Do You Drink More Alcohol After You Exercise?

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

Hitting the gym is a great way to stay healthy and physically fit, right? Well, maybe not – at least according to a new study from Northwestern University. The research study, published in the journal Health Psychology, finds that people tend to drink more alcohol on the days they’ve exercised. With the most common exercise days falling between Thursday and Sunday, that’s quite a bit of extra drinking.

According to Dr. David E Conroy, lead author of the study, “Monday through Wednesday people batten down the hatches and they cut back on alcohol consumption. But once that ‘social weekend’ kicks off on Thursdays, physical activity increases and so does alcohol consumption.”

Why the Extra Alcohol?

The Northwestern study included 150 participants, each one between the ages of 18 and 89. For a duration of three weeks, participants were asked to record both their physical activity and alcohol consumption at the end of each day. Data was entered using a specially designed smartphone application. The test was repeated three separate times over a one year period. Scientists found a strong link between exercise days and an increased number of alcoholic beverages consumed. Essentially, from Thursday to Sunday, both exercise and alcohol intake increased equally. Oddly enough, beer (which is known to pack on the pounds) was the most popular post-workout alcoholic beverage.

Scientists found a strong link between exercise days and an increased number of alcoholic beverages consumed.

Understanding the results of their study seemed to be in stark contrast to the healthy lifestyle, researchers went to great lengths to check and double-check their work. Even after adjusting for the fact that more alcohol-related social events are held on weekends, that most people prefer to drink on weekends, and that drinking patterns differ by season/holidays, they kept coming up with the same results. People simply drink more when their activity increases.
“This finding was uniform across study participants of all levels of physical activity and ages,” Conroy said.

Alcohol and Fat Burning

Alcohol provides 7 calories per gram; fat provides 9 calories per gram. Despite that fact that alcohol represents fewer calories, you have to burn off all your alcohol-related calories before you ever start burning calories from the food you eat. Simply put; alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to burn fat. Hey, they don’t call it “beer belly” just because it sounds good.

“We need to figure out how to use physical activity effectively and safely without having the adverse effects of drinking more alcohol,” said Conroy.

Learn more about the risks of alcoholism and alcohol abuse.

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