With only four days left of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Germany is in second place in the gold-medal count. The secret to Germany’s success? Beer. Non-alcoholic beer, actually.
OK, fine. We’re not ready to believe that boozeless beer is entirely responsible for Germany’s success, but according to Johannes Scherr, the doctor for the German Olympic ski team, non-alcoholic beer is a part of the training diet of nearly all of his athletes, and nearly 1,000 gallons of non-alcoholic beer went with the Germans to the Olympic Village in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
While in the U.S., booze-free beers like O’Douls are thought of as a substitute for an actual brew – a way to have a drink without suffering the negative impact of alcohol – Germans consume it not to avoid negative health reasons, but to take advantage of positive health benefits.
Anti-inflammatories and immune boosting are among the purported benefits. And for these reasons, according to Esquire, Germans drink three times more non-alcoholic beer than energy drinks. Some gyms even sell it in vending machines, and after completing local competitions, athletes in Germany are greeted with liter mugs of nonalcoholic beer.
The New York Times reports that from 2011 to 2016, German consumption of non-alcoholic beer grew 43% even amid declining beer sales.
According to the Times, Scherr credits a high concentration of polyphenols, immune-boosting chemicals in the beer, for positive health benefits. Scherr, in fact, conducted a 2009 double-blind study that found marathon runners who drank non-alcoholic beer for weeks before and after competition beer suffered significantly less inflammation and fewer upper respiratory infections after the race than runners who had been given a placebo.
This, Scherr says, allows athletes to train harder. But does it help them win gold medals? Well, it sure hasn’t hurt.