Plasma high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLC) level was measured before and after alcohol abstinence and after resumption of a controlled alcohol dose in 16 marathon runners, 15 joggers, and 13 inactive men. A three-week period of abstinence resulted in a significant decrease in HDLC concentration in the inactive men (49.8 to 41.8 mg/dL). Three weeks of alcohol consumption (1,065 mL of beer per day) produced a significant increase in HDLC level to 50.9 mg/dL. No change in HDLC level was found for the marathon group or the joggers during abstinence or three weeks of alcohol intake. The consumption of alcohol in moderation seems to be associated with increased HDLC levels in inactive men but not in men who engage in regular running or jogging.