Say cheers to staying fit and enjoying those sips!
Many folks pledge to do alcohol-free Dry January after the holidays, while others set health-minded resolutions for the new year. But as a new study shows, it’s possible to reach your fitness goals without abstaining from alcohol. In fact, there might be a connection between getting swole — and doing some regular swilling.
The paper, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that men and women who stay in shape also take their virtue with a little bit of vice. Surprisingly, they’re roughly twice as likely to drink at moderate to heavy levels than those who aren’t as fit.
Take Josh Philips, a 33-year-old Brooklyn-based software engineer who runs between 12 to 20 miles per week — and knocks back some 10 to 20 alcoholic beverages in the same timespan.
He said that while he enjoys both, there’s no connection between the two behaviors. “They’re definitely separate things,” Philips told The Post. “One doesn’t lead to the other and vice versa.”
A former cyclist, Philips has completed four half-marathons since taking up running in 2014 — and one day hopes to work up to a full 26.2-mile marathon. But in his off time — whether it’s dinner at home, a work-related happy hour, or heading to a bar or restaurant for fun — he drinks about three to five nights a week. He admits a night out can impact the following day’s workout, but not by much.
“Sometimes if I’m extra social, then I will … move the time that I exercise,” should he need some extra space in the morning to rest and rehydrate.
It’s worth it, he said, to have “both sides of the work and the play,” adding, that doing both “leads to an overall more fulfilled life.”
Can you really tipple and tone?
The research backs this up.
The “Fit and Tipsy?” study, led by researchers in Texas, surveyed data from 38,653 healthy patients aged 20 to 86 who drink at least once per week. The participants all signed up for preventive testing at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas and its Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. They stopped by for yearly checkups, which included treadmill tests to determine their levels of fitness, plus questionnaires assessing their exercise and alcohol intake.
Those who had fewer than three drinks per week were considered light drinkers. Women who sipped up to seven drinks per week and men who knocked back up to 14 were labeled moderate drinkers. Anything more put participants in the heavy drinking category.
The researchers concluded that the adults who had moderate and high levels of fitness also drank more. Moderate and highly fit women were respectively 1.6 and 2.1 times more likely to drink a moderate or heavy amount of alcohol than the not-as-fit gals. Men in moderate and high groups of fitness were 1.4 and 1.6 times more likely to drink in moderate or heavy degrees than guys who weren’t as in shape.
As for why — well, even the researchers are stumped.
“We don’t have data on why this is happening,” 48-year-old Kerem Shuval — the executive director of epidemiology at the Cooper Institute who led this study — told The Post. “We’re hypothesizing in this study … that there could be something called a ‘licensing effect,’ where people who — [for example] set a goal to run a 10K, or ride a century on their bicycle — after they did something good they’re rewarding themselves with something that’s enjoyable [and] maybe not as good for their health.”
If this is the case, Shuval said, “We as individuals need to start thinking about that — and also [health-care] providers need to start thinking about that.”
‘I want to feel amazing’
Still, not every fitness buff is getting bombed.
Thirty-five-year-old Jaimie Bailey — a nutritionist, cycling instructor and co-owner of Grind House Cycle in San Diego, which is affiliated with Brooklyn’s Grind House gym — was inspired to give up alcohol after she started working harder on her body.
“I started to reevaluate, how does alcohol even play into my life [and] how do I want to feel?” Bailey said. “My answer was I want to feel good — I want to feel amazing.”
For her, that means teetotaling, due to the negative physiological effects of booze.
“The best versions of alcohol cause inflammation: joints, cells — it all feels it,” she said. “On a cellular level, it’s drawing moisture out of you. [Drinking is] just going to make you feel like crap the next day when you wake up … I would rather not feel that way.”
However, she understands that many of her clients still want to drink. In that case, Bailey recommends sticking to options with the least amount of sugar — such as a vodka soda with lime — indulging no more than two times per week, and making sure to hydrate throughout the night and the next morning.
It’s about “putting boundaries around your alcohol [use],” she said, and “being mindful of the choices you’re making.”