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Beer Sweats: The Alcohol and Fitness Connection

The fitter you are the more likely you might be to drink, a study confirms.

A group of people combining alcohol and fitness by drinking on bicycles

Seems like people are running towards the craft brewery. An investigation in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, from a research team at the Cooper Institute® in Dallas, examined data from 38,000 healthy people ages 20–86 and discovered a strong link between alcohol and fitness.

Based on cardiorespiratory fitness (determined with a treadmill test to exhaustion and self-reported exercise habits), the researchers discovered that moderately and highly cardio-fit people were far more likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers than less fit people. For women, being highly fit more than doubled the odds of being a moderate or heavy drinker, and it increased the odds by 63% for men. The study defined light drinking as three or fewer drinks per week; moderate drinking as up to seven weekly drinks for women and 14 for men; and heavy drinking as anything above the moderate numbers.

The paper’s authors surmise that the association between alcohol and fitness might be due to a psychological phenomenon where you feel like you’ve done something “good,” so you reward yourself by doing something “bad.” Training may also reinforce the same sensation-seeking behavior that leads people to drink. Overall, 13% of the study subjects met the threshold for alcohol dependence, though among heavy-drinking men (not women) the absolute fittest of the group were the least likely to exhibit signs of dependence.

See also: Alcohol Consumption During the Pandemic


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Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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