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It was Beer and Exercise... And The Bonds Between

29 August 2016 Andrew Verdon

A few beers at the bar

"A few beers at the bar"

Photo by:
Kylie Wilson,

For many Aussies exercise/sport and physical activity are closely linked with alcohol consumption.

Sporting teams celebrate wins and losses with a few drinks, most weekend recreational sports often finish with a beer and a recap of the competition, especially at summer events.

A hard, hot day of gardening or housework on the weekend is often finished with a cold one. Many physical trades and jobs conclude with a traditional knock off drink at the local to end the day or the working week.

And most yachting events are completed off the water with a few beers in the cockpit or into the rums at the yacht club bar.

But does exercise encourage drinking? Or even drinking encouraging more exercise or activity?

Two new studies recently suggest that exercise may influence when and how much people drink. Drinking may even have an impact as to whether that person may exercise, and the relationship between both factors could be a positive link.

Past studies have shown that people who exercise regularly also tend towards being alcohol consumers. A typical finding from a 2001 study showed men and women who had one to two drinks per day was twice as likely to exercise as those who did not consume any alcohol.

Researchers at Penn State University in the USA conducted an ambitious study with a group of 150 adult males and females from age 18 to 75. These volunteers were given a smart phone app to record drinking and activity daily, for 21 days. Over a year, and across varying seasons, each participant did three blocks of 21 days, which meant around 65 days all up were monitored.

Upon crunching the data, a strong link was found between exercising on any one day and drinking some alcohol on the same day. This was even higher if the activity was longer or harder than the other usual day’s regular activities. These held true with no changes for summer, winter and spring, or if they were male or female, or aged in their 20’s or 60’s.

The conclusion by the scientists in their publication was…

“People drank more than usual on the same days they engaged in more physical activity, exercise or sport than on a typical day.”

A good outcome was the trend that overconsumption of alcohol was extremely rare and few heavy drinking cases were found.

But why is drinking and exercise linked? A recent Meta–analysis of previous experiments and studies at the University of Houston discussed that both exercise and alcohol increase activity in parts of the brain linked to reward.

The brain responds similarly to both activities, and the result of a “high” or feel good state tends to last longer when combined together closely in timing. More so than either single activity does alone. The lead author of the study suggested…

”…feeling a slight buzz after exercise, we may unconsciously look to prolong that feeling via a beer or wine.”

Social bonding, team camaraderie and peer interaction is a major driver of alcohol consumption post sport, along with a feeling of reward afterwards.

The available evidence suggests that while exercise and sport encourages people to drink, the relationship is not a negative one, as it is unlikely to encourage or lead to problematic drinking behaviours, but it is good to be aware of the strong interactions between the two activities.

Drinking Classification

Moderate - one standard drink per day

Heavy - more than four drinks in succession (i.e. in one sitting)

Susie Burrell, one of Australia’s leading dieticians, says if you are keen to keep the calories on the low side, then here are some of the best alcoholic drink options.

Light beer

If you are the sort of person who enjoys an ice-cold beer, a ‘light’ variety is significantly lower in kJ with just 375kJ per stubby.

AND watch out for cider. Sometimes seen as a “lite” or healthy selection over beer - high in both alcohol and sugars, cider can give you as much as 900kJ per 375ml bottle!

Low alcohol red wine

Combine the benefits of red wine, with a lower alcohol content wine and get away with just 320kJ per glass. A “standard” large glass of red can contain as much as 650kJ per serve


Naturally it all depends on how many you have, but a single glass of champagne contains just 320kJ.

Vodka Lime and soda

With just 240kJ per serve, this clear spirit is one of the lowest kJ options, and with no sugars or preservatives, is also less likely to leave you with a nasty hangover. In traditional pre-mixed spirits in a can or from the post-mix, the extra sugar in the bourbon, rum or scotch, will give you between 900-1200kJ

Andrew Verdon


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