Drinking alchohol and muscle building. Can the two co-exist? Find out what effect alcohol is having on your muscles, and if that nice cold beer is so nice after all.
This article originally appeared on Muscle & Strength. Reprinted with author permission.
Alcohol and Muscle: The Effects
Alcohol consumption and muscle growth seems to be a difficult concept for some since there has been much talk about it recently. Some believe that consuming alcohol post workout is good for recovery purposes, while many of experts disagree. This discussion has changed into wondering if alcohol consumption in general hinders muscle growth potential.
How Drinking Alcohol for Nutrition Got Started
The reason this topic was ever brought up is because a research study suggested that beer post workout may be beneficial for carb reloading. Carbohydrates are your primary energy source that becomes depleted after intense training.
Following your workout these energy storages need to be replaced or you will feel fatigued and unable to focus properly. This is the reason why carb supplements have become popular to help ease this process, but people often seek other methods aside from supplementation. In comes beer because it really only contains carbs and calories.
Now, a can of beer usually has around 14 grams of carbs per serving, which really isn’t a good enough amount to consider for carb reloading. Most consume supplements containing 25 grams of carbs under most circumstances. So the reasoning behind beer post workout really makes little sense.
Alcohol and Muscle Growth
The primary process to think about with muscle growth is protein synthesis. This is the process of recovery that helps repair damaged muscle fibers, which in turn allows muscle growth to take place. All this basically starts to take place after you have performed an intense workout.
Your workout routines are intense when you put your body through physical activities beyond what they normally do on a daily basis. This change in intensity causes your muscle fibers to tear microscopically.
Protein consumed is digested and sent via your bloodstream to help the damaged proteins within muscle cells. These proteins are repaired or replaced with fresh ones, which causes stronger and denser muscle fibers to appear. This is the reason why muscles appear to get larger over time.
Now, the issue is alcohol has been shown to decrease protein synthesis, but what you need to understand is that this negative affect requires a high amount of alcohol consumption i.e. alcohol abuse. Just take a look at a couple of studies to see what’s going on with alcohol and muscle growth relations.
Studies Show a Large Amount of Alcohol is Needed
TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute performed a study to see how much an average amount of alcohol consumption affected protein synthesis. The participants in the study were instructed to consume 2-3 cans of beers, or 30-40 grams of alcohol. The end result was nothing significant enough to report in changes to protein synthesis.
Another study that tried to prove alcohol’s negative outcome on protein synthesis was performed on rats. They were injected with ethanol (pure alcohol) and the end result were significant reductions in protein synthesis estimated to be around 25% below normal.
The problem is that humans and rats are obviously not the same. Some qualities are shared anatomically, but in the end the first study discussed disproves the theory based off of rats. In vitro applies as well because the cells are taken out of the body and not put under the same processes your body goes through.
So Alcohol is Okay to Consume While Building Muscle?
This depends on your goals and your current diet, but for the most part yes, alcohol is okay in moderation. Many of experts in the fitness and nutrition fields all agree that there is nothing wrong with having a few drinks each week, but the point is to not get completely drunk.
Drinking alcohol has been an adult social staple for centuries when people come together to have fun. The way to prevent negative effects from alcohol is by not consuming it immediately following a workout, or just excessively consuming it in general. Consider eating nuts and drinking a glass of milk instead because beer really is useless calories. Whey protein supplements with carbs added work too.
This study shows what high alcohol consumption does to testosterone levels, which is a hormone that plays a key role in muscle growth as well. The University of Helsinki basically took 8 male subjects and exposed them to 1.5 grams of ethanol per kilo gram of body weight. Around 10-16 hours after consumption the subjects experienced a 23% decrease in test levels. This should be no surprise since the amount of ethanol given was what an alcoholic would consume.
The bottom line is quite simple. Drink alcohol socially if you wish, but don’t have too many alcoholic beverages on a weekly basis since the extra calories could cause fat gains instead. Lots of experts state they have a beer or two and have no issues with muscle growth potential, so you most likely won’t either.