Do you enjoy drinking alcohol and staying consistent in the gym? I sure do! But does drinking alcohol affect muscle growth?
Since you are reading this article, I’m assuming you’re worried that your alcohol consumption is effecting your gains. Well you’ve come to the right place.
Throughout this article, I will be going over what alcohol does to the body along with its negative and positive side effects and hopefully give you a better idea of what alcohol is actually doing to your muscles.
Alcohol’s Effect on The Body
As we all know, alcohol makes you feel AMAZING. But that’s common sense, because if it didn’t, why the heck would you drink something that makes you feel awful the next day with no benefit.
But how does it make you feel AMAZING?
Technically speaking, alcohol is a depressant and although most depressants make people lethargic and lazy, alcohol actually does the opposite. Drinking alcohol releases chemicals and endorphins in the brain, like dopamine, that give you the ‘feel good’ sensation you get when you’ve had a few drinks (or one drink for my lightweights out there).
This effect lasts for as long as you keep drinking, but then the depressant side of alcohol kicks in and gives you the tired feeling at the end of the night.
Alcohol is not the primary reason for these ‘feel good’ effects, however, it’s the main ingredient in alcohol, better known as ethanol.
Ethanol or ethyl alcohol, is the number one ingredient in most alcoholic drinks. It is a clear substance that is made through a fermenting process involving yeast and plants. Without getting too technical, the fermented yeast produces sugars that are used in the creation of alcoholic beverages and different plants produce different sugars.
Since you are caught up on what alcohol is and what it does to the body, let’s dive into it’s relationship with muscle growth.
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The Negative Affects on Muscle Growth
Protein synthesis is when the body creates protein molecules using various amino acids and your genetic code to rebuild damaged muscle tissue from exercise and resistance. This process is how your body creates larger muscles over time because when muscle tissue is rebuilt, it becomes fractionally larger than before.
Sadly, studies have shown that alcohol negatively effects protein synthesis and can even lead to a 25% reduction in muscle growth. You see, when alcohol is consumed into the body, it actively breaks down protein molecules faster than the body can build proteins. So your body is forced into a catch up game it cannot win.
What’s even worse is that protein synthesis occurs the most right after a workout and while we sleep. Since most people drink at night before bed, their drunken sleep further destructs the body’s natural processes of building and repairing muscle tissues.
Testosterone is one of the main hormones in your body that influences muscle growth, especially for men.
Alcohol has been proven, in some studies, to lower testosterone levels and even raise estrogen levels(sorry guys). Now, this is believed to be a myth by a good portion of the fitness industry and the studies supporting this statement only show decreases in testosterone after an excessive amount of drinks, usually more than 9 or 10.
Like I mentioned earlier, sleep is a huge part of the muscle growth process because protein synthesis is at is peak while you are sleeping. Although alcohol will help you fall asleep, it won’t keep you asleep. Studies show that alcohol can cause sleep pattern disruptions, poor quality sleep, and even block REM sleep.
The Negative Affects on Fat Loss
Not only can alcohol interfere with muscle growth, but it can also slow fat loss and decrease your metabolism.
The body doesn’t treat alcohol calories like food calories. When you drink alcohol, your body immediately treats it like a toxin and tries to get rid of it as fast as possible. This creates a situation where the body makes an adjustment and goes from burning the food calories you’ve recently eaten to trying to burn the alcohol calories instead.
Since the body ditches the food calories, they are left alone and usually end up being stored as fat while the body attempts to rid itself of the toxin.
On top of all this, alcohol absolutely destroys any discipline or inhibitions you have when you are sober. Therefore, when you’re drunk, you tend to make poorer choices in regard to food. These unhealthy choices can lead to unwanted fat gain.
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Are There Any Benefits?
Truthfully speaking, if you are looking to build muscle, your best bet is to stay away from alcohol. Alcohol provides no proven benefits for muscle growth.
I do know some people, however, that believe having a drink or two before they workout actually helps calm their nerves and dial into their workouts.
I wouldn’t recommend having any more than 2 drinks but if you are someone who gets nervous for the gym or you are planning on hitting a big PR that day and might have some nerves, one or two drinks might actually help.
So…Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Muscle Growth?
Overall, alcohol probably isn’t the best if you are serious about building muscle or losing fat.
It may help you feel amazing but its negative effects on protein synthesis, testosterone and sleep can prove to be detrimental to your workout progress.
With that being said, anything in moderation isn’t terrible for you. You shouldn’t be drinking every day, but a few drinks here and there won’t hurt you in the long run. Most of the negative effects I listed above only occur after heavy drinking, usually more than 7 drinks.
A helpful tip I used to drink and stay lean was to always leave room in my calorie allowance for alcohol. So if I knew I was probably going to be having 4 drinks, I would save 400 calories and make sure I got all my macronutrients in before I drank.
I hope you enjoyed this article and feel free to leave a comment below on alcohol and its effects on muscle growth!