It’s no secret that alcohol has a negative effect on athletic performance. But before science started to look at how what we put into our bodies affects the output, alcohol was not only part of the post-ride cycling culture, it was also thought of as a way to enhance performance. “Alcohol was actually the first form of doping,” says Sean Conway, an endurance athlete who has cycled 16,000 miles around the world. His claims are well-documented, with plenty of photos from early Tour de France events of cyclists ducking into cafes to purchase bottles of wine for the road or sitting down for a drink with locals. “There was sort of this unwritten rule that with alcohol you still feel the pain, but you care less about it.”
These days, athletes know better, and many, including Conway, have traded in booze in favor of performance. We tapped Conway for his take on why he loves Athletic Brewing’s non-alcoholic brews as an alternative for his post-ride beer.
At one point in his ultra endurance career, Conway was sleeping in drain pipes and living off of gas station food as he attempted bigger and better athletic feats. That set up was definitely not ideal for recovery since quality sleep, hydration, and nutrition are major factors for maintaining peak athletic performance. For Conway’s upcoming endurance endeavor, however, he’ll be based at home, which will allow him to have a proper nutrition plan and recovery process: fruits and vegetables, antioxidants, ice baths, and good sleep in a real bed. But beyond physical recovery, Conway is looking forward to the opportunity to be able to prioritize his mental recovery as well.
“I don’t want this to be a slog. I want to enjoy it. I’ve never done a challenge where I get to tuck my kids into bed at the end of each day,” he says. “And genuinely, you know, just sitting down and having a non-alcoholic Athletic beer will help with my head space without affecting the physical and hydration side, which is nice.”
Focus on Goals
“I notice the difference if I have an alcoholic beer and then go out for a workout the next day,” says Conway. “My performance is really just not there. I just feel heavy, like I’ve lost that spring in my step.”
Focusing on the bigger picture can help make those daily healthy choices a little bit easier. Conway won’t have a single alcoholic beer this summer because he knows he’ll be demanding a lot of his body day after day for months. It just doesn’t make sense. Why sabotage your goals for a few traditional beers?
“There’s no way in a million years I’d want to deal with the effects of alcohol,” he says. “If I’m down a couple of hours on one day it can affect me for weeks because it’ll ruin my sleep patterns and everything.”
Don’t Sacrifice a Tasty Beverage
Before Athletic, Conway had never had a non-alcoholic beer that actually tasted good. “The invention of good non-alcoholic beer—because it’s been crap for a long time until Athletic came along—really revolutionized my training,” he says. “It was amazing, I genuinely can’t tell the difference.”
Now that there’s a tasty, readily-available option it’s easier to swap out one great tasting beverage for another. Plus, pulling a colorful craft beer can out of the cooler let’s folks blend right into a crowd of people drinking traditional beer without having to have an awkward conversation about it. Not only that, but a can of the Athletic Run Wild IPA (Conway’s favorite) has 70 calories and 16 carbs, which helps the body start to rehydrate and replenish the carbohydrate stores that are crucial for athletes.
Keep the Ritual
One of the best parts about cycling is the community, and socializing with your cycling community is often just as important as those long training rides. Athletic offers folks the best of both worlds: hang out and have a couple of beers without jeopardizing performance on tomorrow’s ride. “There’s no, ‘Ah, am I going to feel rubbish tomorrow? Is it worth it?” says Conway. Athletic gives him that reward for working hard and training hard with zero side effects.
“Five years ago if I’d been with all my mates and said, ‘Oh, I’m going to have a non-alcoholic beer,’ people probably would’ve looked at me a bit weird. But it’s become way more mainstream and they’re good now,” says Conway. “With Athletic you still get to feel like part of your little gang and that just makes it more fun.”
Named as TIME’s “100 Most Influential Companies of 2022” as well as Fast Company’s “Brands That Matter” in 2021, Athletic Brewing Company is reimagining beer for the modern, active adult. Their great-tasting craft brews provide a refreshing taste of craft beer, without the alcohol or the hangover. As of 2022, Athletic Brewing is proudly B Corp certified. Learn more about Athletic Brewing and how their non-alcoholic brews are fit for all times.