Archive for June, 2013

 Why are Smokers more likely to get Heart Disease?

June 30, 2013

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Why are Smokers more likely to get Heart Disease?
Smoking neuters “good” cholesterol

Smokers have a much higher risk of heart disease than non-smokers, with smokers about four times more likely to die from heart disease. New research from the Heart Research Institute’s Inflammation Group has uncovered a possible explanation for this higher risk: the presence of certain oxidants in the bloodstream, which may stop “good” cholesterol from doing its job.

Oxidants are your body’s weapon against bacterial infections – they’re part of a healthy immune system response. But excessive generation of oxidants has been linked to a number of diseases, including atherosclerosis, the dominant cause of heart disease. To find out more, a common oxidant called hypothiocyanous acid was the subject of the latest study from the Inflammation Group.

“This study focuses mainly on the oxidant hypothiocyanous acid (HOSCN), which we think may be elevated in smokers,” says Associate Professor Clare Hawkins, who led the current study. “Our suggestion is that perhaps HOSCN chemistry could play a role in the development of atherosclerosis.”

The study focuses on the effect HOSCN has on “good” cholesterol, or HDL. Ordinarily, HDL is protective against heart disease, as it shuttles cholesterol out of the fatty plaques that narrow the blood vessels in heart disease. “But when we looked at the ability of HDL to pull cholesterol out of cells in the fatty plaques, the protein which had been treated with HOSCN didn’t pull the cholesterol out nearly as efficiently as the native protein did,” says Hawkins.

Imagine you’re on a leaky boat, and you’re frantically bucketing out water to keep the boat afloat. In a similar fashion, the growth of fatty plaques on the artery wall is partially a balance between how fast cholesterol is deposited in the plaque, and how fast HDL can take cholesterol away. HOSCN hobbles HDL by damaging certain crucial structures (called tryptophan residues) on the HDL protein. Now you’re using a leaky bucket to bail out your leaky boat – your boat will flood because you can’t remove the water as efficiently. Similarly, damaged HDL can’t remove cholesterol from the fatty plaques as quickly, meaning more fatty deposits will accumulate on the walls of your arteries.

“People are becoming more aware that it’s not just the level of circulating HDL in the system, but it’s the dysfunctional versus functional HDL which is important,” says Hawkins. Damage to HDL’s tryptophan residues is commonly seen in blood taken from patients with advanced heart disease, and it’s looking more and more likely that common oxidants including HOSCN could be the culprits.

Perhaps the most important finding of the study is that this damage to HDL occurs with concentrations of HOSCN that are ordinarily found in the bloodstream of smokers. Previous studies on these oxidants have used concentrations tens or even hundreds of times higher than that found in the bloodstream.

While this study doesn’t provide a definitive smoking gun for the link between cigarettes and heart disease, it does provide a likely pathway by which smoking may cause lasting damage to the arteries of smokers. Cautions Hawkins: “Smoking brings a whole lot of toxic insult into your body, so I’m not saying that this is the only solution. But it’s a potentially contributing factor.”

 

Information sourced from http://www.hri.org.au/page.aspx?pid=638, http://www.quitnow.gov.au/

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Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Cinnamon Garlic Chicken Legs

June 27, 2013

Healthy Inspirations Coffs Harbour

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ kg chicken drumsticks
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, squashed with the flat of a knife
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3-4 Tbsp white wine, chicken stock or water

 Method

  1. Place the butter in a large sauté pan over moderate heat.  Brown the chicken, flipping them carefully with tongs until they are nice and crispy on both sides.
  2. Place chicken in your crockpot.  Add the squashed garlic, scattering it around the chicken.
  3. Add onions to the sauté pan and cook until translucent.  Add spices to the onions and sauté until fragrant.  Scrape onion mixture over chicken in the crockpot.
  4. Pour the chicken stock, white wine or water into the pan and deglaze it, scraping any bits off.  Pour over the onion mixture and chicken.
  5. Cook on HIGH for 3-4 hours or LOW for 5-6 hours, checking to be sure that the chicken is cooked thoroughly.
  6. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to dig the chicken out carefully; there will be quite a bit of liquid in the bottom of the crockpot and you’ll want to be sure you get the chicken legs out without them falling apart TOO badly.
  7. Serve with steamed vegies.
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The Unhappy Meal … is Fast Food Making You Unhappy?

