Which do you love more, drinking or exercising? I use the word “love” here in the sense of commitment; if you had to give up one, which would it be? For many Boston College students, this is a hard question to answer. We love the humid Hades that is the Plex, but we also love drinking copious amounts of alcohol on multiple occasions during the week. Though this quirk may be consistent with several colleges across the USA, I’d be just crazy enough to propose that the obsession with these two behaviors is especially intense at BC. So, which one do you love more? Furthermore, have you ever considered the two to be inherently intertwined? It may be that we love one because we love the other, and vice versa.
A Women’s Health article from this past March suggests that our dedication to running, biking, and planking has something to do with the same adrenaline seeking behavior that is inherent in binge drinking. In fact, a 2009 University of Miami study found that exercise enthusiasts were more likely to binge drink than those who don’t work out regularly. This trend is especially prevalent in women, and women of all ages, for that matter. For those of you who weren’t paying attention during AlcoholEdu, binge drinking is characterized as consuming four or more drinks on one occasion (for women). If you’re an avid Plexer, you are more likely to engage in binge drinking. The basic scientific explanation for this is that reward pathways in our brain are trained to crave experiences that make our blood pump faster. Like Cardio Kickboxing. Or a gin and tonic.
This is not the only existing hypothesis that tries to make sense of this connection. A theory suggests that the correlation between excessive drinking and excessive exercising has to do with our general wellbeing more than our crazed need for an adrenaline rush. BC girls are, in general, pretty careful about what they eat at school. We have several options in our dining halls, and are sure to eat healthily and work out consistently, consequently maintaining Boston College’s high ranking as one of the nation’s fittest colleges. When it comes to drinking, however, we are often very careless. One standard shot of vodka has 80-120 calories in it. If you have, say, six shots in one night, that’s over 600 extra calories you’re consuming. This, Women’s Health suggests, may be one of the reasons that binge drinkers are also often “binge” exercisers. Working off those mixed drinks on a Sunday afternoon makes you feel better about the nutritional transgressions you committed the night before. It is a stress reliever, a form of atonement, and a source of pleasure (“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!”), all at the same time.
So, is there really a legitimate relationship between binge drinking and exercise? It would seem so. This raises countless questions about the true measure of “health” at BC; are we really as healthy as we claim to be? Nobody is going to argue that drinking heavily two (or three, or four) nights a week is beneficial to our health. Aside from obvious health issues, there are psychological and social problems that go hand in hand with binge drinking. Though we can try to make amends with our livers by going on a long run the morning after a night of partying, exercising after drinking heavily can actually harm your body, as you are generally still dehydrated for several hours after sobering up and your body is depleted of several nutrients that enable muscle growth. This exhausts your body more; talk about a catch-22.
I am not really sure what the answers are to these questions. I guess we’ll just have to leave it at “everything in moderation”, and hope that we can make choices that help our bodies instead of harming them. What do you think about all of this? Let us know below in the comments section!
Yeager, Selene. Exercise and Alcohol: Running on Empty Bottles. Women’s Health Magazine. March 2012