Every September, more than 8,000 runners descend upon the quaint wine country of Bordeaux, France to participate in the annual Medoc Marathon.
This full-marathon event is very popular not only because it allows participants to wear colorful costumes while running through scenic views in the most glorious vineyards and exquisite chateaus.
The Medoc Marathon is known for serving runners a more interesting – perhaps more pleasurable – beverage than sports drinks at the beverage stations.
Instead of electrolytes, glucose, and refined sugars, runners are served red wine and pâté!
While you may not find many events that serve wine to runners who are still on the course, the sumptuous beverage borne out of the beloved grape is one of the favorite indulges of athletes.
Runners’ – and America’s – Love Affair With Wine
Deena Kastor; Bronze Medal, 2004 Athens Olympics
A study conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine revealed that runners, even just the recreational ones, drank more wine than sedentary individuals.
Exhibit A would be Deena Kastorwho said she indulged in a glass of red wine the night before the marathon at the 2004 Athens Olympics. The result? Kastor took home the bronze medal!
As it turns out, Kastor’s nightly ritual before a big running event is to have a relaxing glass of her favorite red wine.
For Kastor and the other 84 million wine drinkers in the United States of America, wine is not just a great source of pleasure. It is also an enjoyable elixir that promotes good health.
12 Health Benefits Of Drinking Wine
The health benefits of drinking wine have been documented by many studies. On a given day, your Facebook feed would have at least one shared article on why drinking wine – and alcohol in general – is good for you.
Is it merely an act seeking validation for indulgent behavior? Perhaps, but scientific evidence does exist on why you should drink wine for health reasons.
As you know, wine is made from grapes. This unassuming berry might be small in size but it is packed with nutrients, vitamins, and healthy minerals.
However, the ingredient that has gotten scientists excited about the benefits of drinking red wine is a flavonoid called resveratrol.
Resveratrol is a compound found in the skin of grapes. Numerous research studies have shown that resveratrol has the following health-enhancing properties:
- Antioxidant; can remove toxic and cancer-causing free radicals from the body.
- Lower the level of Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) otherwise known as the “bad cholesterol”.
- Increase the level of High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), the “good cholesterol”.
- Reduce the level of inflammation in the body.
- Slow down the ravaging effects of aging.
What other health benefits can you expect from drinking a glass of wine per day?
- Reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Reduce the incidence of forming dangerous blood clots.
- Improve the function of the endothelium which protects your blood vessels.
- Increase the number of good bacteria in your stomach lining.
- Piceatannol, which is found in resveratrol, may have properties that can stop the formation of fat cells.
- Polyphenols in wine may help lower the risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s Disease.
- A study conducted by the University of Buffalo revealed that drinking 1 to 2 glasses of red wine per day may shut down the production of an enzyme-linked to depression.
These 12 reported health benefits of drinking wine are supported by research. However, most of the research involved average people, not regular runners.
Runners lead active lifestyles. Competitive runners have more stringent nutritional and diet requirements than recreational runners.
Will drinking wine regularly affect your running performance? Is Deena Kastor simply an exception and not the rule?
Is Drinking Wine Good For Runners?
As we discussed in our blog ”How to Hydrate Properly and Improve Your Performance”, running in a dehydrated state will affect your performance and put your health at serious risk.
Long-distance runners, especially those who are training for a marathon, should prioritize hydration.
Runners are often discouraged from drinking alcohol because of its diuretic effect. Frequent trips to the restroom are the norm when you drink alcoholic beverages.
However, new research has shown that the diuretic effect associated with alcohol consumption may not be as bad as initially thought.
According to sports nutritionist and author, Nancy Clark, alcohol loses its dehydrating effect after 24 hours.
Clark offers the following advice to runners who want to mix wine with their training:
- Limit your consumption to just 1 glass of wine.
- Increase your intake of water and carbohydrates on evenings where you treat yourself to wine.
Thus, as endurance athletes, if you want to enjoy red wine with your meals, you will just have to increase your water intake and bump up the number of carbohydrates in your diet.
Perhaps the biggest benefit wine drinking has for runners is on the psychological and emotional side.
Training for any athletic event can be a stressful experience. If you are training for a marathon, you will endure grueling running sessions 3 to 4 days a week.
The stress levels can go up several notches if you factor in the following:
- You have a full-time job or run a business.
- You have a family.
- You are dealing with nagging injuries or a health issue.
Stress is not healthy on your mind or body! It can lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to acquiring viruses.
Stress can slow down metabolism, increase body fat, and decrease muscle mass. If you are stressed out, you will not be able to get high-quality sleep every night.
Having a glass of red wine will help you relax and unwind after a difficult day or a challenging running session. Moderate consumption of alcohol may contribute to a good night’s sleep.
How Much Wine Can A Runner Drink Before A Race?
The keyword for runners is “moderation”.
What is considered moderate consumption of alcohol?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has established the following guidelines for moderate drinking of alcohol:
- Men – Up to 4 alcoholic beverages in a single day; maximum of 14 alcoholic beverages in 1 week.
- Women – Up to 3 alcoholic beverages in a single day; maximum of 7 alcoholic beverages in 1 week.
The NIAAA further clarifies that the definition of “1 drink” will depend on the alcohol content of the beverage:
- Beer (5% alcohol) – 12 ounces or 1 bottle of regular beer
- Malt Liquor (7% alcohol) – 9 ounces
- Wine (12% alcohol) – 5 ounces or 1 to 2 glasses
Runners should follow the low end of the NIAAA’s guidelines. If you want to have a glass of wine the night before a race or a running session, limit your consumption to only one 3- ounce serving,
You should also consider the number of calories in wine. A glass of red wine contains 125 calories while white wine is slightly lower at 122 calories.
Pairing wine and cheese or fruit is a fun and wonderful activity. However, as a runner, you have to keep track of your calories.
Although wine has fewer calories than beer, pairing it with cheese will easily drive up the calorie count. Fruits are good for you but consuming excess sugars at night will only result in packing in unwanted fat.
So don’t be afraid to have a bit of wine the night before a race or an important run. Drinking wine will not affect your performance as long as you keep it down to one 3-ounce serving.
The best time for runners to indulge in the pleasures of wine drinking is after the race. The race is over and all the hard work has paid off. Time to break open the bottle and share it with your running community!
Just make sure you get in enough fluids in your body – especially electrolytes and simple carbohydrates – before spreading serious wine cheers with your family and friends.
Always remember to take moments to thoroughly unwind on occasion with your favorite bottle of wine.
As we discussed in the article, wine is rich in healthy antioxidants that can fight off free radical damage which occurs during high intensity or long-duration exercises.
If you enjoyed this article, feel free to share it with your community. Also, check out our selection of fine California wines (www.wine4runners.com). You may want to gift a friend – or yourself – after a tremendous race event!