June 25, 2013

We all know that consuming fast food is bad for our waistline, but what about our mental health?

Image

Information sourced from http://www.infographicsarchive.com/food-facts/infographic-the-unhappy-meal-can-fast-food-make-you-depressed/#prettyPhoto/1/

Exercise Makes You Smarter – Fitter Body, Fitter Brain.

June 23, 2013

I always knew that exercise made me feel better, but after reading Spark I can share with you scientific evidence that it also made me smarter. I always thought that it was just my morning jog that helped kick-start my days since my youth. I also believed that the discipline of exercise helped me train my brain to do what it did not naturally want to do, such as spending hours reading about subjects that really did not interest me. I did not expect that the biomechanics of movement, when repeated to the point of sustained physiologic discomfort, could actually stimulate neuronal development.

This last aspect of exercise is the premise of Spark, a book by Dr. John Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He has written more than 60 journal papers on psychiatry and psychopharmacology, along with the bestselling 2001 book, A User’s Guide to the Brain, which explains how neuroscience affects emotions, behavior and overall psychology.

Ratey opens Spark with a quote from Plato: “In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means: education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” From there Ratey begins to lays out the strong scientific foundation for his thesis: that exercise has a profound impact on cognitive abilities and mental health. Citing Duke University’s 2000 study that exercise is better than sertraline (Zoloft) in treating depression, Ratey feels that exercise is not just a simple therapeutic option, but one of the best treatments we have for most psychiatric problems.

Ratey cites many excellent references to support his theories. For example, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2002 article examined our ancestral patterns of physical activity (termed “Paleolithic rhythms”), which were established as part of our genetic hardware more than two million years ago. The study showed that we expend 38% less energy per unit BMI compared to our Stone Age ancestors. Paleolithic man walked almost 10 miles a day just to eat.

Darwinian evolution dictates that stresses that don’t kill you make you stronger. Ratey summarizes our biologic rhythm with: “Regular aerobic activity calms the body, so that it can handle more stress before the serious response involving heart rate and stress hormones kicks in. It raises the trigger point of the physical reaction. In the brain, the mild stress of exercise fortifies the infrastructure of our nerves cells by activating genes to produce certain proteins that protect the cells against damage and disease.”

Ratey describes the lack of physical activity in our high schools, noting that the average American student spends 5.5 hours per day in front of a screen of some sort, such as a television, computer, or handheld device. He comments on the failings of our traditional gym classes to counteract this sedentary culture, observing that less than 3% of adults over the age of 24 stay in shape through playing team sports.

Ratey shows that exercise not only counteracts our cultural lack of adequate physical activity, but also makes the brain more efficient. The strongest support for Ratey’s thesis comes from the California Dept. of Education, which has consistently shown that students with higher fitness scores also have higher test scores.

Physical-fitness programs such as swimming and square dancing also serve as a social lubricant, according to Ratey. If everyone feels self-conscious, then such programs offer a level playing field for all, and it becomes more palatable for students to take on an awkward but apparently beneficial activity. Corporations use this technique in bringing different personalities to work for the good of a team. Ratey makes the case for establishing exercise as a more integral part of all educational systems, or it is a lost opportunity for society in general, especially in the lower-income groups.

Ratey also reviews the molecular neurotransmitters of the brain: gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), glutamate, serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. About 80% of the signaling in the brain is carried out by the balance of glutamate and GABA. Glutamate stimulates neuronal activity, while GABA inhibits it. Serotonin helps modify runaway brain activity that can lead to depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsiveness. Norepinephrine often amplifies signals that influence attention, perception, motivation and arousal. Dopamine is the learning, reward, attention and movement neurotransmitter. Exercise, says Ratey, balances these neurotransmitters by increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which nourishes neurons like fertilizer. He reviews numerous clinical and animal studies that support the link between exercise, increased BDNF brain level, and increased learning capabilities.

According to Ratey, exercise works in everyday life to alleviate anxiety, both for the brain and body. It provides distraction, reduces muscle tension, builds brain resources, teaches a different outcome, reroutes neuronal circuits, improves resilience, and sets one free. At high intensity (75-90% of maximum heart rate), the body enters into anaerobic range. Here the pituitary gland releases human growth hormone (HGH). Ratey describes HGH as the “body’s master craftsman.” It helps burn belly fat by layering on muscle fibers, balances neurotransmitter levels, and boosts production of beneficial growth factors. Most important, HGH “pumps up brain volume,” meaning that high-intensity exercise can reverse loss of brain volume that naturally occurs with aging, says Ratey. HGH normally stays in the bloodstream only a few minutes, but a session of sprinting can keep the levels elevated for up to four hours.

