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How Alcohol Affects Muscle Building

If you’re like me and like a good drink with your mates once in a while but are trying to build lean muscle at the same time, then you may be interested in how drinking alcohol is affecting your progress. Is drinking alcohol every Saturday night with your friends dramatically hindering your results at gym? Should you forget alcohol all together for the next few months whilst you’re trying to get lean? To answer this we need to understand the effect alcohol has on the muscle building process and make your own judgement.

Testosterone

Testosterone is one of the main hormones that is associated with muscle growth and is the reason why men obtain more muscle mass than women.

However, when you drink alcohol a toxic substance is created in the liver which slows the release and decreases the concentration of testosterone in the body, which results in lower muscle mass and definition.

Recovery

Alcohol affects your ability to recover after a workout. Since alcohol is a toxin, the energy needed to remove it from your system and repair damaged tissues is supplemented by your energy stores. Therefore you have less energy in the tank to recover from your workouts meaning you will not be on top form at your next training session.

Mental State

To be able to lift weights and build muscle, your nervous system needs to be in the best state to build muscle fibres. When nursing a hangover, your nervous system isn’t in the best state, making your workouts harder and less effective.

Growth Hormones

Alcohol affects the release of growth hormones. Growth hormones play a vital role in muscle development by stimulating cell and bone growth. When this hormone is low, you are not going to experience the same level of muscle development compared to when it’s at its optimal level.

Alcohol affects your sleep and as your growth hormone is predominantly released during your sleep, any disturbances will reduce the amount, decreasing your progress.

Cortisol

The stress hormone cortisol breaks down muscle. Alcohol increases the production of cortisol and therefore has a negative affect on muscle growth.

Aerobic Ability

Alcohol affects your aerobic performance. Alcohol increases your blood pressure which causes your heart rate to increase. As your heart will already be working at an increased rate during aerobic exercise, the additional stress caused by the alcohol will make exercising feel harder.

Dehydration

Alcohol acts as a diuretic in the body meaning unless you top yourself up with extra water your natural water balance will be affected.

When you are dehydrated you feel hungrier which can be a problem when you are dieting. You also disrupt the ability of the muscle cells to produce ATP (muscle energy) causing low physical performance.

Glycogen Synthesis

As well as ATP, the other source of energy when working the muscles is stored muscle glycogen. When you drink alcohol, alcohol synthesis takes precedence over glycogen synthesis meaning decreased stores in the muscle cells. This means when you next workout you will have less energy to run on, meaning you may not be able to lift heavier weights and increase strength.

Protein Synthesis

Alcohol negatively affects protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the process where amino acids are combined to form complete proteins. Drinking alcohol slows down this process and as your muscles are made up of protein, you can see why this would affect building lean muscle.

Vitamins And Minerals

Drinking alcohol rapidly decreases vitamins A, B & C and minerals such as zinc, calcium & phosphorus. Vitamins and minerals keep your body functioning properly, including processes such as muscle growth.

Body Fat

Alcohol contains a lot of calories. If you drink a few beers throughout the night, these calories can add up very quickly and will eventually start piling on the pounds of fat.

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Should you drink alcohol when building muscle?

Alcohol and muscle building don’t really go together as you can see from the above points. However unless you are training to be a bodybuilder, then a few drinks one night a week shouldn’t affect your progress that much. Remember to drink extra water with alcohol and allow for extra sleep if you can after you’ve had a few drinks.

To minimise fat gain when drinking alcohol you should:

  • Drink dry wines and spirits such as vodka, gin, whisky, which are very low in carbs.
  • Avoid carbohydrate-rich alcoholic drinks such as beer and fruit juice mixers.
  • Limit your drinking sessions to one night a week.

Of course you could give up drink completely or drink in moderation and make sure you don’t go over your calorie budget for the day. But what fun is there in that????

To Our Success In Life,

Steve Harold

What do you do when building muscle? Drink alcohol or stay away from it? Share with us in comments!

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