July 12, 2014 by danfisher87
So it’s Saturday night! A lot of people will be going out and getting drunk tonight. But have you ever thought about how alcohol effects your muscle gains, other than giving a hangover so you can’t train the next day.
Here’s some questions I hear A LOT!
If I drink tonight, is the heavy lifting I did at the gym today wasted? Will it inhibit my ability to gain muscle?
Will it turn me catabolic and eat up all my muscle?
Will it all turn to fat?
As someone who loves to go out and enjoy a couple of cocktails, I’m always a bit concerned about how much damage I’m doing to myself, so I decided to investigate further.
What alcohol is and what it does?
1. Alcohol is effectively a fourth macronutrient, coming in at 7 calories per gram.
2. Unfortunately, unlike the other 3 macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and protein) your body is not capable of efficiently deriving energy from it – hence the term empty calories. So if you’re tracking your macros and think alcohol is ok because it doesn’t have any fat or protein and is fairly low carb then think again because the calories are huge.
3. This one is probably the worst. It inhibits protein synthesis. New muscle tissue develops when the rate of muscle protein synthesis is greater than the rate of muscle protein breakdown (i.e., in a positive muscle protein balance).
4. It lowers testosterone levels and raises oestrogen. It’s essentially a muscle blocker!
What does this mean for YOU?
These facts have a couple of key implications.
1. In terms of weight gain, energy balance is still king. If you consume more calories than you expend (eat/drink more than you burn through training and day to day) you will gain weight—regardless if alcohol was or was not included in said calories.
2. Heavy alcohol consumption will affect your progress in the gym. Heavy drinking suppresses the rate at which your body can synthesise muscle protein. Not to mention that your performance will suffer if you lift with a hangover because you’ll be dehydrated and feel rough.
Limit alcohol consumption where possible. If you do there should be little to no negative side effects in the quest to gain muscle and improve your physique. Then again, if you are not concerned with deriving the absolute maximal benefits out of your training, going hard every once in a while is unlikely to seriously hinder your gains. Just don’t be surprised if you’re not hitting your best when you’re drinking heavily every weekend. No amount of training can counter that.