Do People Who Exercise Have a Higher Alcohol Tolerance?

Laughing men with beers

After a round of golf, a pick-up game of basketball or a challenging hike, you may be tempted to go out for a few beers. But your recent workout may affect the absorption of alcohol in your system. Exercise can affect alcohol tolerance in a number of ways. Get all the facts before you start slamming those shots.

Improved Tolerance

Exercise reduces sensitivity to intoxication, according to a University of Houston study in 2010. (Reference 1) The brains of rats that exercised for 14 days before a four-day alcohol binge were found to have less alcohol-related cell death than is usually the case. They also had reduced behavioral sensitivity to intoxication. (Reference 1) This implies that exercising before you imbibe can actually protect your brain from some of the harmful effects of drinking. This also indicates that a tolerance to alcohol's effects is increased through exercise.

Muscle vs Fat

Alcohol is more soluble in water than in fat, and muscle tissue is rich with water. That means if you are using exercise to increase your muscle mass, such as with lifting weights, then as you gain muscle and lose fat, your alcohol tolerance should increase. The more muscle you exchange for fat, the better distribution in your body of the alcohol you drink, which means you need more alcohol to feel drunk. If you are looking to increase your tolerance, consider adding some biceps curls and bench presses into your workout routine.

Genetic Tolerance

All the exercise in the world won't change your genes. According to Dr. Raymond White of the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center in California, a significant factor in alcohol tolerance is genetics. You may simply have been born with more or less tolerant genes. In an article published in a 2011 issue of "Alcohol and Alcoholism," a European study discovered that genetic variances can affect the loss of control one typically feels when drinking. Whether or not you exercise, your alcohol tolerance may be determined by the genes your parents passed on to you.

Alcohol Makes You Weaker

Exercise can help with alcohol tolerance, but alcohol does not help you get stronger. If you are aiming to build muscle through damaging muscle fibers in an eccentric weight-training routine, alcohol consumption immediately after a workout can hurt your body's ability to build the muscle back up. As a result, you end up weaker, and unable to lift the same amount of weight at your next workout. Allow your body to recover after strenuous eccentric exercise before imbibing to ensure the best results from your routine.