3 Tips to Maximize The Health Benefits of Red Wine

This morning, I saw a news headline that read, “A glass of red wine is the equivalent to an hour at the gym, says new study – New research reveals skipping the gym in favour of the pub is ok.” (Source here)

red wine glass
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/leshaines123/9031746040

Really? Well, then I’m going to head to my nearest liquor store right now. And it’s a good thing I live in the great state of New Hampshire, where we have no sales tax because I’ll be stocking up like it’s the end of the world.

But wait, the whole thing about drinking red wine being the equivalent to an hour at the gym actually sounds too good to be true, and SURPRISE – it is!

But judging by the number of times this misleading article has been shared, this gives me reason for concern! Those who actually buy into this nonsense and believe that drinking a glass of red wine is equivalent to an hour at the gym certainly haven’t spend an hour training with me at any gym – or anyone else who knows what they’re doing for that matter.

I mean, by that rationale, saying that “a glass of red wine is equivalent to an hour at the gym because it has health benefits” is like saying that “sitting on your butt is a great way to lose weight because it burns calories.”

Keep dreaming, people.

As it turns out, the author of that article either a) misinterpreted the findings of this “new study,” which was actually published three years ago, and/or b) drew some outlandish conclusions from the results of the study, which unfortunately, is standard practice in most health-related journalism.

Note: there’s another possible scenario here. It’s the editor’s fault!

So, let’s get to the bottom of this. Here’s a link to the actual study: Improvements in skeletal muscle strength and cardiac function induced by resveratrol during exercise training contribute to enhanced exercise performance in rats.

You can read the abstract to get the gist of what actually happened, or even the whole paper if you’d like. But let me summarize what the researchers did and what they actually found.

Here’s what happened…

The researchers took some rats and put them into four groups…

  1. Sedentary rats fed a standard diet.
  2. Sedentary rats fed the standard diet with an extra supplement of resveratrol.
  3. Active (ie exercise trained) rats fed a standard diet.
  4. Active (ie exercise trained) rats fed the standard diet with an extra supplement of resveratrol.

Note: resveratrol is an antioxidant found in red wine (and other foods like red grapes, chocolate, and peanut butter) that is known to have health benefits.

Now, if you read the study’s abstract, you’ll learn that the rats who were exercise trained and ate the resveratrol performed 21% better after their 12-week treadmill exercise regime. The rats on resv were also slightly better at utilizing fat for energy.

So, the researchers finally concluded that, “Overall, our findings provide evidence that the capacity for fatty acid oxidation is augmented by the addition of RESV to the diet during exercise training, and that this may contribute to the improved physical performance of rats following exercise training.” (emphasis mine)


But hold your horses there, bub. Thanks to the handy-dandy research done at Examine.com – a legitimate and unbiased research organization for nutrition and supplements that took a close look at this study – we know two things…

“Even with the study being done on rats, exercise was shown to be far more beneficial than resveratrol.” (approximately 15X more beneficial in this study)

“One would need to drink roughly 1300 glasses of red wine every day to match the resveratrol content from the study.” (this is the best news I’ve heard all week!)

-Source here.

Leave it to the good folks at Examine.com to tell it like it is!

So, as it turns out, the author of that article may have gone a little too far with their interpretation of the study. Or, at least, the editor went a little too far with their sensational headlines.

Now, in the interest of actually being helpful, here are a few tips to help you maximize the benefits of drinking red wine. It’s on the house.

  1. Enjoy a glass of red wine once in awhile, if you’d like – as part of a balanced diet.
  2. Drink responsibly.
  3. Don’t expect your red wine consumption to have a significant positive impact on your health and fitness.

And in case this isn’t crystal clear: drinking a glass of red wine is not the same as exercising for an hour. And no, going to the pub probably isn’t going to improve your health and performance – and certainly not more than training at the gym (or at home, in a park, etc.). And while there are health benefits from drinking an occasional glass of red wine, it’s going to take a lot more than that to get you healthy, fit, and looking/feeling/performing at your best. But you knew that already.

Carry on.

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2 Responses

  1. I appreciate the article. I found it by searching the question whether a glass of red wine would actually nullify a good workout since alcohol dominates metabolism.

    Could you speak to that.

    • Hi Len,

      That’s a very good question. The short answer is that no, a glass of red wine won’t nullify a workout. But depending on the timing, it will definitely affect your performance and your recovery, among other things. For example, if you workout during the day, and have a glass of red wine at night, it will negatively affect your sleep cycle, and thus, your recovery.

      The long answer is that how alcohol affects your metabolism and how it interplays with exercise and recovery is very complicated and some of the details are well-beyond my expertise. But it’s better to not think of it in such an isolated manner. Instead, consider the long-term effects of your workout program and your drinking habits and adjust accordingly. In the grand scheme of things, having a glass of red wine every once in awhile isn’t going to have a major impact on your health or your training. But if you’re having a glass of wine a few times a week, some of the downsides will start to add up.

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