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Science Has It: Drinking Red Wine Enhances Exercise Performance

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Can it really be true? You mean, you can just have a glass of red wine and avoid those sweat drenching sessions at the gym? Well, not exactly, but recent studies have shown that red wine does contain one ingredient which has revealed certain health benefits in recent tests. Let us have a look at what these experiments show and look at the pros and cons of that seductive glass of red wine.

“I drink red wine on ice to water it down.” -Diane Keaton

First, the good news

We need antioxidants because they can neutralize the free radicals in the body, which damage healthy cells. Fruit and vegetables have generous supplies. But red wine also has quite a few. These are called polyphenols, one of which is resveratrol. This latter one has attracted scientists’ attention. Why?

A University of Alberta study showed that high doses of resveratrol produced similar benefits for the heart and muscular strength as physical exercise.

Now imagine older and disabled people who just cannot get the benefits of physical exercise. If they get enough resveratrol through consuming red wine, nuts, raspberries and mulberries, then that would be a great boost for their health. Researchers say that it might even be possible to take a supplement containing the correct dosage of resveratrol but more studies need to be done.

If you are a teetotaller and want to get the same benefits for your heart, muscles and joints, then try red grape juice instead.

Yes, alcohol in small quantities can help to keep cholesterol levels right, prevent blood clots and preserve arteries.

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“Beer is made by men, wine by God.” -Martin Luther

Now, the bad news

Well, not bad news exactly but just a few notes to put all this research into perspective so that you do not abandon the gym for your local wine bar.

Most of the research on resveratrol has been done on animals and in test tubes, and they are not yet able to judge the effects on humans in the long term.

The effects on older people are not yet proved. Dr. Richard Semba, from John Hopkins University School of Medicine, carried out research on 800 senior citizens in the Chianti region in Italy, where red wine is plentiful. But after 11 years, he came to the conclusion that those with higher levels of resveratrol were not protected in any significant way from dying of cancer or heart disease. Those with lower levels had better heart health, he found.

What’s the take home message?

Yes, a glass of red wine may benefit your health. But alcohol consumption in great quantities can lead to all sorts of problems, such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity. It can become an addiction (as if you did not know!) and aggravate health problems. Alcohol is basically a neurotoxin which can poison brain cells and damage your delicate hormonal balance.

According to WHO, heavy drinking kills one person every 10 seconds. If you do the math, that is 3,153,600 deaths a year.

One solution in avoiding all that alcohol is to get the resveratrol through the use of supplements. But these cannot really replace all the benefits of a good workout. In fact, you need some of the bad free radicals released by exercise to help your body to recover and help you improve your performance. After all, exercise will make your heart stronger and that puts less pressure on the arteries, which helps to lower blood pressure.

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The Harvard Medical School recommends a glass of red wine, rather than taking all those resveratrol supplements. This is the best way to enhance your exercise regime and it can also have anti-aging properties.

Another great benefit of having a glass of red wine after your workout is that it can help digestion and add to the good bacteria in your intestines. In addition, you will be able to considerably reduce your risk of getting cancer and it will help your mind to stay alert.

That glass of red wine can also help to soothe those sore muscles and make you less sensitive to pain. As in all things, moderation is the key.

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” -Oscar Wilde

Let us know in the comments whether a glass of red wine has really helped your exercise regime.

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Featured photo credit: Wine static/Angelo Amboldivia flickr.com

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