twight about alcohol intake and weight gain got me to thinking about my own weight struggles.  Alcohol is a sugar, an appetite stimulant of sorts, and (a bit of a) toxin.  That means several things, especially for men, since we are physiologically capable (because of body contents) to handle more alcohol at a sitting.  We're more likely to eat along with our beverage than women are.  Think about it, guys - go to a sports pub to bend an elbow and watch the favorite football team on Saturday afternoon.  What are we ordering to go along with it?  Chances are more likely we order something starchy, meaty, and crudites (that's cut-up raw veggies, boys...) for us, thank you very much.  Add to that the fact our liver wants to process the alcohol and get it out of our system first, and you have food that will be delayed in processing.  We aren't burning it off, so our body will store it for later.  Women, on the other hand, are less likely to gain weight from moderate alcohol intake.  So, food, not alcohol, is the culprit.  So we need to call that "beer belly" what it really is...perhaps a "burrito belly?"  And while I've cut back to two (give or take one) beers a day...or none...what's really going to help me lose the extra inch or two which has settled in the last year is more pushing of legs.  And less eating of wings.

Is there a better post-run recovery beverage?  Yes.  The challenge lies in taking in the right blend of nutrition; carbohydrates, protein, electrolytes and such, without taking in more calories than your body truly needs.  If you're running or engaging in an endurance event for an extended period of time the major players in the market are all pretty much the same.  But if you're just doing an hour at the gym on the ellpitical trainer or treadmill you're probably better off with a bottle of cool water.  After that you can go have the beer. 

But keep a close eye out for that burrito.

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