September 2021

Can Beer Detract From Benefits of HIIT?

With high intensity interval training (HIIT) continuing to gain momentum across age groups as a regular part of physical activity, Spanish researchers noted that beer consumption was also part of this group’s practice, and they wondered about its impact. They designed a study to look at the effects of a 10-week (2 days/wk) HIIT program on cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength and power parameters, and also to assess the possible influence of a moderate consumption of beer (at least during the week) or its alcohol equivalent.

The researchers recruited 73 adults (mean age 24 ± 6 years; 35 females) and divided them into 5 groups. Four groups were assigned the HIIT intervention while the fifth group was a control Non-Training group (n = 15). Participants in the training groups chose whether they preferred receiving alcohol or alcohol-free beverages. Those choosing alcohol were randomized to either beer or ethanol intake: i) T-Beer group (alcohol beer, 5.4%; n = 13) or ii) T-Ethanol (sparkling water with vodka, 5.4%; n = 14). Those choosing alcohol-free intake were randomized to iii) T-Water group (sparkling water, 0.0%; n = 16) or iv) T-0.0 Beer group (alcohol-free beer, 0.0%; n = 15). Men drank 330 ml (~11.2 oz) of the beverage at lunch and dinner; women drank 330 ml only at dinner. Maximal oxygen uptake in absolute and relative terms (VO2 max.), maximal heart rate, total test duration, hand grip strength, and 4 types of vertical jumps were measured before and after the intervention.

Significant improvements in absolute and relative values of VO2 max, and total test duration (all P < 0.05) were seen in all the training groups as well as clinical improvements in hand grip strength. Regular intake of beer or alcohol did not appear to influence these positive effects. There were no changes in the vertical jumps in any of the groups.

They concluded that a moderate* beer or alcohol intake does not mitigate the positive effect of a 10-week HIIT on physical fitness in young healthy adults.

[*Editor’s note: This study defined moderate intake as ~11.2 oz alcoholic beverage (5.4% alcohol) with a meal, 2 drinks over the course of the day for men and 1 for women. Today’s average craft beer is 5.9% alcohol by volume (ABV), with some ranging far above, including Sam Adam’s most recent limited edition offering, Utopias, at 28% ABV.]

Source: Molina-Hidalgo C, et al. Influence of daily beer or ethanol consumption on physical fitness in response to a high-intensity interval training program. The BEER-HIIT study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2020;17(1):29. doi: 10.1186/s12970-020-00356-7

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