Wait, Should We Be Using Red Wine as a Sports Drink?

A new study suggests that grape polyphenols could help reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress.

Grapes and wine are two different things: There's a reason you don't pair a filet mignon with a handful of fruit. But since wine is made from grapes, is it possible that some of the fruits' health benefits can still be found in a bottle of wine? If so, new research suggests that a glass of red could possibly work as a decent post-workout sports drink. (Wouldn't that make NBA players happy!) But don't start filling up your water bottle with wine just yet.

An article published last week in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition explored, as the title states, "Grape polyphenols supplementation for exercise-induced oxidative stress." As the research explains, exercise can lead to oxidative stress which has been tied to all sorts of health problems. Antioxidants are believed to counter this imbalance in the body, and as the authors write, "there is growing interest in the use of polyphenol-rich fruit and vegetables to mitigate exercise induced physiologic stress."

The marathon runner are enjoying grape wine and seafood at 2019 Penglai Wine International Marathon in Yantai,Shandong,China on 27th October, 2019
Marathon runners enjoying grape wine at the 2019 Penglai Wine International Marathon on October 27, 2019 in Yantai, Shandong, China. TPG / Contributor/Getty Images

Grapes are both high in polyphenols, an antioxidant, and, as the fourth most produced fruit worldwide, readily available. So the researchers looked at a dozen existing studies to determine if "a strategic supplementation with grape based products may be a good approach to mitigate the exercise induced oxidative stress."

Their conclusion: Yes, "Supplementation with grape polyphenols seems to have a positive effect against oxidative stress." But the effects are dependent on a laundry list of factors: the dose of the supplement and how long it's taken for, its total polyphenolic profile, and even the type of exercise and the athlete who's doing it.

Okay, fine, but what about wine? The paper does touch on vino, but only to mention that wine wasn't included in any of the research the authors reviewed. "Wine may be a good option as a product obtained from grapes with an important source of phenolic compounds," the authors begin. "However, considering that wine contains alcohol [and] may not be an option for all consumers due to certain disease conditions, religious restrictions, or age, it has not been considered."

That said, the conclusion does contain some additional bad news for wine as a stand-alone sports drink: "Considering the supplementation dosage in these studies, it seems unlikely athletes would gain enough quantity of polyphenols from diet." Instead, the authors suggest focusing on "grape-based polyphenol concentrated products" instead, say, merlot.

Still, the researchers—which came from Spain's Basque Research and Technology Alliance and the University of the Basque Country—said more research was necessary. "Given the promising evidence, although still limited, more pilot studies on the effect of grape polyphenols on the oxidative stress produced by sport should be conducted to determine the optimal concentration, dosage and effect on the oxidative stress for target athletes."

I'm sure finding volunteers to study the effectiveness of wine wouldn't be hard; especially if they needed a non-exercising control group.

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