After a long workout I always feel the need to reward myself in some way, either with a cookie, maybe a burger, or, on occasion, a Brazilian meat sword buffet. But while I'm stuffing my face, most people are patting themselves on the back by drinking alcohol on the days they exercise. Yep, according to a new study, people tend to hit the bars after they hit the gym.
TIME notes that for the study — conducted at Northwestern Medicine and published in Health Psychology — researchers observed the habits of 150 participants ages 18 to 89. With the use of smartphone technology and a "daily diary approach," participants recorded/self-reported their physical activity and alcohol consumption over a period 21 days, three times throughout the same year. Through the data, researchers found that there is a correlation between the days participants exercised and when they chose to drink (the most popular alcoholic gym reward being beer, TIME says).
David E. Conroy, lead author of the study, tells Northwestern that just because the participants were rewarding themselves for working out with alcohol, that doesn't necessarily make them bigger drinkers:
“We zoomed in the microscope and got a very up-close and personal look at these behaviors on a day-to-day basis and see it’s not that people who exercise more drink more -- it’s that on days when people are more active they tend to drink more than on days they are less active. This finding was uniform across study participants of all levels of physical activity and ages.”
So why are people knocking 'em down after the going to the gym? Conroy explains that, while he hopes to learn more about the link between exercise and alcohol thorough future studies, he believes people might be rewarding themselves for hitting the gym. He also hypothesized that people who work out might encoutner "more social situations where alcohol is consumed." My money's on the reward theory, but we'll have to wait for more research until we know for sure.
Funny enough, there have been several other recent studies linking alcohol with exercise. A good example: one new pilot study found that consuming alcohol before running is no different than running sober. But there's more! A completely different study claims that one glass of wine is equivalent to an hour of exercise. What's next? Are scientists planning on developing some sort of alcoholic sports drink?
Now, we should probably back up for a second and state the obvious: just because people are drinking before, after, and sometimes in the place of exercise, that doesn't change the fact that alcohol is still alcohol and can have very harmful effects on the body. In fact ,according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, alcohol "directly linked to the rate of injury sustained in sport events and appears to evoke detrimental effects on exercise performance capacity."
So before you reward yourself with beer for hitting the gym, take a shot of whiskey before running, or just skip the whole exercise altogether to drink red wine on the couch, try to remember that alcohol doesn't exactly go hand-in-hand with any workout routine. Then again, with this many studies, who knows what we'll find out next.