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Are beer & exercising compatible?

It’s no secret that beer is the most consumed alcoholic beverage in the world. says that in 2017, the average citizen in the Czech Republic consumed 137.38 liters, claiming the highest per capita beer consumption spot, with Poland coming in second at 98.06 liters per citizen. The U.S. ranked 12th on the beer consumption list at 74.90.

New research — “Beer or Ethanol (hard liquor) Effects on the Body Composition Response to High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), the Beer-HIIT Study” — which appears in the April issue of the journal Nutrients, chose to “determine the effects of a 10-week (two days/week) HIIT program on anthropometric and body composition measurements, and to assess whether those effects are influenced by the moderate consumption of beer (at least five days/week) or its alcohol equivalent.”

Researchers from the Department of Medical Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Granada, Spain, recruited 72 healthy male and female adults, between the ages of 18 to 40, to participate in a non-training group or HIIT training. Accordingly, those participants choosing the training group T were given the options, as to whether they preferred to receive alcohol or not.

Training participants, who selected to consume alcohol, were randomly chosen to receive beer (5.4%; T-beer group) or the equivalent amount of alcohol (vodka; T-ethanol group) in sparkling water. Those choosing no-alcohol were randomly allocated to receive alcohol-free beer (0.0%; T-0.0 beer group) or sparkling water (T-water group).

The beverages, which were ingested daily from Monday to Friday, provided equal volumes of fluid for all groups (660 ml for men and 330 ml for women), with males ingesting 330 ml with lunch and dinner, while females ingested 330 ml with dinner only.

Prior to and after the 10-week assessment period, body weight, height, waist and hip circumference were measured, along with DXA scans for body composition determination, total fat mass, visceral (abdominal) fat, lean mass and bone mineral density.

The twice weekly training sessions, which had a volume of 40-65 minutes per week, took place in the late afternoon or early evening from Monday to Friday, allowing a rest period of, at least, 48 hours between training sessions.

The training sessions started with a dynamic, standardized warm-up, including several muscle activation exercises. The participants also performed eight weight-bearing exercises in a circuit format twice per set (i.e., frontal plank, high knees up, horizontal row, battle rope, squat, dead lift, push up and burpees) — including passive rest between exercise and active rest between sets at a perceived exertion level of six out of 10 — concluding with a cool-down protocol.

The study determined that “10 weeks of HIIT did not have an influence on BM (body mass), but this type of training significantly decreased FM (fat mass) and FM percentage and increased LM (lean mass) in healthy adults,” causing the researchers to comment “these positive effects were not affected by the concomitant regular intake of beer or its alcohol equivalent, in moderate amounts.”

Surprisingly, “neither HIIT nor beer or alcohol intake influenced adipose tissue distribution or BMD (bone mineral density). The lack of effect on BM or BMI was the result of the simultaneous decrease in FM and increase in LM.”

Researchers also pointed out rightly, that alcohol consumption could reduce muscle protein synthesis (building muscle) by suppressing the anabolic (stimulus) in skeletal muscle.

The study limitations included a small sample size, a lack of tracking movement (steps), omission of collecting dietary data, other than compliance to a Mediterranean diet (questionnaire) and without randomizing the participants.

It’s certainly not a justification to fool yourself into thinking that drinking beer or the equivalent, while concurrently exercising, is going to make you lean and fit. The key word in the study was “moderate.”

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