It’s often a source of gentle ribbing and teasing, especially come the weekend or at Christmas.
We get told from an early age that being a lightweight is something to be ashamed of, as though your aptitude at drinking heavily directly correlates with, well, everything.
Well it turns out that actually, it is. That’s because people who exercise more often have a higher tolerance of alcohol, according to a study by the University of Houston.
The team came to this conclusion using a test on rats, in which they investigated ‘whether voluntary exercise prior to binge alcohol exposure could protect against alcohol-induced cell loss.’
The rats exercised voluntarily for 14 days before undergoing four days of ‘binge alcohol consumption’. After this, their brains were tested for numerous markers of the effects of alcohol.
Rats that exercised prior to binge exposure were significantly less behaviourally intoxicated, which was not a result of enhanced hepatic metabolism.
That’s right, it’s not because of metabolism like everybody expects, but it’s actually because of the reduction in the loss of brain cells in those that exercised voluntarily.
This is actually a pretty big deal, as the scientists concluded that exercise can actually protect from the deterioration of vulnerable brain cells in certain parts of the brain.
This has massive repercussions for the treatment of alcohol addiction as well as handy knowledge for the light drinker.
A good bit of exercise is the perfect way to protect against the inevitable brain death everyone’s going to be feeling over the coming weeks.
Now that’s not to say muscle size and metabolism isn’t a big factor in whether you’re a lightweight or not, and a lot of that is to do with the way alcohol gets absorbed into the body.
According to the School of Public Health at West Virginia University:
It must be remembered that alcohol is a lipid that is water soluble, so it can be digested soon after absorption. Alcohol absorption into the bloodstream takes place throughout the gastrointestinal tract.
When alcohol reaches the bloodstream, it is very quickly distributed throughout the body.
Body tissues absorb alcohol at different rates. For example, muscle tissue absorbs alcohol more rapidly than fat tissue.
This absorption into muscle tissue would mean that less alcohol is circulating in the bloodstream.
Basically that means that if you have more muscle in your body compared to fat, your body is going to absorb it much quicker and much more effectively, which means your alcohol tolerance should increase.
Now, be careful though, because what we’re saying is not that you can go on a work-out, booze, work-out, booze cycle. That’s not the way to build up your tolerance at all.
Think about it, if building muscle through working out is done by damaging the tissues and letting them heal stronger and larger, then alcohol is going to throw a massive spanner in the works.
That’s because the alcohol is going to prevent your muscle tissue from healing properly, meaning you’re just going to damage your muscle tissues and not let them heal – making you much weaker.
Basically, drink responsibly – especially if you don’t work out, you lightweight.