Fit and tipsy: do highly fit people drink too much alcohol?

Lots of runners enjoy a refreshing, cold beer after a hard workout, or a glass of champagne to celebrate their new character’s best, but are we taking this hard work and play mentality too far? Some researchers might say so. New research looking at the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and alcohol consumption has found that men and women with higher physical fitness drink more alcohol than their less fit friends.

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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, Texas for preventive medical exams from 1988 to 2019, and were enrolled in the Cooper Longitudinal Study. Participants were rated as either low, medium or high fitness based on the extreme treadmill test, and were also rated as either low, moderate, or heavy drinker (self-reported).

According to the results, men of moderate physique had 1.42 greater odds of moderate to heavy alcohol consumption, and these odds rose to 1.63 for men of high physical fitness compared to their relatively unfit counterparts.

For women, a higher level of fitness appears to be associated with a greater increase in alcohol consumption. Women of moderate fitness showed 1.58 greater odds of moderate to heavy alcohol consumption, while women of high fitness had 2.14 greater odds compared to women of low fitness.

How much is too much?

beer and wine

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, excessive 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 counts as having more than three drinks in one day or more than seven in one week.

Moderate drinking means keeping a blood alcohol level below 0.055, which is like two or fewer drinks in a day for men and one or fewer drinks for women. For example, if you are a runner who has one drink with dinner three to four nights a week, you will be classified as a moderate drinker.

Do runners drink a lot?

As runners, we often allow ourselves to frequently indulge in treats and other simple pleasures because of the amount of activity we do. While there is nothing wrong with this, many of us probably take this too far when it comes to alcohol. One beer after long is refreshing, three or four may be excessive.

The researchers concluded that “higher fitness levels are closely associated with increased alcohol consumption among a large group of adult patients.” “Interventions focused on increasing fitness (through the promotion of physical activity) might consider simultaneously aiming at reducing alcohol consumption.”

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So does that mean you should give up a post-run drink? Absolutely not, but remember to keep in mind moderation if you want to protect your health.

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