Why people who work out tend to drink more than those who don’t
DO you crave a cold beer after a gruelling workout? Long for a chilled glass of wine in the wake of an intensive exercise class?
Two new studies have revealed you may not be alone, after scientists discovered a link between physical activity and craving alcohol.
And, they found the key lies in the fact both exercise and your favourite tipple, stimulate the same rewards system in the brain.
A team of researchers at Pennsylvania State University, United States (US) found people who engage in more physical activity consume more alcohol on average than their less-active peers.
The first study, by Pennsylvania scientists, was published in the journal Health Psychology, while the second was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.
The study added: “People drank more than usual on the same days that they engaged in more physical activity than usual.”
The study analysed 150 adults – aged between 19 and 89 years old – over the course of three 21-day periods.
At the end of each day, the participants reported on their physical activity and alcohol consumption.
Daily deviations in exercise were ‘significantly associated’ with daily total alcohol use, the researchers noted.
The participants drank ‘more than usual on the same days’ that they engaged in longer than normal workouts.
Researchers said their results did not differ across age or sex, and concluded alcohol consumption is therefore not driven by either factor.
Having noted a distinct link between exercise and a tendency to drink more, a team of scientists took issue a step further – investigating why it happens.
A team at the University of Houston found though the two activities may appear at two ends of a healthy living spectrum, they both trigger the same reward system in the brain.
They found alcohol and exercise are both stimuli that invoke activity in the brain’s mesocorticolimbic pathway – otherwise known as its reward circuitry.
The circuitry – or electric circuit – first evolved in humans to respond to natural rewards that promote survival, including exercise, sex and food.
The researchers noted exercise is a natural reward, increasing the release of dopamine and other feel-good neurotransmitters, including serotonin.
In contrast, alcohol is an artificial stimulant, triggering the neural reward system.
The scientists said since both trigger overlapping effects on the brain’s reward system, it is ‘conceiviable’ that people who are not addicted to exercise or alcohol can engage in both activities moderately on a regular basis to derive a prolonged positive effect.
The study said: “The positive association between physical activity and alcohol intake may initially appear paradoxical, as physical activity is regarded as a healthy behavior and excess alcohol use tends to be categorized as an unhealthy behavior.”
*Culled from dailymailuk