Finally, Ratey offers a prescription for how much exercise people need. There is no firm answer, but the general guideline is about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per day or three hours per week.

I am a lifelong aficionado of exercise, and this book validates all the intuitive reasons I have had for my daily (almost religious) routine, which helps me prepare for the sedentary but stressful life of a surgeon. If you are in the mainstream of not-so-compulsive exercisers, this book will give you scientific and medical reasons to start living smarter, with less depression and anxiety … a great investment for both your brain and your body, as well as for public health.

Article sourced from http://www.marinmedicalsociety.org/magazine/articles/?articleid=542
Peter Bretan Jr., MD
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John Ratey, MD, with Eric Hagerman, 304 pages, Little, Brown, $25.

Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week – Coriander Lime Pork Wraps

June 20, 2013

Coriander Lime Pork Wraps ** Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500g pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1cm strips
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 small jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp coriander, chopped
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 8 butter lettuce leaves (about 1 large head)

Method

  1. Season both sides of pork with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  When hot, add coconut oil to pan. Sauté pork until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.  Remove pork from pan and place in a bowl.
  3. Add onion and jalapeno to hot pan, and sauté until tender.
  4. Add broth and tomatoes, and reduce heat to low. Simmer two more minutes, scraping pan sides and bottom to loosen any browned bits.
  5. Return pork and juices to pan.  Stir in lime juice and simmer until pork is fully cooked.
  6. Top with fresh coriander and avocado, and wrap with butter lettuce leaves to serve.
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10 Ways to Boost Your Energy Fast

June 18, 2013

Are you dealing with another episode of the 3 p.m. doldrums? Can you feel your energy draining and your eyelids starting to droop as the afternoon wears on?

When fatigue drags you down, don’t look to a candy bar, cup of coffee, or energy drink for a solution. The sugar and caffeine might give you an immediate pick-me-up, but after that quick high wears off, you’ll crash and feel even more drained and groggy than before.

Want to boost energy in a real and lasting way? Here are a few fatigue fighters that will leave you feeling refreshed, revitalized, and ready to take on your day.

1. Eat your breakfast. There’s a reason it’s called the most important meal of the day. A good, nutritious breakfast gives you the energy you need to stay awake and alert. People who eat breakfast every morning report less fatigue and stress than people who skip breakfast. High-fiber foods, like hot oatmeal, will stick with you longer than a sweet roll or pastry. As the day wears on, they’ll prevent you from getting hungry, which can also lead to low energy.

2. Do a downward dog. Yoga has so many different health benefits, it’s a wonder everyone isn’t twisting themselves into pretzels to take advantage of them. Some studies have found that the practice, which uses various postures and deep breathing for exercise and meditation, can be an excellent fatigue fighter.

3. Belt out your favorite tune. There’s a reason why it feels so good to sing in the shower. Singing gives you a kind of emotional high while it reduces levels of stress hormones in your body. So grab a hairbrush, put on your favorite song, and sing away. If you’re at work and you don’t want to face your co-workers’ puzzled stares, you might want to save your vocal stylings for the car.

4. Have a drink of water. Your body needs fluid to function properly. Yet you’re constantly losing fluid every time you breathe, sweat, and use the bathroom. If you don’t replenish those liquids, you can become dehydrated, which can leave you feeling drained and fatigued. You don’t necessarily have to follow the “eight glasses a day” rule, but you do want to drink enough water to keep your body well hydrated. You can tell you’re well hydrated when you don’t feel thirsty and your urine is light-colored. Try to get to the fridge or water cooler for a refill every few hours. The walk there will also help you wake up.

5. Go nuts. Eat a handful of almonds and peanuts, which are high in magnesium and folate (folic acid). These nutrients are essential for energy and cell production. A shortfall of these nutrients in your system can leave you feeling tired and weary.  

