Drinking alcohol can negatively impact your recovery which can negatively impact your training and running performance. Studies, like one performed in 2020 by fitness band WHOOP, revealed alcohol hurts recovery on average by 8 percent. Thankfully, there are alcohol alternatives that can help you drink less and even have health benefits through the power of adaptogens, which are natural substances that help your body adapt to stress and maintain balance.
For many, drinking less alcohol is consistently one of the most popular new year’s resolutions. As a runner, this NY resolution is a great one for optimizing your running! So, I am here to help with reviewing adaptogenic drinks for runners as alcohol alternatives.
As a runner, achieving peak performance is about more than simply “nailing” a hard run. If you’ve spent even a little time getting ready for a big race, you know that much of your success on the road is knitted deeply into the very fabric of every single choice you make off the road. From adequate rest to substantive fuel, making mindful choices about nutrition and lifestyle are essential to not only your health, but also for hitting your biggest goals.
As the science surrounding the effects of alcohol on performance begin to clarify, one lifestyle choice gaining momentum in the running community (and beyond) is the transition to alternative alcohol drinks — specifically adaptogen-infused beverages like Recess and De Soi.
Studies, like one performed in 2020 by fitness band WHOOP revealed how even a little bit of alcohol impacts recovery—on average a drop of 8 percent. When you’re training hard and doing all these things as a mother runner, 8 percent is significant. A 2016 WHOOP study found that these negative impacts can last four days!
Related: My Experience with the WHOOP Watch
My experience with alcohol and recovery
I noticed this firsthand when wore a WHOOP in 2020 as a way to monitor my recovery (as I rehabbed a hamstring tear). I noticed that drinking just one glass of wine negatively impacted my recovery. It was clear my sleep quality wasn’t as good and my WHOOP stats confirmed it. I thought hard before having that glass of wine each time.
Related: Can Sleep Help Prevent Injury?
I make the same recommendations to my athlete, asking them to forgo a drink before and after long runs and hard workouts—especially as we get into the meat of their training cycle. Every once and while, of course, is okay! But it can have a cumulative effect that may end in illness or injury.
In this article, I worked with my athlete and writer, Rachel Penate, to explore the new world of alternative alcohol drinks. Indeed, many new alcohol-free drinks have emerged in recent years. Rachel has a vested interest in this subject, as she herself is trying trim her alcohol intake (as well as social media intake).
Also, be sure to check out my other articles on this topic:
Okay, let’s go!
The Impact of Alcohol on Training
While a glass of wine may be a helpful way to relax at the end of a long day, alcohol comes with its share of consequences — especially in relation to peak performance. As an athlete, knowing the potential side-effects of alcohol are not only helpful but important for athletic success. The following is a summarized list of some of the biggest negative side effects to alcohol consumption and athletic performance:
- Decreased hydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, inhibiting the body’s hydration levels. Proper hydration is crucial for maintaining optimal fluid balance.
- Disturbed sleep quality: While alcohol may make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt your sleep cycles and resting heart rate, which negatively affects the quality of your rest. Quality sleep is essential for recovery and performance.
- Slower recovery: Alcohol can interfere with the body’s ability to repair and build muscle. Eliminating alcohol during a training cycle can potentially improve recovery time.
- Mental fog and inhibited focus: It can take up to 72 hours for the effects of alcohol to fully leave your system. Staying alcohol-free can help maintain cognitive function, ensuring mentally sharp workouts and races.
The Benefits of Adaptogens and Running
If you decide that an alcohol-free training experience is right for you, adaptogen drinks are a popular alcohol alternative that additionally may boast great running benefits. Adaptogens are natural substances, often derived from herbs and plants, that help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance. These herbal remedies have been used for centuries in traditional Eastern medicine practices.
Runners incorporating adaptogens into their diet can reap the following advantages:
- Stress reduction: Running, while therapeutic, is physically and mentally demanding. Adaptogens like Rhodiola and Ashwagandha can help manage stress and improve resilience.
- Energy and endurance: Some adaptogens, such as Panx Ginseng, can boost energy levels, enhancing performance during training and races.
- Immune system support: The intense physical demands of running can temporarily weaken the immune system. Adaptogens like Astragalus may help strengthen the body’s defenses.
- Inflammation management: Adaptogens like Turmeric and Holy Basil have anti-inflammatory propertiesthat can aid in recovery and reduce muscle soreness.
- Hydration and mental clarity: Since adaptogen drinks do not contain alcohol, these drinks maintain optimal hydration and mental clarity.
Related: How to Stay Healthy this Winter
The Potential Drawbacks of Adaptogen Drinks
Like everything new on the market, there are potential drawbacks to unregulated supplements.
- Lack of scientific evidence: There is limited scientific research surrounding and supporting the
effectiveness of adaptogen drinks. While some studies suggest potential benefits, the evidence is often preliminary and inconclusive. Claims made about adaptogens (including those listed above) may not be substantiated by robust clinical trials.
While I am talking about adaptogenic drinks as supplements, if you are looking for a quality supplement including a multi-vitamin, joint health, or immune support, Previnex is the best quality supplement on the market. You can save 15% with code TMR15 and get your moneyback if you do not notice any results in 30 days.
Related: The 13 Best Supplements for Runners
Alternative Alcohol Drinks with Natural Adaptogens
Flavor profiles for alcohol-like adaptogen drinks seem to be fruity and herbal across the board with some bubbles thrown in. The following are the most popular non-alcoholic cocktails and highly rated. Each brand uses a different recipe of adaptogens, so make sure to check out each ingredient list before purchasing.
$3 a serving
$4 – $5 a serving
- Curious Elixirs (Average rating on their website: 4.5/5)
- Kin Euphorics (Average rating on Amazon: 4/5)
$6 a serving
- De Soi (Average rating on Amazon: 3.5/5)
Related: 3 Best Joint Supplements for Runners
Alternative Alcohol Drinks without Adaptogens
When comparing non-alcoholic alternatives to their alcoholic counterparts, lack of comparable flavor is a big deterrent for consumers. The following nonalcoholic drinks are the most highly rated in flavor and profile.
Nonalcoholic beer seems to be the easiest to withdraw the alcohol without compromising the flavor, but not every brand does it perfectly. The following are two of the best.
Most non-alcoholic spirits, on their own, do not drudge up the same satisfactory flavor as their alcoholic twin, but used creatively within the body of an original cocktail, the results can be quite enjoyable. The following are well-known and used by bartenders.
Wine is by far the hardest to remove the alcohol from without compromising flavor. Most non-alcoholic wines just taste like watered-down grapefruit juice, but Studio Null claims they’ve figured out how to avoid just that. Highly rated, but expensive, Studio Null is a go-to non-alcoholic wine company that has pleased many.
As the running community continues to innovate ways to improve well-being and performance, we can anticipate continued discussions surrounding products and lifestyle choices that scientifically support high performance.
Whether you are a seasoned marathoner or just beginning your running journey, considering the health benefits of non-alcoholic drinks beyond a dry January may lead to a healthier and more focused path towards your running goals.
If you need guidance with your training and going after your goals in the winter months, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:
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