A lot of runners enjoy a refreshing, cold beer after a hard workout, or a glass of bubbly to celebrate a new personal best, but are we taking this work-hard, play-hard mentality a little too far? Some researchers might say so. New research investigating the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and alcohol consumption has found that highly fit men and women drink more alcohol than their less-fit friends.
The study, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, examined 38,653 apparently healthy patients who visited the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, TX for preventive medical exams from 1988 to 2019, and enrolled in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. Participants were classified as either low, moderate or highly fit based on a maximal treadmill test, and were also classified as either low, moderate or heavy drinkers (self-reported).
According to the results, moderately fit men were 1.42 times as likely to exhibit moderate-to-heavy alcohol consumption, and those odds went up to 1.63 for highly fit men compared to their relatively unfit counterparts.
For women, it appears a high level of fitness is correlated with an even larger increase in alcohol consumption. Moderately fit women showed 1.58 greater odds of moderate-to-heavy alcohol consumption, while highly fit women had 2.14 greater odds compared to women with a low degree of fitness.
How much is too much?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, heavy drinking for men is defined as having more than four drinks in one day or more than 14 drinks per week. For women, heavy drinking is considered consuming more than three drinks in one day or more than seven in one week.
Moderate drinking means keeping your blood alcohol level below 0.055, which looks like two drinks or less in one day for men and one drink or less for women. For example, if you’re a female runner who has one drink with dinner three to four nights per week, you’d be classified as a moderate drinker.
Are runners drinking too much?
As runners, we often allow ourselves to indulge more frequently in treats and other simple pleasures because of the volume of activity we do. While there isn’t anything wrong with this, it’s possible that many of us take farther than is healthy when it comes to alcohol. One beer after a long run is refreshing; three or four veers into excessive alcohol consumption.
“Higher fitness levels are significantly related to greater alcohol consumption among a large cohort of adult patients,” the researchers concluded. “Interventions focusing on increasing fitness (via physical activity promotion) might consider concurrently aiming to reduce alcohol consumption.”
So does this mean you should give up your post-run brew? Certainly not – just remember to keep moderation in mind if you want to protect your long-term health.