6. Suck on a cinnamon stick. Cinnamon isn’t just for sprinkling into your apple pie. Research finds that just a whiff of this scented spice can reduce fatigue and make you feel more alert. No cinnamon handy? Grab a mint from your bag. Peppermint’s sweet aroma is another fatigue fighter.

7. Take the stairs. Exercise is a natural energy booster because whenever you do it, oxygen-rich blood surges through your body to your heart, muscles, and brain. Regularly squeezing a workout into your day — even if you can only spare 10 minutes at a time — will help keep your energy levels at their peak. Get up and move every chance you get, even if it’s just to pace around in circles while you’re talking on the phone.

8. Let the sunshine in. When you go outside on a sunny day, it’s amazing how quickly your outlook starts to change and your energy level improves. Research confirms that just a few minutes of walking outside on a warm, clear day enhances mood, memory, and the ability to absorb new information. Going outside can even improve your self-esteem. If you absolutely can’t get out, open the shades and let some of that bright sunshine in.

9. Have a bite. Your brain needs fuel (otherwise known as glucose) to function at its best. When your blood sugar level drops, your mind will start running on fumes and will feel fuzzy as a result. So if you’re getting a little shaky and your head is starting to droop, eat a snack that will give you enough energy to take you through the rest of the afternoon. Snacks that combine protein with slow-burning carbs are best for maintaining your blood sugar levels over the long-term. Good examples of energy boosters are a banana spread with peanut butter or granola with fresh berries.

10. Hang out with upbeat friends. Emotions are surprisingly contagious. People who are constantly negative and down can sap your energy, while those who are always up and excited can give you a real lift. Stay away from energy vampires. Instead, surround yourself with friends who share similar goals and interests.

 

Information sourced from:  http://www.webmd.com/balance/diet-exercise-stress-10/boost-energy

 

 

Barefoot Running, is it all it’s been promoted as?

June 16, 2013
Is Barefoot-Style Running Best? New Studies Cast Doubt
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS

Minimalist shoes and barefoot running may not be ideal for running.

Barefoot-running enthusiasts long have believed that running without shoes or in minimalist footwear makes running easier, speedier and less injurious. But a surprisingly large number of new studies examining just how the body actually responds when we run in our birthday shoes or skimpy footwear suggest that for many people, those expectations are not being met.

Consider, for instance, the findings of the most definitive of the new studies, published last month in The Journal of Applied Physiology. It looked into whether landing near the front of the foot when you run is more physiologically efficient than striking the ground first with the heel.

This is a central issue in any discussion of barefoot-style running, because one of the supposed hallmarks of running shoeless or in minimalist footwear is that doing so promotes a forefoot landing. Without the heel cushioning provided by standard running shoes, barefoot proponents say, runners will gravitate naturally toward landing lightly near the balls of the feet.

And they should, most proponents add, because landing near the front of the foot will require less oxygen and effort and allow you to push harder at any given speed and ultimately run faster or longer.

But that idea, while appealing, has not been well scrutinized. So researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst recruited 37 experienced runners, 19 of whom were habitual heel-strikers and 18 of whom landed first near the front of the foot. (Heel striking is far more common than forefoot striking among modern runners, by most estimates, with at least 70 percent of us nowadays leading with our heels.)

The researchers began by outfitting all of the volunteers with the same neutral running flats and then having each run on a treadmill as he or she normally would, using his or her preferred foot strike. The volunteers ran at three different speeds, equivalent to an easy, middling and fast pace. Throughout, the researchers measured oxygen uptake, heart rates and, through mathematical calculations, the extent to which carbohydrates were providing energy.

Then, in a separate experiment, they asked each runner to switch styles — the heel-strikers were to land near the balls of their feet and the forefoot strikers with their heels — while the researchers gathered the same data as before.

In the end, this data showed that heel-striking was the more physiologically economical running form, by a considerable margin. Heel strikers used less oxygen to run at the same pace as forefoot strikers, and many of the forefoot strikers used less oxygen — meaning they were more economical — when they switched form to land first with their heels.

Most of the runners also burned fewer carbohydrates as a percentage of their energy expenditure when they struck first with their heels. Their bodies turned to fats and other fuel sources, “sparing” the more limited stores of carbohydrates, says Allison Gruber, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the study. Because depleting carbohydrates results in “hitting the wall,” or abruptly sagging with fatigue, “these results tell us that people will hit the wall faster if they are running with a forefoot pattern versus a rear-foot pattern,” Dr. Gruber says.

