It's good for bonding and motivation
There's no question that alcohol is a social lubricant -- it loosens people up a little, gets the conversation flowing, and helps turn a standard workout into an event… or an event into a party.
Just take a look at all the races that now offer beer to participants at the finish line (Tough Mudder and Spartan Race are just two of 'em). Race directors know that finishing a tough event is celebratory, and that participants want to hang around with other racers to talk about the experience. Offering beer at the finish line is a way to encourage people to stick around, to cheers one another, and amplify the celebration. And if people end up having a good time, they’re more likely to sign up for more races.
The concept doesn't just apply to races themselves, though. Casey Wetjen, a dedicated runner, points out, "My husband and our group of [running buddies] felt that a beer after a training run was a must." She joked the decision was based on the need to carb load, but really, it was more about turning the pain of a tough workout into an enjoyable social event. It offered a reward at the end of a grueling experience.
If a cold beer and bonding time after a gym session make people more likely to exercise, I'd say it's a pretty fair trade-off.
It's just not that big of a deal unless you're training for something crazy
There are certain situations where I'd advise you to avoid alcohol after a workout. For instance, if you're a hardgainer trying to put on significant muscle mass for a bodybuilding competition, you probably don't want a beer or two to interfere with muscle protein synthesis. Likewise, if you’re a high-level athlete who needs to recover quickly between a series of back-to-back competitions (say, during basketball season), it’s probably not worth the buzz if a post-workout beer will delay your recovery time.
But if you're just someone who likes to work out regularly as a way to stay healthy? A beer or two after a workout isn't going to hurt you, especially if you follow the advice of a 2014 review study published in the journal Sports Medicine that suggests you consume less than .5g per kilogram body weight after a workout. For those of you who hate math, that's roughly two 12oz beers for a 150lb person. In other words: Drink in moderation. And while you're at it, eat some food and drink some water, too. It's good for you.
For all of these reasons, we tapped Zach Mack, beer writer, certified cicerone, and owner of the Alphabet Beer Company in New York City, to recommend the best post-workout beers.