Health professionals frequently discuss the subject of alcohol consumption. Can it be done in moderation? Is red wine really beneficial to your heart? Should we all discard our favorite handles and stop looking back, or what? Whether it’s during happy hour at work, a friend’s birthday party, or a big game, many of us like to indulge in a few drinks. How does what we put in our cups impact our level of health is the question.
Can you drink alcohol without sabotaging fat loss or muscle gain? Can you get leaner by having a casual drink of wine or beer? In addition to exploring the research and laying out the facts, I’ll provide you with an action plan for the days you want to drink to minimize the negative effects of alcohol and keep you on track to achieve your goals.
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How Does Alcohol Impact Your Health?
Alcohol is often associated with bad health and rapid weight gain. Research indicates that while alcohol consumption has some drawbacks, it also has some advantages for your health.
In fact, it has been demonstrated that having 1-2 drinks a few times a week can enhance insulin sensitivity, lower the risk of hypertension, support cardiovascular health, and even marginally boost your immune system.
I’m not advocating that you consume alcohol on a daily basis, but I do want to demonstrate that it has some advantages. It could be argued that drinking occasionally is healthier than abstaining completely.
Will Drinking Once a Week Affect Muscle Gains?
The Relationship Between Alcohol and Muscle
A small investigation was made into how drinking alcohol affected muscle protein synthesis (MPS). Eight physically fit men who participated in weightlifting and interval training were tested. After exercise, they ingested whey protein and alcohol, and then again four hours later. A carbohydrate meal was also consumed by them two hours after training. Muscle biopsies were taken at two and eight hours following physical training.1
According to the findings, both protein and carbohydrate consumption and post-exercise alcohol consumption were higher than baseline. Reduced rates of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) were found in muscle biopsies after physical exercise. MPS was reduced by 24% and 37%, respectively, when alcohol was combined with protein and carbohydrates, respectively. When protein and alcohol were consumed together, the results indicated that MPS was partially rescued, though it was still decreased negatively.
Researchers concluded alcohol does impair muscle protein synthesis (MPS) despite consuming optimal nutrition. The amount of alcohol consumed was based on reported binge drinking by athletes. Because alcohol consumption among athletes may even be higher, test results may show a further decline in MPS.
The results offer sufficient support for a recommendation to athletes and coaches regarding alcohol consumption and muscle recovery.
Alcohol Effect Muscle Building
Alcohol Affects Muscle Protein Synthesis
One study conducted a “randomized, diet-controlled, crossover study, [with] 10 middle-aged men and 9 postmenopausal women, all apparently healthy, non-smoking, and moderate alcohol drinkers. [During two subsequent three-week periods, they] drank beer or non-alcoholic beer with dinner. For men and women, respectively, the daily alcohol intake during the beer period was 40 and 30 g.”
According to the findings, protein synthesis decreased for both the alcohol and protein group (by 24%) and the alcohol and carbohydrate group (by 37%).
But when drinking less than the excessive 12 drinks used in the study, it’s difficult to predict how much protein synthesis will be impacted. It makes sense that the decrease in protein synthesis rates would be less pronounced.
At this juncture, a logical conclusion would be that drinking post-workout is best avoided, and if you are going to drink post-workout you should keep the number of drinks to a minimum. If you do this, there will probably be little effect on protein synthesis.
Alcohol Affects Muscle Recovery
It’s safe to say a volume that crazy—especially using eccentric reps—is going to be hard to recover muscles from regardless of alcohol intake.
Another study discovered a decrease in glycogen storage with acute alcohol consumption (1.5 g per kg for a total of 110–120g per participant) after exercise.
The participants, however, were once more put through challenging workouts that included two hours of nonstop cycling, followed by four all-out sprints lasting 30 seconds each, with a two-minute recovery period in between. Once more, too much alcohol was consumed, and three participants had to leave the study because they were throwing up.
Alcohol Affects Fat Burning
It has been demonstrated that drinking alcohol reduces metabolism and our capacity to burn fat. The body responds to alcohol differently than it does to the actual food, which is one reason for this. It is impossible to store alcohol calories the same way the body does food calories because alcohol is viewed by the body as a toxin rather than a nutrient.
Alternatively, our metabolism changes to remove toxic waste from burning stored food calories. Acetaldehyde and acetate are the two most toxic substances produced when drinking alcohol.
After just two drinks, you’ll almost immediately feel the need to go to the bathroom. Your body is hesitantly using the unwanted byproducts as fuel to expel the toxins. As a result, the natural metabolism of adipose tissue or stored fat is slowed down. Research has determined that alcohol substitutes fat for fuel and supplies many daily requirement calories.
You engage in fitness 90% of the time. Don’t worry if you miss a diet, overindulge, or occasionally drink too much alcohol. Focus on returning to your regular routine as soon as you can rather than allowing the all-day fasting and restriction to send you into a depressive, shame-filled slump.