For a muscle to grow, you need to exercise and eat enough protein. Heavy training will kickstart the muscle-building process, and protein will serve as a building block. These factors do not depend on alcohol – you can easily go to the gym, eat protein foods, and still drink alcohol every night.
However, protein and exercise are the only basic requirements. Muscle building is also affected by;
- the ability of amino acids, the building blocks for muscles, to penetrate cells
- the rate of creation and destruction of protein in tissues
- the number of hormones that help or hinder weight gain
Alcohol affects all of these factors, and below we will analyze how.
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How alcohol affects protein synthesis
Both high and low doses of alcohol depress the creation of protein in muscle cells – protein synthesis.
An hour after drinking alcohol, protein synthesis decreases by 23%, and after 24 hours – by 63%. It is especially strongly that alcohol inhibits this process in type II muscle fibers, which rapidly increases size. That is, it is in those tissues that all bodybuilders pray for.
However, most of the research on the effects of alcohol on muscles has been done in mice given massive ethanol doses. A large amount of alcohol is bad for people too. Alcoholics who consume more than 100 grams (2 liters of beer, 250 grams of vodka) per day often suffer from myopathy – the destruction of muscle tissue. One to two-thirds of drinkers experiences muscle atrophy, which leads to frequent falls and difficulty even walking.
Regarding moderate doses of alcohol, it is not known if they affect protein synthesis in humans.
- Ethanol reduces protein synthesis, but for this, it needs to be constantly consumed in large doses.
- Alcoholism can cause myopathy, the destruction of muscle tissue.
- Small doses of alcohol can slow down protein formation in the long term, but the effect has not been proven.
How alcohol affects hormone levels
Effect on testosterone
Testosterone is one of the most important hormones for maintaining good physical shape, building muscle, and reducing body fat.
Alcohol lowers testosterone levels, but you need to drink often and in large quantities for significant changes. If you drink one and a half to two bottles of beer every day for three weeks, testosterone in men will decrease by only 6.8%, while for women, it will remain unchanged.
Larger booze is reflected in the level of hormones much faster: already 16 hours after taking 120 g of ethanol (this is more than five cans of beer, 300 g of vodka, or almost a whole bottle of wine), testosterone in men decreases by 23%.
Smaller doses of alcohol have little or no effect on hormones. Drinking one and a half cans of beer or 150 g of vodka after a workout does not affect the level of testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and corticotropin.
Effect on insulin
Insulin is essential for building mass. This hormone triggers protein synthesis in the ribosome and prevents catabolism – protein breakdown. Also, it helps glucose and amino acids move from the blood to muscle tissue.
The higher the sensitivity of cells to insulin, the better it supplies them with glucose for glycogen storage and amino acids for building muscles.
Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. But for it to increase, you need to drink alcohol in small quantities and periodically. A single intake of small doses of alcohol does not change insulin levels.
- Small doses of alcohol slightly reduce testosterone levels.
- Testosterone only drops dramatically after hard training and drinking a lot of alcohol.
- Drinking spirits in moderation increases insulin sensitivity.
How to drink so as not to harm the figure
The only requirement is that 30-40 grams of ethanol per day do not harm muscle building or fat gain. In terms of drinks, it will be 700-900 g of beer with a strength of 4.5%, 300-400 g of wine with a strength of 10%, 75-100 g of vodka.
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Small doses of alcohol may even be beneficial. While both exercise and alcohol consumption on their own can cause oxidative stress, combining them has the opposite effect (of course, this does not mean “under the fly”).
Ethanol combined with exercise reduces lipid peroxidation, which causes oxidative stress and increases the risk of atherosclerosis. If you cannot give up alcohol and are worried about your heart, go in for sports.
Moderate alcohol consumption – no more than 30-40 grams of ethanol per day – does not harm your physical condition.
Continue drinking your glass of beer or wine after your workout if it relaxes you. But keep in mind that alcohol should not be used as a substitute for a high-protein meal. Without dietary protein, your results will be more than modest.
Adapted and translated by The Cop Cart Staff
Sources: Life hacker