“There is nothing better than a cold beer on a hot day” while reaching for the next bottle. But how does alcohol consumption reflect on muscle growth, sports performance and your efforts to lose weight?
I am constantly receiving questions about alcohol consumption and so I decided to write an article on that topic. My goal is to give you maximum objectives supported by scientific facts.
I do not set a goal to change your habits – ultimately it depends entirely on you. I’m not against one or two drinks with friends. This is not the end of the world. The problem comes if you turn alcohol into a habit. In such case, you would need to carefully rethink your priorities, otherwise just be wasting your time in the gym.
What are the facts?
Alcohol violates the hormonal balance. To take advantage of the benefits of training, it is necessary to switch from catabolic to an anabolic state. If you are in an anabolic state during the recovery period your body absorbs like a sponge all the nutrients that are provided to grow and become stronger. The bad news is that anabolism is an extremely delicate situation and only a few missteps here and there can make everything go wrong. When we are in an anabolic state two very important things happen to the hormonal level: changing the ratio of testosterone to cortisol and testosterone to oestrogen.
It was here that alcohol consumption damages the most. Even just a few drinks are sufficient to disturb the balance and increase both cortisol and oestrogen, which in turn kills any possibility of muscle hypertrophy. It is scientifically proven that 2-3 drinks are enough to raise your cortisol and remove you from favourable anabolic hormonal status. Furthermore, the increased synthesis of oestrogen and therefore frequently in severe cases of alcoholism meets the condition gynecomastia (enlarged male breasts).
Alcohol has a strong dehydrating effect. Reduction in the amount of water in the body with only 1-3% can decrease strength with 10-20%. I will give an example:
Train on Friday afternoon. In the evening go to a pub and have a few drinks. But things slip out of control and go
home before dark dead drunk. Saturday afternoon decide again to exit with the company and drink a few beers “to sober up”. What is going on? When you go back on Monday to the gym, you will lose 1.5-2 kg of fluids and if you normally lift 80kg bench press is unlikely to push more than 70kg.
In other words, alcohol not only hints recovery after a workout but decreased productivity at your next session. A seemingly harmless night “binge” is enough to erase your efforts in a few weeks back.
Dehydration has another adverse effect. When muscle cells are dehydrated, it is much more difficult to process the anabolic state and therefore reduces protein synthesis by up to 20%!
Alcohol provides the body with only “empty” calories. There are no beneficial and/or nutritious calories in alcohol – only empty calories. One gram of alcohol (100%) has 7 calories (compared with most caloric macronutrient – fat, calories per gram are 9). Furthermore, alcohol slows down your metabolism – the body stops burning fat while metabolising the alcohol.
My advice to you
Despite all these considerations, we are still human beings and deserve to party from time to time – a few glasses of wine occasionally and even hard liquor (as long as you do not overdo it) are within reasonable limits. I’m not saying we should completely give up alcohol but without advance planning and control – things usually get messy. At the end of the day is all about quantity and quality!
The key point is to be aware and plans in advance. In the end, it all comes down to your personal motivation and priorities.