Yes, you read correctly, this blog post is about muscle building and alcohol consumption. How it can go together? Let me say in advance: The conclusion of this article will not be that alcohol and muscle building complement each other perfectly and that alcohol does not harm your performance. Nevertheless, even strength athletes are only human and may like to have a drink or two on the weekend at the birthday party or a glass of wine with the girls. Therefore, we now want to take a closer look at the topic of alcohol consumption and muscle building.
When does the body build muscle mass?
In order to be able to evaluate the effects of alcohol consumption on muscle building, it must first be clear what the body needs to build muscle in the first place. This is, on the one hand, an appropriate workload in training. The workload is calculated by multiplying the number of repetitions for each exercise with the number of sets as well as the weight moved and then adding up the total for all exercises of the complete training session. It means the total weight that was moved during a workout.
Your workload should logically increase over time if you are in muscle building, which is only possible if regular stimuli are placed on the muscles. If both factors are met, it is called progressive training. Surely it is nothing new for you that not only the training is crucial for success in muscle building, but also sufficient regeneration phases in which the muscles can grow and adapt to the new demands placed on them. The regeneration is again dependent on factors such as the sleep quality and quantity as well as the nutrient supply. As far as nutrition in muscle building is concerned, there are two aspects to be considered in short: that the body is supplied with more calories through food than it consumes and that enough protein is consumed. Here you can stick to a guideline of 1.6 – 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. If you would like to receive more detailed information on the topic of nutrition in muscle building, take a look at our blog article on this topic!
What happens in the body when we drink alcohol?
Alcohol or. More precisely, ethanol is a macronutrient in its own right, along with proteins, fats and carbohydrates. One gram of alcohol has 7 kilocalories. For comparison: One gram of protein or carbohydrates brings approx. 4 kilocalories with itself and a gram fat 9 kilocalories. But what essentially distinguishes alcohol from the other macronutrients, in addition to its nutrient density, is that it contains only "empty calories" that do not provide the body with any essential micronutrients. Alcoholic beverages are therefore quite calorie bombs. In addition, on a party night, it rarely remains with the calories of the alcohol alone; often many sugary drinks such as soft drinks and juices are also drunk in addition. In addition, alcohol stimulates our appetite and makes us quickly throw our nutritional principles overboard, so that we courageously reach for the nibbles at the party or stop by the kebab store of our choice after a visit to the club. Once you consume alcohol and it enters your bloodstream, the body’s goal is to break it down again. This occurs gradually via degradation processes that take place mainly in the liver. Finally, the remains of the alcohol are excreted in the form of carbon dioxide and water or used to synthesize energy-rich compounds such as fatty acids or cholesterol. Since the body perceives any alcohol as a poison and the breakdown of it is considered the highest priority, other processes in the body, such as fat burning, among others, are slowed down by alcohol consumption. This also affects muscle protein synthesis, which is usually particularly high directly after training. The regeneration of muscles used in training is also much slower if the body is first busy to reach a sober state again. If you consume alcohol, you should never do so immediately after a workout. Another negative effect of alcohol consumption is the effect on the hormones testosterone and cortisol. When alcohol enters the bloodstream, testosterone levels decrease . Muscle growth, which is not insignificantly dependent on this hormone, can be disturbed in this way. In parallel, alcohol increases the level of cortisol in the blood. Cortisol is a stress hormone that has a catabolic effect, i.e. it breaks down muscle, and can also lead to a weakening of the immune system. Alcohol consumption also has a negative effect on the body’s ability to absorb nutrients . Since ethanol deprives the body of water and important electrolytes, the muscle fibers can absorb fewer nutrients when alcohol is consumed and are therefore not optimally supplied, which can have a counterproductive effect on recovery. You know that feeling of falling tired into bed after a night of partying and going straight to sleep sound asleep? The sensation of sleeping particularly deeply after drinking alcohol is unfortunately deceptive. On the contrary, our sleep is significantly less restful when we have drunk alcohol, which is usually evident the next morning: Fatigue, headaches and nausea are often the price to pay for alcohol intoxication. Training is therefore out of the question for the time being on this day. The reduced performance of the body can be noticeable even several days after the alcohol consumption in everyday life and also in training.
Admittedly, alcohol really does not do well in this article so far. If your weekend basically consists of two all-nighters, which you still feel in your bones until the middle of the week, you should rethink this behavior (by the way, completely independent of weight training), because you are really not doing your body any good and in the long run serious health consequences can occur. In moderation, however, even a strength athlete with a very high awareness of healthy nutrition can reach for a glass of beer or wine, plan a cocktail evening with friends, or party the night away in a club with a drink or two. It is important that you are aware of what happens in your body as soon as you drink alcohol and you plan your training sessions accordingly so that your body can recover sufficiently after alcohol consumption. How it is called nevertheless so beautifully? Exceptions prove the rule – and there is definitely some truth to this when it comes to muscle building and alcohol consumption.