So you enjoy the occasional drink, or maybe even the weekly binge but you are also conscious of your muscle building goals. There is an ongoing debate regarding alcohol and muscle growth, but the general consensus is that alcohol and muscle growth don’t co-exist. While it is true that excess alcohol will hinder your gains, its effects are not as drastic as you might think.
You may have heard myths such as:
Alcohol is converted straight to fat.
Drinking on the weekend wipes away 2 weeks of progress in the gym.
Alcohol will reduce testosterone and increase estrogen turning you into a woman (This one is actually true but the hormonal changes are very slight)
So How Does Alcohol Hinder My Muscle Gains ?
Alcohol’s Effect On Your Body’s Hormones
I know it was mentioned above that the change is very slight, but a change in hormone levels will sabotage gains in advanced lifters and professional athletes at an elite level. Alcohol causes a drop in testosterone – your bodies most important muscle building hormone. Reduced testosterone means decreased strength, slower recovery, increased fat gains, slower muscle growth and decreased energy. The drop in testosterone is also worsened by an increase in estrogen, estrogen is a female sex hormone, which is notorious for causing gynecomastia or “man boobs” and fat gain.
Like I said the changes in hormonal levels are barely negligible, but if you are a elite level athlete every percentage counts. For everyday gym goers and athletes This study will help justify your drinking. In the study, they had men and women consume 30-40 g alcohol per day, a 6.8% reduction in testosterone for the men and none for the women was concluded at the end of the study-period. That’s three beers a day for three weeks and a measly 6.8% reduction in testosterone for the men. What kind of an effect would you think a few beers on an evening once or twice a week would have? Hardly any.
This is a very real side effect of alcohol and it can be very harmful if you don’t take necessary precautions. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes your body to drain water, thats why you may be lighter and leaner the day after a binge. This is only temporary, once you increase your water intake your body will store it again. Dehydration can affect muscle growth by reducing your ability to train properly, if you are not hydrated you will not have sufficient energy in the gym. So for every drink you have, make sure you have a glass of water, also drink a liter of water right before you sleep, this will help hydrate you and prevent the dreaded hangover to come.
Poor Nutritional Choices
Most people on a night out completely disregard their health and fitness goals. In most cases you will not have access to proper nutrition. So before you go out have a protein shake preferably casein as it digests much slower than whey.
Alcohol causes a sudden urge to eat later on and through the night. You must resist the urge as much as you can, shoveling down burgers and fries along with alcohol, will substantially increase your chances of storing it as fat. Your body burns off alcohol before it burns the carbs and fats that you eat so they will be stored as fat. By eating protein based foods you will prevent the fat gain and prevent catabolism, so opt for a protein shake or chicken breast.
This is the biggest problem alcohol poses, a reduction in liver function can have a long term effect on your muscle gain. A chronic consumption of alcohol may cause alcohol induced liver damage. Reduced liver function will hinder your bodies detoxification capabilities, your body won’t be able to absorb nutrients and supplements to the same extent as a healthy liver. The liver is a resilient organ and it can repair itself in most cases unless significant damage has been done. So don’t abuse alcohol.
Alcohol and muscle growth is a complex issue, you should be conscious of your fitness goals before you decide to drink. If you are aiming to be a fitness model, competitive bodybuilder or compete at a very high level in sports, alcohol is a no no.
If you are an average everyday gym goer or fitness enthusiast, alcohol in moderation is just fine.