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The effect of exercise, alcohol or both combined on health and physical performance


Alcohol (ethanol) is consumed on a daily basis by a large fraction of the population, and in many countries, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption is considered as an integral part of the diet. Although the relationship between alcohol intake and obesity is controversial, regular consumption of alcohol, through its effects in suppressing fat oxidation, is regarded as a risk factor for weight gain, increased abdominal obesity and hypertriglyceridemia. Indeed, alcohol taken with a meal leads to an increase in postprandial lipemia—an effect on postprandial metabolism that is opposite to that observed with exercise. Furthermore, although regular exercise training and/or a preprandial exercise session reduce postprandial lipemia independently of alcohol ingestion, the exercise-induced reduction in postprandial lipemia is nonetheless less pronounced when alcohol is also consumed with the meal. Whether or not alcohol influences exercise and sport performance remains contradictory. It is believed that alcohol has deleterious effects on the performance, although it may contribute to reduce pain and anxiety. The alcohol effects on sports performance depend on the type and dosage of alcohol, acute vs chronic administration, the alcohol elimination rate as well as the type of exercise.

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We are indebted to V Lecoultre for his interest and outstanding help in performing the study on alcohol and cycling performance. This study was partly supported by the Swiss Foundation for Nutrition Research.

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Correspondence to Y Schutz.

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Suter, P., Schutz, Y. The effect of exercise, alcohol or both combined on health and physical performance. Int J Obes 32, S48–S52 (2008).

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  • metabolism
  • alcohol
  • ethanol
  • exercise performance
  • cycling
  • lipemia

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