After a fun day of climbing, skiing, biking, or whatever, one of life's great pleasures is to relax with a good beer in hand. And there can be no denying that a great dinner is enhanced by a fine wine.
Yet practically every book on sports nutrition admonishes athletes against drinking alcohol, labeling it as empty calories. The mass media tells us booze is good one day and evil the next, pitching one doctor against another to stir the pot without taking a good look at the research. It is certainly confusing but new research is showing that moderate drinking plus exercise is indeed healthier than exercise without drinking or drinking without exercise.
Last month, a study was published in the European Heart Journal that looked at 20-years of data for nearly 12,000 people in Denmark. They found that those with the lowest risk of heart disease and the lowest risk of death from any cause were those who both worked out and drank a bit of alcohol (1 to 14 drinks per week). The people with the highest risks of an early demise were the non-drinkers who never exercise.
Of course, in Denmark they drink real beer instead of the mass-produced swill that is heavily consumed in the US. If you choose to imbibe, selecting a microbrew with lots of hops will give you the highest dose of antioxidants, vitamins, and flavonoids. Similarly, rich red wines are higher in the good stuff than whites.
On the other hand, drinking to excess is one of the surest ways to get fat and lose muscle. The extra calories don't help and the alcohol is converted in the liver to acetate which reduces fat burning. Heavy alcohol consumption also reduces testosterone and raises cortisol levels which lead to muscle wasting.