Discover more about whether alcohol and muscle growth can actually co-exist! We explain whether alcohol really does have an affect on your ability to build and maintain muscle.
We all know alcohol isn’t necessarily good for us. When consumed in moderation, it can be harmless and enjoyable. However, it’s fair to say that all of us know the negative impacts it can have if you have a lot or regularly binge drink.
Not only does it have the immediate affects of drunkenness, irresponsible and often regrettable actions, all accompanied by a hangover and anxiety the next day. On top of that, it can have long term health implications too.
But, in addition to all that, it might not surprise you to find out that regular consumption of alcohol can actually have a negative impact on your progress in the gym too.
If you’re a regular gym bunny who works out hard, but parties harder, this might be pretty devastating news. So, it’s really important to know what the impact of this might be on your gains. Let’s take a closer look.
How does alcohol affect muscle gain?
Regularly consuming alcohol can negatively impact muscle gains for several reasons.
First, alcohol can interfere with protein synthesis, the process by which the body builds and repairs muscle tissue. When the body is metabolizing alcohol, it prioritizes this process over protein synthesis, meaning that muscle growth and repair may be slowed or hindered.
[Related Article: Is it Harder for Women to Gain Muscle?]
Additionally, alcohol can also lead to dehydration, which can further impede muscle growth. Dehydration can cause a decrease in blood flow to the muscles, making it more difficult for the body to deliver the necessary nutrients for muscle growth.
Alcohol can also disrupt the body’s balance of hormones, specifically testosterone and growth hormone, which are both important for muscle growth. Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to a decrease in the levels of these hormones, making it harder for the body to build and maintain muscle mass.
Another issue with alcohol is that it can lead to increased inflammation in the body, which can also interfere with muscle growth. Inflammation can cause muscle tissue to break down, making it harder for the body to repair and build muscle.
Finally, alcohol can also disrupt sleep, which is crucial for muscle recovery and growth. Alcohol completely throws your body’s sleep cycle off, which might be contradictory thinking to someone who has a couple drinks to help them fall asleep. It can stop you from sleeping deeply enough, or achieving REM sleep, which in turn has a negative impact on your ability to recover from a workout. Poor sleep can lead to increased fatigue, decreased muscle recovery, increased muscle breakdown and it can throw your hormone production off too.
All in all, regularly consuming alcohol can have a detrimental impact on muscle gains. To optimize muscle growth, it’s best to limit alcohol consumption or avoid it altogether.
How much does alcohol impact muscle synthesis?
Research suggests that alcohol consumption can reduce muscle protein synthesis by as much as 25-50% . Studies have shown that even a moderate amount of alcohol intake can inhibit protein synthesis and disrupt muscle growth. One study found that consuming 0.6 grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight (which is equivalent to about 4 drinks for a 150-pound person) reduced muscle protein synthesis by 37%. Another study found that consuming the same amount of alcohol reduced muscle protein synthesis by 50%.
It’s important to note that these studies have been done on short term alcohol consumption, and the long-term effect of regular alcohol consumption on muscle protein synthesis is not yet fully understood. However, it is clear that alcohol can have a negative impact on muscle growth and recovery, and it is best to limit or avoid alcohol consumption to optimize muscle growth.
[Related Article: Best Supplements for Muscle Growth for Women]
Nutritional values of alcohol
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, making it very calorie-dense compared to your key macronutrients. For comparison, carbohydrates and proteins each contain 4 calories per gram, while fat contains 9 calories per gram.
In terms of macronutrients, alcohol does not contain any carbohydrates, protein, or fat. However, it can indirectly impact the balance of these macronutrients in the body. For example, alcohol can increase the body’s desire for unhealthy, high-calorie foods, and it can also disrupt the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates, leading to a buildup of fat.
Additionally, alcohol can also interfere with the body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, which are important for overall health and muscle growth. This can lead to deficiencies in important nutrients such as vitamin B1, vitamin B6, and magnesium, all of which can impact muscle growth.
In conclusion, alcohol is calorie-dense, but does not provide any essential macronutrients. While drinking in moderation may not be harmful, excessive alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on overall health and muscle growth, and it’s best to limit or avoid alcohol consumption as much as possible.
Will drinking once a week affect muscle gains?
If you are trying to gain muscle, it’s best to limit or avoid alcohol consumption as much as possible. As previously discussed, alcohol can interfere with protein synthesis, disrupt hormone balance, and cause inflammation, all of which can negatively impact muscle growth. Additionally, alcohol can also disrupt sleep, which is crucial for muscle recovery and growth.
If you do choose to drink alcohol, it’s important to keep in mind that the effects of alcohol on muscle growth can vary depending on the amount consumed. Generally, the more alcohol consumed, the greater the negative impact on muscle growth will be.
It’s also important to consider the timing of alcohol consumption in relation to your workouts. Consuming alcohol immediately before or after a workout can further impede muscle growth and recovery.
It’s also worth noting that drinking alcohol in moderation does not mean that it will ruin muscle gains, but it can negatively impact muscle growth, especially when consumed frequently or in large quantities.
So, with all that in mind, it’s best to limit or avoid alcohol consumption if you are trying to gain muscle. If you do choose to drink, it’s important to consume alcohol in moderation, and avoid drinking immediately after a workout, at those key points when you body needs to recover.
Drinking, once or even twice a week in moderation is likely to be alright, as long as you’re not doing it immediately after a hardcore workout, and as long as you’re not knocking back multiple cocktails.