We all know it. It is hard enough to build muscle, but it is harder still when you have a system saturated with alcohol. While many are quick to dispel this as a myth, it is actually a cold, hard fact that is best respected and acknowledged, especially if you are serious about your fitness goals. The fact of the matter is alcohol considerably slows down muscle growth. And if you consistently exercise and watch what you eat yet imbibe just as consistently, this could very well be the reason why you are not as fit as you like.
So you may wonder, exactly how does alcohol affect your muscle-building capacity? Well, in order to know the truth, you must first understand exactly what happens to your muscles when you drink alcohol. Here’s how:
Your growth hormones are a very important player when it comes to the muscle-building process. Basically, the growth hormone works by stimulating cell growth and development, as well as encouraging bone growth. When this hormone is at its optimal level, your muscle development will be off the charts. If it is low, on the other hand . . . well, you get the picture.
Now, the human body releases growth hormones while you are at rest, particularly during sleep. Research has shown, however, that alcohol greatly suppresses the releases of growth hormones during sleep. This is because alcohol disrupts your natural sleep rhythms. This, in turn, decreases muscle growth by up to 70%, which could really undermine whatever progress you think you’ve made.
In a nutshell, protein synthesis is the process in which the protein from your food is converted into muscle, so this is actually a very important process when it comes to building muscle. During resistance training, your muscles will experience micro tears, which will then be “repaired” through protein synthesis, leading to bigger and stronger muscle fibers.
Now, studies have found that alcohol directly inhibits protein synthesis. This means that alcohol effectively stops your muscles from repairing themselves and growing. Because of this blocking effect, a reduction in muscle mass can be expected.
Did you know that steroids are made from testosterone? Well, now you know. You actually want this stuff as much as possible because this is an incredibly highly potent hormone that contributes to muscle building.
Unfortunately, it has been found that alcohol significantly lowers testosterone levels. Furthermore, alcohol also raises estrogen, which is highly detrimental when you’re trying to grow muscle. This is primarily the reason why men have greater muscle mass, as opposed to women.
When you are trying to build muscle by working out, you need to be constantly hydrated. Unfortunately, alcohol is essentially a diuretic, which disrupts your natural water balance significantly. This increases the need for you to replace the extra fluid that you will lose when you drink alcohol with water and other non-alcoholic beverages. Otherwise, your body will then suffer the effects of dehydration, including fatigue. Plus, it hampers your body’s ability to produce ATP, which is your body’s main source of muscular energy.
Alcohol will invariably make your workouts a lot harder than they are because it affects your aerobic ability. Basically, alcohol will increase your blood pressure, making your heart work extra hard when you do aerobic activities. So you end up doing twice the work with lesser effects.