What It’s Like to Have a Beer with Jens Voigt


In Germany, apparently we are known for liking our beer. It’s pretty popular stuff for everyone. For some, beer is the nectar of the gods; for others, it’s the arch enemy of any sports performance.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of the two extremes. Drinking beer in moderation is perfectly normal, and sometimes a good beer just makes a nice meal even better.

During my active career and even now, I’ll go through periods when I don’t drink beer for a month or so, and then I might have five beers in one night with friends. From an athlete’s perspective (and as you’ve likely heard from any health professional) consuming beer or any sort of alcohol on a daily basis is not only bad for your performance, but it’s also not ideal for your health.

When I was a competitive athlete, we all would stay away from alcohol and beer during races and training camps. We’d sometimes maybe have one glass of beer the night before a rest day, knowing there would be a whole day to relax and recover. And when I did that, it clearly did not hurt me.

But if you’re training hard or racing hard, it is a scientifically proven fact that alcohol slows the body’s recovery process, so if you consume it, you are basically ruining some of the effects of your training. And if you’re racing, you’re making yourself more tired—and that’s something we don’t want, right?

I’ll admit: I have seen some pretty impressive performances from teammates and friends who I knew were out the previous night, having more than one beer. I mean, really impressive rides that made me wonder, “How the heck do they do that?”

I should add to this, though, that most of them had much shorter careers than mine… It’s kind of like the saying about burning the candle from both ends: The candle burns bright, and gives a lot of light, but eventually both flames meet in the middle, and that’s the end of it.

A Refreshing Brew

In Germany, we have a mix of beer and lemonade (or lemon soda) called “Radler,” “Alsterwasser,” or “Stange,” depending on the region. Around Berlin we call it “Potsdamer”—and on hot, sunny days it’s a delicious drink. (I think it’s called a Shandy in English?) The sweetness of the lemonade neutralizes the bitterness of the beer and vice versa. So it’s a very nice combination and provides less alcohol than straight beer, and less sugar than pure lemonade. Still, it’s not the healthiest option…but it simply tastes great. I often would drink them during BBQs at home, and most of my friends would go for the same option.

And just to make you folks smile, I am sure most of us have experienced that, after two beers or so, we become smarter. We can suddenly solve all the world’s problems, and even more importantly, we can fix the marriage or relationship problems of everyone around us. There are benefits to beer!

To be clear, though (and all jokes aside), alcohol is not to be played with, and it’s not to be used in an abusive manner. It’s like a little feel-good treat every now and then. Alcohol-free beer is a great option, and nowadays many breweries offer alcohol-free options that taste quite OK, I reckon. Mix it with some lemonade, and you have a great Sunday bike-ride recovery drink!

I read somewhere a few years back, that researchers found alcohol free-beer with added sodium to be apparently better for recovery than some designated isotonic sports drinks. I swear I did not make that up.

So my friends, let’s try this Shandy, and please let me know what you think in the comments section below. Maybe it won’t make you faster, but it could make you happier. And that’s a good thing.

8 Comments   Join the Conversation

8 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Hey Jens – great article.
    Just wondering if, after a few too many beers, you’ve found yourself saying “stand up, legs”?


  • Very interesting Jens thank you. I quit alcohol in 2014 but sometimes cook with it. Learned to make a pretty good boeuf carbonnade in Brussels.

  • I find that after cycling for a couple of years with no drinking, i now can only manage two beers before feeing light headed! I now enjoy alcohol free or just a couple when out. I used to suffer terribly with hangovers, i don’t miss them one bit!!

  • Good advice other than the Shandy thing. But give me a good old Octoberfest beer anytime. Not literally anytime as I am taking your advice on moderation!

  • Couldn’t agree more. Although, for me, beer seems to be much harder to give up than most other things.

    As the the alcohol free, my tipple of choice is Erdinger Alcoholfrei. Unlike many of the alcohol free options, it tastes great.

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