More on alcohol and exercise


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I wrote last month about the relationship between alcohol and muscle recovery following vigorous exercise, and the news was generally good for “moderate” drinkers. Now Gretchen Reynolds has an interesting piece in the New York Times about some research suggesting that regular exercise may make people drink more alcohol:

Half of the rats were given access to running wheels for three weeks. The others were kept in cages without wheels. After three weeks, the running wheels were removed, and half of the animals from each group were allowed unlimited access to alcohol for 21 days… the exercising animals turned to alcohol with significantly more enthusiasm than the sedentary rats

As Reynolds points out, these findings are in line with a recent human survey study that found, among other things, that “heavy drinkers exercise about 10 more minutes per week than current moderate drinkers and about 20 more minutes per week than current abstainers.”

That being said, the rat experiment seems to be testing something else: it’s not whether exercise makes you drink more, but whether being deprived of your accustomed exercise makes you drink more. And that makes sense, given that both exercise and drinking probably trigger similar reward pathways. So maybe this helps explain why you’re more likely to hit the sauce when you’re injured — though that never seemed like a particularly big mystery to me.

3 Replies to “More on alcohol and exercise”

  1. I love reward pathways.

    Athletes tend to take more risks (isn’t that what sports are all about?) so this makes a lot of sense. And it confirms a lot of what I learned in college.

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