Friday, March 30, 2012

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To Bounce Back Faster, Try a Beer

by Markham Heid

Hoping to bounce back quickly after your next big race? Stock your fridge, not your medicine cabinet.
Wheat beer reduces post-marathon muscle inflammation and respiratory illness, according to a new study from a group of German and American researchers. And no, we’re not messing with you.
Researchers recruited 277 marathoners, and asked each to drink 34 to 50 ounces of either non-alcoholic wheat beer or a specially designed placebo drink with the same amount of calories and carbs. The participants drank the test liquids every day for 3 weeks leading up to last year’s Munich Marathon (where else would scientists perform beer tests?), and for two weeks following the race.
After the marathon, the researchers measured the participants’ levels of muscle inflammation. They also kept track of whether the marathoners were experiencing signs of respiratory illness, a common post-race condition.
The results: The beer drinkers were more than three times less likely to experience upper-respiratory infection, and their markers for inflammation were 20 to 32 percent lower than the placebo group’s.
So what’s the explanation for this sudsy miracle? “Polyphenols,” according to David Nieman, Dr.P.H., a professor at Appalachian State University and one of the Munich Marathon researchers.
Polyphenols are an antioxidant chemical found in many plants and fruits. “Polyphenols have antiviral properties, they help regulate the immune system, and they help to down-regulate genes that are related to turning on inflammation and stress,” Nieman explains. “And beer has a lot of polyphenols.”
There’s a growing body of research that shows polyphenols can act as a more-effective substitute for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, which Nieman says is many marathoner’s post-race “drug of choice.”
Nieman says polyphenols are most effective when ingested in combinations. That’s why wheat beer, which contains many different types of polyphenols, was perfect for the study.
And here’s the best news: Regular, alcoholic wheat beer includes double the polyphenols of non-alcoholic wheat beer. So, Nieman explains, you could theoretically get the same benefit from drinking half the amount prescribed by the study—or about one pint per day for three weeks leading up to your next race. Cheers!
Not a beer guy? Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole wheat, and legumes are also good sources of polyphenols.

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