Bicycling and beer

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It's probably not a bad thing that so many bicycle clubs factor in the local brew pub at the end of a bike ride.

It bears repeating that beer and bicycling are both good for the heart.

Iowa cyclist John Gray told the local newspaper that riding a bike and drinking beer just seems right; “The two things just go hand in hand.”

So if you're looking for justification for quaffing a couple of beers after a ride, check these facts presented by the Sioux City Journal. Just remember, says nutrionist Sarah Nelson:

“The key, here, is the darker the brew, the higher the level of antioxidant present.”


— Beer doesn't contain sugar, fat, cholesterol or triglycerides and is low in sodium;

— Beer is a good source of folic acid and vitamin B6, which is essential in proper functioning of the nervous and immune systems reducing homocysteine levels, a leading cause of heart disease;

— Beer's high-fiber hop grains can delay osteoporosis; also the xantholhumol found in hops is a potential cancer-reducing compound;

— Alcohol reduces the levels of fibrogen in the blood;

— Alcohol reduces the stickiness of platelets that can cause clots;

— Alcohol increases the good cholesterol (HDL) in the blood.

Further, the All About Beer magazine not surprisingly finds more benefits of beer:

— Moderate beer consumption increases mental acuity;

— Beer contains nutrients such as protein and B-vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, cadmium and iron.

How much of a good thing?

As in most pursuits, moderation is important. The beer magazine references Dr. Harvey Finkel, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. He says 1 to 3 drinks a day; 4 does more harm than good.

The American Heart Association dietary guidelines say 1 or 2 drinks per day.

The amounts above are for men. Both say women should drink half the amount as men, because their stomachs break down the alcohol at a different rate. Pregnant women shouldn't drink at all.

And be aware that there are studies that even moderate drinking can shrink the volume of the brain.

Water before beer

From personal experience — and I'm talking about a lot of research here — I'd recommend making sure that you're well-hydrated before you start downing beer at the end of a ride.

When I lived in the hot climes of Texas and central California, I'd grab a cold beer, or two, first thing after getting home from a ride. That often led to a headache.

Then I learned that beer is a diuretic and can lead to dehydration.

Now, even here in the much cooler Pacific Northwest, I'll still drink a couple of glasses of waters before my first brew.

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