These findings undermine some of the entrenched beliefs about minimalist shoes or barefoot running, but they jibe closely with the conclusions of multiple studies presented last week at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Indianapolis. Five separate studies there found no significant benefits, in terms of economy, from switching to minimalist, barefoot-style footwear.

The news on injury prevention and barefoot-style running is likewise sobering. Although many barefoot-style runners believe that wearing lightweight shoes or none at all toughens foot muscles, lessening the likelihood of foot-related running injuries, researchers at Brigham Young University did not find evidence of that desirable change. If foot muscles become tauter and firmer, the scientists say, people’s arches should consequently grow higher. But in a study also presented at the sports medicine meeting, they found no changes in arch height among a group of runners who donned minimalist shoes for 10 weeks.

Other researchers who presented at the meeting had simply asked a group of 566 runners if they had tried barefoot-style shoes and, if so, whether they liked them. Almost a third of the runners said they had experimented with the minimalist shoes, but 32 percent of those said that they had suffered injuries that they attributed to the new footwear, and many had switched back to their previous shoes.

None of this new science, of course, proves that barefoot-style running is inadvisable or disadvantageous for all runners; it proves only that the question of whether barefoot is best is not easily answered. “There are lots of individual instances where people report that change” from one type of running shoes or running form to another “was good for them,” says Rodger Kram, a professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who’s long studied running form. “There are also lots of cases of people switching or trying to switch who got hurt.”

The primary lesson of the accumulating new science about barefoot-style running, he says, is that “the biomechanics of running are not simple, and generic proclamations” — like claims that all runners will benefit from barefoot-style shoes and running form — “are surely incorrect.”

Dr. Gruber agrees. “I always recommend that runners run the way that is most natural and comfortable for them,” she says. “Each runner runs a certain way for a reason, likely because of the way they were physically built. Unless there is some indication that you should change things, such as repeated injury, do not mess with that plan.”

Article first appeared June 5, 2013 on: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/05/is-barefoot-style-running-best-new-studies-cast-doubt/

Healthy Inspirations Recipe of the Week

June 13, 2013

Slow-cooker breakfast pie

Serves: 8

Ingredients

Coconut oil
8 eggs, whisked
½ butternut pumpkin, grated
500g minced pork
1 brown onion, diced
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 – 4 cups extra vegies eg mushrooms, capsicum, zucchini

Method

Grease slow cooker with a bit of coconut oil to make sure none of the egg sticks.

Add all ingredients to your slow cooker and use a spoon to mix well.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Cut into 8 portions – In a round slow cooker the portions will be like cutting a pie. In an oval slow cooker you could cut off the two ends and then divide the central portion into 6.

 

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Healthy Inspirations – Recipe of the Week

June 6, 2013

Lamb & Bacon Meatballs

lambandbaconmeatballs

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

Meatballs

6 bacon eyes, finely diced
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried sage or 2 tsp fresh sage, chopped
1 tsp ground paprika
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
500g minced lamb
1 egg

Sauce

4 cups freshly diced tomatoes
1 tsp basil, finely chopped
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Method

Preheat a fan-forced oven to 180°C. In a medium sized pan on medium/high heat fry onion and bacon in oil for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Add the sage, paprika, salt and pepper and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool.
In a large mixing bowl, combine cooled bacon mixture, egg and minced lamb and mix well.
Roll the lamb mixture into 12 balls and place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until cooked through.
To make the sauce, place diced tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper in a medium sized pan and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked meatballs and simmer gently for a further 10 minutes.
Serve with steamed green vegies.

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Alcohol and Exercise

June 4, 2013

Alcohol in your system is detrimental to any kind of fitness activity (except maybe on the dance floor). Here’s how booze wreaks havoc on your regimen.

1. Slower Recovery
Hard workouts drain the glycogen stores (carbs stored in the liver and muscles) and leave your muscle tissue in need of repair. “Pouring alcohol into your syste

m as soon as you finish stalls the recovery process,” says Tavis Piattoly, R.D. High levels of alcohol displace the carbs, leaving your stores still 50 percent lower than normal even eight hours later, according to one study. Sip or snack on a combo of muscle-repairing protein and carbs (think low-fat chocolate milk or peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers) before tipping back.

