Mur­phy’s Lore

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents - BY SAM MUR­PHY

Sam pon­ders the postrun drink

At 8:13pm, I’m gun­ning along the home straight of my lo­cal 10K – face twisted, fists clenched, suck­ing in loud, des­per­ate breaths. At 8:43pm, I’m sit­ting out­side the pub with some fel­low run­ners, tuck­ing into a large glass of rosé. I’m well aware that it’s not the best choice of re­cov­ery drink but, like many run­ners, I’m work­ing un­der the premise that be­cause I run, I have earned the right to in­dulge a lit­tle.

A study pub­lished in the Bri­tish jour­nal of sports Medicine in 2016 was a joy to read. Af­ter study­ing data from over 36,000 men and women, the re­searchers con­cluded that reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity al­most nul­li­fied the detri­men­tal ef­fects of booz­ing.

Even mod­er­ate drink­ing (within the 14-units-per-week guide­lines) typ­i­cally raises the risk of pre­ma­ture death by around 16 per cent – and the spe­cific risk of can­cer by 47 per cent. But the study found that 150 min­utes a week of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can­celled out the im­pact of drink­ing al­co­hol (at this level) on all-cause mor­tal­ity death and low­ered the can­cer risk by 36 per cent. Even with higher lev­els of al­co­hol con­sump­tion, de­fined as over 14 units a week for women and over 21 for men (the guide­lines have since been re­vised down for men), the risk was sig­nif­i­cantly less­ened by 150 min­utes of ex­er­cise – and com­pletely erased in study par­tic­i­pants who worked out for five hours a week. A long run, a speed ses­sion and a cou­ple of easy runs each week and you can get away scot-free, it seems.

But even as I raise my glass of wine to such pleas­ing news, I feel a nag­ging sense of un­ease: here’s my tired and de­pleted body cry­ing out for wa­ter to re­hy­drate, carbs to reload and pro­tein and an­tiox­i­dants to re­pair, but I’m throw­ing booze down my neck in­stead. When I ask my­self why, I keep com­ing back to that ‘I’ve earned it’ no­tion that is so preva­lent in the run­ning world. Think how many times you’ve seen slo­gans such as ‘ Run now, wine later’ and ‘ Will run for beer’. (And you could, of course, sub­sti­tute ev­ery men­tion of al­co­hol for cake, or cho­co­late.)

It’s as if my brain has de­cided that fol­low­ing some hard graft in my run­ning shoes, I de­serve a re­ward – in the shape of a well­filled wine glass – and to hell with the con­se­quences. The re­sults of a re­cent study1 sug­gest I’m not alone: re­searchers found that peo­ple drink more al­co­hol on the days they ex­er­cise, even though logic would dic­tate that this is when it’s most likely to be detri­men­tal.

Al­co­hol af­fects re­cov­ery be­cause it de­hy­drates you (which you can partly off­set by drink­ing plenty of wa­ter), in­hibits the re­stock­ing of glyco­gen stores and af­fects sleep pat­terns, all of which will have a knock-on ef­fect for your next run. But even more sober­ing, a postrun drink can blunt adap­ta­tions to train­ing, low­er­ing fat me­tab­o­lism and re­duc­ing mus­cle-pro­tein syn­the­sis (the build­ing blocks of new mus­cle) by up to a third.

You’d think we’d want to run a mile from such po­ten­tially damn­ing ef­fects, yet the re­search sug­gests oth­er­wise: a Univer­sity of Hous­ton, US, study found that mod­er­ate drinkers are twice as likely to ex­er­cise com­pared with tee­to­tallers and phys­i­cally ac­tive peo­ple are more likely to be drinkers than their seden­tary coun­ter­parts.

What gives? Are we mak­ing up for an un­healthy habit with a healthy one? Or are we sim­ply cel­e­brat­ing the joy of mov­ing our bod­ies with a cou­ple of pints? I’m not sure. And nor am I ready to give up a tip­ple. But next time I head for a cel­e­bra­tory pos­trace drink, I’ll make sure I re­mem­ber to re­ward my body for its en­deav­ours, as well as my brain: the first pink liq­uid to pass my lips may well be straw­berry milk rather than rosé.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.