Some people lift to look good for nights out and/or the beach, but the alcohol-infused lifestyle they embrace is literally killing their gains and cut.
Everyone knows that alcohol, in excess, is not good for you. It’s especially not good for you if you’re a lifter seeking dense muscle mass and a low body fat percentage.
While some people can get away with a live-fast-die-young mentality and look half-decent, the chances are that you won’t fall into this category.
Booze will be a dampener for your gym performance as well as overloading you with useless calories.
So, after this brief intro, let’s get right in it, shall we?
1. Alcohol Inhibits Muscle Protein Synthesis (MPS)
Booze is one of the worst things you can consume if your goal is to pack on some quality muscle. While you can still put on muscle at the same time as a magisterial social life, you will be leaving some gains at the table.
One study “reported a 25% decrease in rates of muscle protein synthesis with alcohol administration in rodents, a value in close agreement with the current study. Our results show alcohol ingestion in humans suppresses the elevated rates of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle induced by exercise and protein ingestion.” [R]
Another study found that alcohol consumed after training can decrease MPS by 24-37% when combining a post-workout whey protein shake with a carbohydrate rich meal a couple of hours after training. [R]
2. Alcohol is Calorie Dense
Clocking in at a whopping 7 calories per gram, alcohol contains almost double the calories of carbohydrates and protein — but none of the nutritional value of these macronutrients.
In a deep drinking session, the calories can rack up. Add junk food or fast food into the mix and you can easily accumulate several thousands of calories in only a few hours.
Not only that, but as we will mention below, as alcohol lowers your inhibitions and increases your cravings for calorie-dense food, you are potentially lighting a powder keg of calories when your body is in a suboptimal condition for muscle growth.
Lastly, alcohol is an anti-nutrient that can suppress digestive enzymes and damage cells in the digestive tract rendering nutritious foods less beneficial. It may also leave you less efficient at absorbing protein.
3. Alcohol Ruins Your Sleep
Another problem with the grog is that it impacts your quality of sleep.
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do.
If you want to train hard and gain strength and muscle, your sleep has got to be on point; otherwise you’re leaving gains at the table.
Sleep deprivation is one of the most significant causes in a drop of athletic performance.
Various studies have shown how alcohol can disrupt your natural sleep pattern, leading to suboptimal recovery [R].
HGH, which is necessary for repairing damaged cells, is released during sleep and alcohol has been shown to decrease secretions by up to 70% [R].
4. Alcohol Lowers Your Testosterone Levels
This can be absolutely deleterious to your formation as a lifter.
Alcohol — especially beer — can lower your testosterone levels, hormonal balance, and even your metabolism.
Beer — especially hopped beer — is particularly pernicious as it is not only brimming with calories, but also with highly estrogenic phytoestrogens. If you want man boobs, a massive gut, and love handles, I suggest you get on the fruity IPAs.
Another problem with alcohol, when it comes to your metabolism, is that it will make you less active on the days after drinking as you will be less inclined to move about as much.
Some studies have shown that quite a fair bit of alcohol has to be consumed for it to have an impactful effect on your testosterone levels.
According to verywellfit:
“Approximately nine drinks for a 180lb man would need to be consumed to lower testosterone hormone levels post-exercise, according to some studies. Decreased testosterone in men can impair muscle growth, decrease sexual function, and increase the risk of osteopenia/osteoporosis.”
Heavy drinking can also promote aromatization — the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
5. Alcohol Lowers Your Immune System
The sauce can also lower you immune system, leaving you more prone to illnesses — which can play a negative role in your progression as an athlete or a lifter.
Researchers found “evidence that alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways. These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impede recovery from tissue injury. It is our hope that a greater understanding of the specific mechanisms through which alcohol exerts its effects on the immune system may lead to development of interventions to prevent, or at least mitigate, the negative health consequences of alcohol misuse.” [R]
Other research found that toddy is also linked to inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked with the majority of diseases.
Booze inflames cells in the gut and then impairs the body’s ability to address that inflammation.
Testosterone has been linked with immune response. Booze, lowering testosterone, may also fetter the body’s ability to fight off infections through this pathway.
6. Alcohol Can Prevent You From Burning Fat
Since your body treats alcohol like a toxin, and it can’t be stored in the body, the body burns the calories available in alcohol first to expel these toxins (namely acetaldehyde and acetate).
This process slows your metabolism down, postponing the consumption of calories from other food sources.
Foods consumed while under the influence of alcohol are likely to be stored as fat as your body runs off alcohol for energy until toxins are expelled.
This makes fat loss while enjoying drink doubly precarious as you have to contend with avoiding post-session fast food.
7. Alcohol Makes You Crave Junk Foods
The two-punch assault of high calories in itself plus the craving for bad food makes a night on the town a deadly choice for those attempting to cut fat.
Studies have shown how alcohol, in lowering your inhibits, makes you prone to bad choices; in this case, choosing junk food over healthier options [R].
People who consume alcohol with lunch have a higher likelihood of consuming more total calories throughout the day.
8. Alcohol Reduces Athletic Performance
Aside from trashing your sleep quality, liquor can ruin your athletic performance. Not only is this bad news on game day but subpar workouts on a regular basis can mean subpar gains if you want to make the cut.
Alcohol is a diuretic and can throw off your electrolyte balance, leaving you dehydrated.
Dehydration and sleep deprivation are the two worst preventable things that can hamper your athletic performance.
Booze can lower your adenosene triphosphate production — that is used to fuel your cells and why I’m such a huge fan of Creatine — through dehydration.
And drink can also slow down your reaction times to add insult to injury.
What Can Be Done?
There are several things that can be done if you enjoy the occasional drink.
The first thing to do would be to limit your intake, leaving blowouts to special occasions.
The second thing to do would be to ensure that you’re not increasing your total caloric intake by mixing spirits with diet sodas and/or avoid sugary cocktails, wines, and beers.
To avoid post-session munchies, stock your fridge with low-calorie snacks so that you aren’t reaching for calorie-laden fast food to satiate your appetite.
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