Alcohol and sports don’t mix. There are wild stories about cyclists who used to put champagne or cherry beer in their water bottle, but you will not find an exercise physiologist who promotes drinking alcoholic beverages these days. The British cyclist Bradley Wiggins, winner of the Tour de France in 2012 and the Olympic time trial, was an alcoholic like his father. During the cycling season, however, he managed to hold back. After every win, however, when the belts could come off, he drank it so much that it wasn’t pretty anymore.
The alcohol in your body increases blood pressure, heart rate and sweating. It removes extra moisture from your body, more lactic acid is formed. You can fall off your bike drunk. You don’t want any of that. It’s actually crazy that drink brands are allowed to sponsor (motor) sports and that the winners spray each other with champagne. Sin and a bad example.
There are wild stories about cyclists who used to put champagne or cherry beer in their water bottle, but you will not find an exercise physiologist who promotes drinking alcoholic beverages these days.
Everyone knows the pleasure of a well-deserved cold beer after a summer cycling tour. Then the alcohol is a reward, disguised as a thirst quencher. Addiction experts also have to deal with this. Drinking is often a form of reward, comfort or celebration. There is nothing wrong with such behavior in itself, but if the drinker is prone to addiction, there will be something daily to reward, comfort or celebrate over time.
(A lot of) alcohol is not part of a healthy lifestyle, even if there is no danger of addiction. It contains unnecessary calories, it burdens the liver, intestines and brain. It often adversely affects mood and behavior and leads to hangovers and thus dereliction of duty. The campaigns and initiatives to reduce alcohol consumption, often linked to the tradition of New Year’s resolutions, show how problematic alcohol is for citizens and society.
Anyone who exercises systematically, eats healthily and, of course, does not smoke, will also be moderate with alcohol. The tendency to cluster habits, good or bad, is very human. You would say that a conscious lifestyle with a lot of sport and good nutrition excludes alcohol abuse. But that is not necessarily the case yet. The influence of alcohol on physical functioning is not that drastic. From a large study of the RIVM into alcohol use and absenteeism: “Little known about alcohol use and musculoskeletal complaints”.
The well-known U or hockey stick curve also appears in that RIVM study from 2008. The extensive research into alcohol consumption has led to the consensus that moderate alcohol consumption is better for (heart) health than no drop at all. A glass a day is said to have a protective effect. The risk of heart disease and death, compared to amounts of alcohol consumed, shows a valley parabola-like graph in an xy coordinate system that first falls to an optimum with moderate use (one glass for women per day, two for men) and then increases with the increase in the number of glasses.
Since 2005, the hockey stick has been the legitimacy for moderate alcohol use. Until better research undermined the idea. When all 23 conditions associated with alcohol are charted, no beneficial effect remains, and the line of risk for something eerie slopes steadily upwards from the origin (zero glasses). Alcohol is bad at any dose, the general opinion is now. A single drink or two for fun remains OK and is in fact no cause for concern, as in this article in Medium is pre-calculated.
The official advice has now been adjusted in a number of countries and comes down to this: if you drink, then no more than one glass a day, preferably a few days a week, and if you don’t drink, don’t start. The Dutch psychiatrist René Kahn wrote the book To your health? and puts in a video why alcohol is not good at all.
Not drinking fits into the healthy habits cluster. Also in perception. It is always the disciplined fitness enthusiasts who go for the green sludge after exercise and not the frosted glass of triple. Government policy to discourage alcohol consumption could be stepped up a notch, but a new, ‘dry’ norm is already being formed. You drink on special occasions, not just every time you visit, after tea at a family visit, with dinner during the week, or after every meeting or football training.
Government policy to discourage alcohol consumption could be stepped up a notch, but a new, ‘dry’ norm is already being formed. You drink on special occasions, no longer just every time you visit, after tea at a family visit, with dinner during the week, or after every meeting or football practice.
The clustering of good habits may be a psychological phenomenon, but not a biological one. After sifting through data on lifestyle habits from nearly 40,000 clients at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas, researchers came to a surprising outcome: “Higher fitness is significantly related to higher alcohol consumption in a large cohort of adult patients.”
The fitness of the customers was measured annually during a check-up on the basis of a treadmill test. Drinking consumption and degree of alcohol dependence came from questionnaires. The results were consistent with previous, smaller studies, writes The New York Times, especially among young athletes and students. It also turned out that the fitter and sportier, the more engaging.
The researchers do not have a conclusive explanation for the phenomenon. There is no possible physiological, causal relationship. The most obvious is that athletes go for a drink together after the competition or training and then hit him so well that they quickly end up with quite a few glasses. Another explanation lies in the idea of the well-deserved reward.
A physical explanation is that alcohol and fitness excite the same areas of reward in the brain and that the combination is doubly seductive. But maybe the fit drinkers started working out because they drank a lot, as compensation. Perhaps the explanation must be sought in cultural, social and/or economic differences between the different Cooper Clinic clients, who are now being lumped together in one cohort.
The large numbers in this study say nothing meaningful about this. What is striking, according to one of the researchers in The New York Times: “Most people probably don’t associate exercise and alcohol use as behaviors that are related.”
It can get so cozy in the sports canteen that you don’t think about it.
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Fitter athletes turn out to be drinkers – ‘People probably don’t see a link between more exercise and alcohol use’ – Foodlog