Without any doubt, a good nutrition plan can impact the efforts of losing weight or building muscle. Whether we want to lose weight or gain muscle mass, our efforts in this direction are dictated by nutrition in proportion of 75%. That includes everything we drink, from the water we need for hydration to the caffeinated beverages that give us energy, or the alcohol we drink when you go out. But what many of us might not know is that alcohol can delay results when it comes to building muscle mass.
Alcohol affects protein synthesis
Imagine the protein synthesis at a fibrillar level as a force that influences how our body adapts and responds to exercise. This response is directly related to our musculature’s recovery and growth at the skeletal level. After a recovery period followed by a workout, the protein synthesis is significantly increased, which means that, at this time, a correct and proper nutrition is crucial for muscle growth. This is the time when alcohol consumption can adversely impact our muscle growth. In fact, alcohol consumption interferes with muscle recovery and regeneration after training.
Alcohol affects the immune system
The immune system is composed of a cells and tissues myriad that plays an important role in protecting us against infections and helps the body recover quickly after various ailments. A strong immune system not only increases performance during training, but helps us avoid infections and wounds that could otherwise prevent us to reach our goal of losing weight or building muscle. Alcohol consumption, especially when it’s done excessively, is a stress to the immune system.
Studies show that our immune system is perfectly integrated with the nervous system and endocrine system. However, for optimal muscle growth our immune system needs to be balanced when we train and recover. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to immune problems and increase the risk of various diseases, not to mention the stress on the liver.
Alcohol leaves us out of energy
Drinking alcohol can leave us feeling powerless, because it impacts the glycogen synthesis. Also, alcohol can increase our blood pressure and our heart rate. An increased pulse during aerobic exercise combined with stress due to alcohol can make training feel more challenging than ever, resulting in an ineffective workout and low motivation.
Alcohol dehydrates us
Dehydration has a number of negative effects on the body, from weakness and poor performance to an increased appetite and disruption in the ability of muscle cells to produce ATP. As alcohol is both vasodilator and diuretic, therefore it can cause dehydration which can lead to fluid loss. When we're dehydrated, we're exposed to a number of risks such as tendrils, cramps or muscle tears. Dehydration not only increases the risk of injury, but also affects muscle growth.
Alcohol affects the endocrine system
We couldn’t discuss about muscle growth without talking about the growth hormone. Mostly described as an anabolic hormone, the growth hormone helps in the growth and maintenance of tissues, including muscles. Specifically, the growth hormone stimulates the protein synthesis during and after exercise. In addition, this hormone helps regulate the metabolism.
Alcohol negatively affects this essential hormone. It was shown that alcohol increases the stress hormone – cortisol – which can reduce the growth hormone by 72%. The growth hormone is secreted predominantly during the first hours of sleep. Because alcohol tends to affect the natural rhythm of sleep, it can decrease the amount of growth hormone by 70%.
Nobody tells us not to enjoy a glass of red wine occasionally, but it’s good to be aware of alcohol’s effects especially when we want muscle growth or weight loss (or both).
How many calories does the alcohol have?
Alcohol has 7 calories per gram. Drinking a few beers or a few cocktails during the evening is equivalent with eating fast food.
Beyond that, alcohol blocks the fat burn and keeps it (the fat) exactly in the areas which most of us are unhappy with - especially in the abdominal area.
What should we do?
- Consume alcohol in moderation and choose a low-carbohydrate drinks;
- When we know that we’re going to a party where we’ll be drinking alcohol, we should limit our carbohydrate intake that day;
- We should avoid, if possible, cocktails made with sugar and juices.