In this article, we’ll take a look at the effects of alcohol on bodybuilding. For some, alcohol is something cultural like drinking wine or beer; but this consumption can also be festive and that is why more and more young people are drinking for intoxication. Fortunately, the effects of alcohol on muscle gain are directly related to the dose consumed. Indeed, a drink will have very little consequence on muscle loss, but heavy alcohol consumption can be harmful to your health and goals.
What are the effects of alcohol on bodybuilding?
Alcohol and weight gain
It’s no secret but alcohol makes you gain weight. It’s simple, 1g of ethanol (7 calories) is about as energetic as 1g of fat (9 calories). Thus, calorie intake can quickly increase if you drink alcoholic cocktails or alcohol shots which can blow up your calorie balance! But be careful, when it comes to alcohol, these are empty calories that are useless and will not help you gain more muscle. So be careful with the calories in alcoholic glasses. The calories will therefore not be used for energy purposes but stored as fat in adipose tissue.
In addition, alcohol makes the oxidation of lipids much more difficult and increases blood triglyceride levels and promotes positive lipid balance. In the long term, alcohol consumption increases the size of adipocytes and the level of body fat, mainly in the area of abdominal fat, which will make it very difficult to have the famous 6 pack.
Contrary to what you might think, alcohol dehydrates the body. Indeed, you have no doubt already known the irresistible urge to drink a huge amount of water the day after a night that was a little too boozy. Alcohol inhibits the hormone ADH (anti-diuretic hormone), preventing the reabsorption of water in the renal tubules. This means that the water is not reabsorbed and it is therefore advisable to drink water from time to time between your glasses of alcohol in the evening to avoid dehydration.
Alcohol blocks muscle recovery
This is an important point that should not be overlooked for people looking to increase their muscle mass or maintain it during a dry spell. In fact, even moderate alcohol consumption slows down muscle recovery after training. Alcohol may influence the levels of myostatin which increases in muscles in the presence of alcohol and is able to reduce muscle gain by preventing the creation of new fibers. The adverse effects of alcohol on human physiology have been well documented, negatively influencing neural function, metabolism, cardiovascular physiology, thermoregulation, and skeletal muscle myopathy.
Alcohol lowers testosterone
Despite what many people think about bodybuilding and fitness, alcohol does not have significant negative effects on training. However, you probably must have heard that drinking alcohol lowers testosterone. Even if this is true, it is overkill. A 3-week study showed that by consuming between 30 and 40g of alcohol per day, testosterone was reduced by 6.8% in men but no decline in women. This means that 3 beers per day for 3 weeks results in a minimal 6.8% reduction in testosterone in men. So if you are an occasional drinker with a glass of wine with a meal or 2-3 beers per week, you probably have no chance of lowering your testosterone levels.
Alcohol lowers morale
Alcohol plays a depressant role in the brain that can lower your mood. Although at the moment, alcohol makes you happy, it can also make you sad and demotivate. Alcohol disrupts sleep cycles and therefore hormone production and can affect mood for days after consumption. So you may have less desire to train for the next few days or even stick to your diet for example.
Should you consume alcohol when working out?
As we have seen, alcohol is not really recommended if you are a bodybuilder since it can reduce your strength, your recovery, your motivation, and make you gain fat. But this is all going to depend a lot on how much alcohol you consume. Unless you are a professional bodybuilder or preparing for a competition, it is not forbidden to drink from time to time during a festive occasion, but it is better to consume in a moderate way! So, for example, you can limit yourself to two glasses to fully enjoy it without impacting your goals.