“In vino veritas” is a Latin phrase that means “in wine, truth”, this suggests that a person under the influence of alcohol is more liable to express their true thoughts and desires……. who knew. And latin is not the only language or culture to mention this. In Russia – “What a sober man has in his mind, the drunk one has on his tongue”. Even the Chinese propose “After wine blurts truthful speech”. The ancient Persians embraced alcohol in the decision making process and debated topics once sober and once drunk, because the idea needed to sound good in both states to be considered a viable plan! But modern research supports these ancient proverbs , drunk words really are sober thoughts: Alcohol doesn’t impair our ability to control our actions – it just makes us care less. Additionally, it suggests drink makes people more honest and less likely to hold back out of fear of the consequences, it make us take risks (Bartholow et al., 2012).
Why is it that alcohol makes things seem like a good idea? One of the regions of the brain with the greatest decrease in activity when drinking alcohol is the prefrontal cortex part of the brain. Unfortunately the prefrontal cortex is the region responsible for decision making and rational thought. So when drinking and someone suggests an outrageous idea like running a marathon, rarely is the answer “Well, to be honest, I just don’t think this is the best, most well thought out idea, let me get back to you in the morning when I’m more sober…… more likely the response is a very disinhibited “HELL YEAH! Pour me another drink and I will get out my VISA card and fill out the entry form!” Having a couple of glasses of wine may be the catalyst to a commitment to complete a marathon, inhibitions are lowered and a risk which might not otherwise be considered is taken. Waking up the next morning to the realisation of what you have done and the reality of what you have to hold yourself accountable to, is the tough part, because who wants to lose a race entry fee and wear a t-shirt forever from a race you never ran?
So alcohol may be the instigator of many marathon missions, but it could well cause the downfall of many personal best attempts. While it is easy to see a glass of wine or a cold beer after a long run as a reward for the hard work, and while the odd glass of wine won’t result in any harm, it’s important to realise the potential implications of excess alcohol on your training programme. Five or more drinks on a Friday or Saturday night could sabotage the hard-earned results of months of hardwork. But runners, like the rest of the population, consume alcohol despite the risks of making them more prone to injury, reducing the body’s ability to respond and adapt to training load and finally reducing the body’s capacity to recover from heavy training (El-Sayed et al., 2005; Vella & Cameron-Smith, 2010). But running is a social activity for most of us mere mortals, and post run beer or glass of wine —while absolutely not necessary to having a good time—fosters a sense of festivity and community. It’s a celebration drink and yes it’s a reward. But remember the phrase is often continued as, “In vino veritas, in aqua sanitas“, i.e., “In wine there is truth, in water there is health.”