2. Packed-On Fat
When booze is on board, your body, besides having to deal with the surplus of calories, prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol over burning fat and carbs. Alcohol also breaks down amino acids and stores them as fat. “For some reason this process is most pronounced in the thighs and glutes,” says Piattoly. “Excessive alcohol consumption really chews up muscle in those areas.” It also increases levels of cortisol (a stress hormone), which further encourages fat storage, particularly in your midsection.

3. Disrupted Sleep
Boozing also blows your muscle recovery and performance by sapping your sleep. In a study of 93 men and women, researchers found that alcohol decreased sleep duration and increased wakefulness (particularly in the second half of the night), especially in women, whose sleep time was decreased by more than 30 minutes over the night. “Disrupting the sleep cycle can reduce your human growth hormone output—which builds muscle—by as much as 70 percent,” says Piattoly.

4. Depleted Water and Nutrients
Alcohol irritates the stomach lining, which can reduce your capacity to absorb nutrients (the reason you have an upset stomach after a few too many), says Brian R. Christie, Ph.D.—not to mention that alcohol makes you pee. For every gram of ethanol you suck down, you pump out 10 milliliters of urine (that’s about 9.5 ounces for two beers). As little as 2 percent dehydration hurts endurance performance. And by the way, you can’t rehydrate with a dehydrating drink (e.g., beer).

TWO RUNNERS WALK INTO A BAR…

No, this isn’t the beginning of a tired joke, it’s an increasingly common real-life occurrence. And research shows that, once inside, those avid runners—and other frequent exercisers—tend to accrue bigger tabs than the average bar patron. Picture the Cheers gang clad in head-to-toe sweat-wicking spandex.

A 2009 study from the University of Miami found that the more people exercise, the more they drink—with the most active women consuming the highest amounts every month. It’s a peculiar phenomenon that has had scientists scratching their heads since 1990, when research first pinpointed the alcohol-exercise connection. But they expected that, at some point, the script would be flipped—that the biggest boozers would exercise less. Never happened.

Instead, this landmark 2009 analysis of more than 230,000 men and women revealed that, on average, drinkers of both genders and all ages (not just wild twentysomethings) were 10 percent more likely to engage in vigorous exercise like running. Heavy drinkers exercised 10 minutes more each week than moderate drinkers and 20 minutes more than abstainers. An extra bender actually increased the number of minutes of total and vigorous exercise the men and women did that week.

“There’s this misconception that heavy drinkers are exercise-averse couch potatoes,” explains study author Michael T. French, Ph.D., a professor of health economics at the University of Miami. “That may be true in some cases, but that’s certainly not what we’ve found.”

This trend seems particularly pronounced in women—especially active, educated women, who, according to recent research from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, are drinking more than ever. In part, progress may be the root of this evil: With growing numbers of women in the workplace and other male-dominated arenas, it has become increasingly socially acceptable for women to go out and belly up to the bar alongside their male counterparts—and to overdo it.

Working Out to Work It Off
One simple theory scientists have to support the drinking-exercise connection is the morning-after phenomenon. In this case, the party girl who downs a few appletinis (and maybe some mozzarella sticks) feels the need to repent for those calories by banging out five or six miles the next morning.

“Women who consume alcohol could simply be exercising more to burn it off and avoid weight gain,” says French. “Likewise, they may drink more simply because they can, as they know they’re burning calories, so they’re less worried about the weight gain.”

But exercising to atone for the sins of the night before doesn’t explain why someone would chase an indoor cycling class with a round of drinks, which also happens with staggering frequency. This, researchers say, could be the product of a “work hard, play hard” personality type. “There are people who are sensation seekers,” says Ana M. Abrantes, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School. “They engage in activities that produce intense sensations and can be quickly bored by things that don’t produce those feelings.”

For others, it might be a matter of blowing off stress. Which may be why some women offset their tension with a boot-camp class, or by getting loaded, or both. “Exercising stimulates the release of serotonin, which is your natural antidepressant, as well as dopamine, which is the primary neurotransmitter in your brain’s reward center. It makes us feel good,” says brain chemistry researcher J. David Glass, Ph.D., a professor at Kent State University. Alcohol has a similar effect—hence, the buzz you get soothes your worries (if only temporarily).

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Article first appeared in:
http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/exercise-and-alcohol,
http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/drinking-and-exercise