I can make anybody pretty
I can make you believe any lie
I can make you pick a fight
With somebody twice
Alcohol. Yes, a majority of living, breathing human beings enjoy a glass of their favorite cold beverage every now and then, and even more-so on weekends.
Alcohol allows us to relax, forget our troubles, and enjoy the moment. I am sure it comes to no surprise to many of you, however, that our muscles do not enjoy that moment. Our muscles want to grow. They want to be bigger. They want to make sure that when you pick that fight, that person won’t be twice your size.
For a majority of people, the consumption of alcohol begins in your late teens into your collegiate years. This is the time when many of us discover a weight room. This is a time for our muscles to develop and for use to become a larger than life version of ourselves.
However, socially drinking every weekend and binge drinking on weekends prohibits our muscles from developing into the spectacle we all strive for.
Why is that? What does alcohol have a negative effect on muscle development. Why do we gain weight when we drink? Why do we become fat? These are all questions I set out to find the answers too. Some of the facts might surprise you, but nonetheless they are interesting points to keep in mind when you decide to hit the bottle.
This article is not meant to be prude by telling you not to lift and drink. We’d much rather you lift and drink than drink and drive. Fact. What we want to accomplish with this article is to educate you more on the effects alcohol has on you and your goals of gaining size in the gym.
Alcohol has two major effects on your body. The first is the effect it has on weight management. This can be a combination of your metabolism and your caloric intake. We will address both in a moment. The other is the effect it has on muscle development. The combination of these two effects can make for an unhealthy person, and ruin your goals of gains in the gym.
Alcohol has two major effects when it comes to your weight: your metabolism and your caloric intake. Many people assume just because you drink you are bound to gain weight. This is not entirely true; however, statistics show this is the case more often than not. Let us discuss the facts regarding alcohol and the effect it has on your weight management.
If I took a poll of 50 college students and asked them what they thought alcohol does to their metabolism I would bet a solid hundred dollar bill the majority of them would say it slows down your metabolism. One might think that given the fact that many of the people we associate with who drink in large amounts tend to be overweight and out-of-shape. The fact is alcohol does not slow down your metabolism, it just changes the way your body burns calories.
Alcohol is considered an empty calorie. This means there is no nutritional value in an alcoholic beverage, but there is approximately seven calories per gram of alcohol. You body has made a decision that it would like to burn all these calories from alcohol before it starts on the other calories and fats in your system.
EXAMPLE: You eat a cheeseburger basket with fries and have four PBRs. Your body will burn the calories from the PBR before it changes its attention to the calories, fats, and carbohydrates of your burger basket.
So your overall metabolism doesn’t slow down, but the way your body metabolizes fats do. According to the Clinical Journal of Clinical Nutrition if you consume approximately two drinks, your body’s fat metabolism slows down by roughly 73%. That’s because your body is working on metabolizing the calories from those two drinks before anything else. Alcohol is not a fat gainer, but more-so a fat suppressor.
The second part of weight management comes in the form of caloric intake. One either over indulges when it comes to calories when drinking or they severely under indulge. I have experienced both of these before.
If you think about the nights where you’ve went out and hung one on, and you get in late at night, the first thing you typically do is head straight to the refrigerator, right? Think about all that alcohol you just drank. Think about that food you ate PRIOR to drinking all this alcohol. You body is working so hard to burn the calories from the alcohol that it still has not gotten to your meal from earlier in the night. Now you’re going to stuff your face at 2am in the morning and add even more calories, fats and carbohydrates to your body.
More often than not people will over consume calories on days that they drink. It’s not too often you don’t feel starving at the end of the night after a night of drinking. A study by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholismrevealed that men consume, on average, 168 more calories per day when they have at least one alcoholic beverage than when they don’t. There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. If you do the math and you drink, on average, four nights a week that would be about 35,000 extra calories which would be about 10 pounds gained.
The other flip of the coin is that you don’t eat enough when drinking. I have been there too. Going all day without eating and only drinking. Just as bad is waking up with a hangover and skipping every meal because you don’t feel good. Not getting the calories your body needs will adversely effect your gains.
The type of alcohol you choose to drink has a huge barring on your eating habits. Beer, for instance, is bitter and releases GLP-1 which is a hunger suppressant. So when you drink beer, research shows, you consume less food than you would with red wine or mix drinks. Red wine contains histamine which increases your appetite. There is more science here but we won’t get into it.
Beer/White Wine < Red Wine < Mix Drinks
The combination of your body’s metabolism burning fat slower, and you over indulging while drinking will cause you to gain weight, even get fat. Even under eating will cause your muscles to shrink as they are not getting the proteins and carbohydrates they need. If you must indulge while you drink pick something high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fats. This will reward your muscles with the protein needed but not store the fat and carbohydrates while your body is too busy burning the calories from alcohol.
