Can drinking wine really replace exercise?

Red wine can be healthy, but not that healthy!

Written by Kamal Patel
Last Updated:

Sometimes studies suddenly catch people’s attention, even years after they’ve been published. Recently, we’ve had a lot of people sending us articles related to this study, with the popular headline being that “a glass of red wine is equivalent to an hour of exercise.” With our Study Deep Dive for Examine Members coming out next week, we thought it would be fun to do a quick analysis.

The basic study was simple: four groups of rats - sedentary, sedentary + resveratrol, exercise, and exercise + resveratrol.

If we look at Figure 2 we can see that in both cases, rats that took resveratrol did better than their colleagues who did not take any. But - when we compare the group of rats that exercised and took no resveratrol, they far outperformed the sedentary rats that took resveratrol.

In fact, if we were going to set “1.0” as a baseline (sedentary and no resveratrol), than the sedentary and resveratrol group performed at 1.25, the exercise and no resveratrol group clocked in at a 4.0, and the exercise and resveratrol clocked in at a 4.1.

Even with the study being done on rats, exercise was shown to be far more beneficial than resveratrol.

Finally, even if we somehow equate that 1.25 = 4, the dosage of resveratrol was 4g per kg of rat chow, or roughly 146mg per kb bodyweight (in rats). In humans the estimated dose (after estimated conversion based on body mass) is 24mg/kg, or about 1,600mg for a 150lb person.

To compare, red wine has roughly 2-7mg resveratrol per liter. A glass of wine is roughly 175 mL. Or roughly 5.7 glasses of wine per liter. Even if we take the high end of 7mg, that means you would need to drink 229 liters of red wine (aka 1300 glasses of red wine) to get the same amount of resveratrol that rats get.

One would need to drink roughly 1300 glasses of red wine every day to match the resveratrol content from the study.

It should be noted that the study itself is well conducted, and has spurred even more research in the field of phytochemicals and exercise. It’s just (unfortunate) that the headlines don’t even come close to reporting the actual results of the study.

Curious about what the latest research actually says?

If you want to stay on top of the latest nutrition research, check out the Examine Membership.

As an Examine Member, you unlock a fully referenced research database, actionable study summaries every month across 25 health categories, and in-depth analysis of the most interesting nutrition studies, using understandable language and helpful infographics.

If you’re a health professional (or you're just a nutrition nerd at heart), the suite of content you get as an Examine Member will pique your curiosity, and save you time and money.

I want the latest nutrition research »

💊 Get unbiased supplement information