Germany’s Olympic Athletes Are Consuming Hundreds of Gallons of a Surprising Sports Drink: Beer

February 19, 2018, 8:11 PM UTC

When Olympic Athletes finish a particularly grueling event, you might presume that they would reach for a bottle of water or an electrolyte-packed Gatorade. In the case of Germany’s athletes, they’re often reaching for something a little unexpected: a beer.

Germans consume more beer per capita than people in most other nations, and they often have a nonalcoholic beer after a workout, just like someone from another country might have a sports drink.

To keep the German team hydrated, the brewery Krombacher has supplied 3,500 liters—roughly 1,000 gallons—of nonalcoholic beer to the athletes’ village at the Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, according to a New York Times report.

Beer isn’t typically associated with sports, but there’s some scientific support for the German team’s post-workout ritual. In 2009, Johannes Scherr, the doctor for this year’s German Olympic ski team and a professor of sports medicine at the Technical University of Munich, did a double-blind study where he gave runners beer while they were training for the Munich marathon.

The runners each had a beer (or a placebo) every day for the three weeks before and two weeks after the race. The runners that drank the beer suffered less inflammation and less upper respiratory infections after the race than those that received the placebo, suggesting that beer could help athletes recover quicker.

Consumption of nonalcoholic beer in the United States is limited and is typically consumed by those trying to curb their alcohol intake. In Germany, there are more than 400 nonalcoholic beers on the market, many of which are marketed as a sports drink.

You can even find beer in gyms. Heineken recently struck a deal with Germany’s largest chain of gyms to have its non-alcoholic beer available in its vending machines.

While non-alcoholic beer is typically the drink of choice for German athletes after a workout, they’re also not exclusively drinking the alcohol-free stuff. Krombacher also shipped 11,000 liters of alcoholic beer to the games.