Alcohol effects your muscle development in many different ways. We intentionally told you about some when it comes to your caloric intake above. Other ways in which your muscle development in halted is that alcohol decreases protein synthesis, decreases your body’s production of testosterone and human growth hormone.
It is important to understand what protein synthesis is. Protein synthesis is a vital part of muscle recovery, which leads to building muscle and mass. Protein synthesis, by definition, is the process that takes place in your body where protein is turned into muscle.
Protein synthesis occurs when your muscles experience micro tears from training. These micro tears are then repaired through protein synthesis which leads to muscle building. Protein synthesis can be lowered in your body by as much as 20% due to alcohol by three main reasons: dehydration, lack of nutrients, and lowering of your body’s testosterone levels.
Alcohol is a diuretic which means it causes dehydration. When you drink you become dehydrated. Having your muscles hydrated is a vital part of protein synthesis and muscle building. During drinking your muscles begin to lose the water levels in your muscles to hydrate the rest of your body. This makes it much more difficult for protein synthesis to occur and for your muscles to build.
Alcohol has a negative impact on your body because it blocks nutrient absorption. Your body, and your muscles, need nutrients to stay healthy. Your muscles need nutrients to perform protein synthesis. Important nutrients like calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium are blocked from being absorbed. These nutrients are key to muscle contraction, recovery and growth.
Lowers Testosterone Levels
Contrary to popular belief when you get drunk you are not untouchable. In fact, you become less of a man when you drink alcohol. Numerous studies have shown that at your most intoxicated state your testosterone can be lowered by 25%. Lower testosterone means lower protein synthesis. Testosterone is key to muscle building.
I think many people will agree with me that the more men drink the more frequent they put on their beer goggles. They are constantly on their phones, scrolling through their contacts to see who might be a good option for a booty call that night. But why? Didn’t I just say that drinking lowers your testosterone? So why would a man become more aroused when drinking?
When your testosterone levels start to dip due to alcohol consumption your body releases a hormone called luteinizing, or LH to attempt to raise your testosterone levels back up. LH does not actually raise your testosterone levels, but your body thinks it does, so it continues to release this into your system the more you drink.
LH is just as responsible for arousal as testosterone. So the more you drink, the lower your testosterone and the higher your LH thus making you horny. Men, this is where you should pay attention, just because you are in the mood for that kind of action, your testosterone level begs to differ. This is where many men suffer from WD. I will let you figure that out.
The last thing to note is alcohol not only lowers testosterone, but studies have indicated that it actually raises the levels of estrogen in your body. You ever see a guy who drinks too much and starts to develop man boobs? Yep…this is why. You’ve been warned.
Lowers Growth Hormone
Growth hormone is essential to protein synthesis, thus essential to your gains. Maximum release of growth hormone occurs during sleep. Numerous studies have shown that consuming alcohol in large quantitates adversely effects your quality of sleep, thus reducing your growth hormone. Alcohol raises your adrenaline while reducing your melatonin giving you a lower quality of sleep and less release of growth hormone. Translations: you’re missing out on gains.
Tips to Live By
I am not saying in order to gain size you need to give up drinking. You don’t. You just need to be smart about what your drinking, when and how much if you really want to focus on those gains inside the weight room. Here are some valuable tips to consider when you go out for a night on the town:
- Drink Water
Drink plenty of it before you go out. Drink water during your night of drinking. For every two drinks have a bottle of water. Before you go to bed make sure you drink at least three to four glasses of water. This will keep your muscles hydrated allowing protein synthesis to occur.
- Eat Proteins, Avoid Fats and Carbs
Your body is going to metabolize the carbohydrates from the alcohol first you don’t want fat and carbs stored in your system. Eat a meal that has lean protein so your muscles can feed while you get tuned up.
- Don’t Over Drink
Studies have shown that a method to drinking while not effecting your gains or your next day performance is to only consumer .5 grams of alcohol per ever 2.2 lbs. In a typical alcoholic beverage there are 14 grams of alcohol. So a 200 lb person could have about 3.25 drinks.
- Don’t Drink on Non-Training Days
Drinking has an adverse effect on muscle recovery. If you trained hard in the morning you are going to do yourself a disservice by drinking that night while your muscles are trying to recover.
- Take A Multi-Vitamin Prior to Drinking
Alcohol blocks nutrient absorption in the body. Take a multi-vitamin prior to going out so your body can absorb as many nutrients as they can.
- Eat A Big Breakfast
Feed your muscles in the morning. They are hungry. Most people skip this meal after a night of drinking because they are hung over. Don’t do it. Your gains will suffer if you don’t eat.
- Take ZMA and Glutamine
Take ZMA and glutamine once you wake up. The ZMA will help increase your testosterone levels back to normalcy and the glutamine will help decrease catabolism.
If you go big at night, just make damn sure you’re going bigger in the gym.