How Does Alcohol Affect Muscle Growth?
Craving a beer after your workout? Is there some truth to the dreaded “beer belly?” No matter how dedicated you are as an athlete, quitting alcohol might just take a toll on your social life. The question is to what extent does boozing affect muscle and strength. Can you enjoy an occasional glass of wine, or should you ditch alcohol completely? Are there any “safe” beverages? Let’s find out the truth!
Alcohol and Bodybuilding: Do They Mix?
The correlation between alcohol consumption and sports has been long studied. While it’s safe to assume that drinking too much will cause weight gain, alcohol doesn’t magically pack on the pounds. However, it does have a negative impact on hypertrophy and anabolic hormones. Research indicates that alcohol can reduce protein synthesis by as much as 30% within 24 hours, especially in type II muscle fibers, which have the most potential for growth. On top of that, it decreases growth and luteinizing hormones, increases cortisol, and lowers testosterone levels.
Alcohol affects your body in more than one way. First of all, it’s high in calories and can temporarily slow down fat metabolism. One gram of alcohol has seven calories, while one gram of fat or protein contains only four calories. When you drink alcohol, your body identifies it as a toxin and works to remove it. The liver processes alcohol as a rate of up to 0.33 ounces per hour. At the same time, your kidneys use the water in your system to metabolize it, which may lead to dehydration. Since alcohol is not stored in the body, it tends to limit the metabolism of fat, carbs, and protein. These macronutrients are essential for muscle growth and repair.
What Does Alcohol Actually Do to Your Body?
Even a small glass of wine can negatively affect your pancreatic function and blood sugar levels. According to researchers, drinking as little as two glasses a day may cause zinc and magnesium deficiencies, especially if you’re under stress and training hard. Alcohol also affects your ability to lose fat. In a study conducted by the American Journal of College of Nutrition, men who drank two shots of vodka experienced a decrease of 73% in lipid oxidation. This process measures how much fat you are burning. Only 5% of the calories in alcohol are stored as fat. Boozing doesn’t necessarily cause weight gain (unless you drink too much of it), but reduces the amount of fat your body uses for fuel.
Studies indicate that alcohol can lower HGH levels during sleep by up to 70%. It also inhibits protein synthesis and delays recovery from training. Heavy drinking during a period where you’re cutting down to low body fat has the greatest negative impact. While it’s true that alcohol won’t completely destroy your muscle building efforts, it can make it harder to achieve your goals.
Boozing not only reduces fat metabolism, but also increases hunger and cravings. Additionally, it raises cortisol levels, causing your body to store fat. It also interferes with the absorption of vitamins and minerals, which may lead to nutritional deficiencies. Its negative effects on sleep quality are well known. A drink every now and then won’t ruin your body, but heavy alcohol consumption will affect your ability to shed fat and build muscle. If you’re serious about working out, keep alcohol consumption at a minimum.
Are There Any “Safe” Drinks?
If you can’t give up alcohol completely, at least choose your drinks wisely. Some alcoholic beverages are better than others. As a rule of thumb, steer clear of liquor and the so-called “girly” drinks. The high sugar mixers in most cocktails can pile on the excess calories, so it’s best to avoid them.
Vodka, whiskey, gin, rum, and tequila have the lowest calorie content. With 90 to 130 calories per serving, wine and light beer are a decent choice. Stay away from cider, ale, and malt beverages, which boast up to 350 calories per glass. When it comes to cocktails, the mixer makes all the difference. Syrups, soda, juices, and margarita mixes are the highest in calories. Lime juice, diet coke, diet tonic water, club soda, and simple syrup are your best bet. And if you really want a cocktail, stick to mojito, tequila sunrise, gin and tonic, mint julep, or margarita.
This post was written by Andra Picincu is a certified nutritionist and fitness trainer. She is dedicated to helping others achieve a strong, lean body and improve their health. For custom diet plans and personalized workouts, visit her blog at Shape Your Energy.