One of the most debated topics in the bodybuilding circles is alcohol and its effects on muscle growth and fat burning. A lot of bodybuilders try to avoid alcohol altogether and yet there are some who opt for weekly drinks and still manage to look great.
Some of the important questions that often come to the mind include:
- Does alcohol affect your workout progress and muscles gains?
- Is there a minimum amount that you can consume and still achieve your fitness goals?
- Is it best to avoid alcohol altogether?
Alcohol Physiology Basics
First of all, alcohol is classified as a toxin for your body, mainly because of its chemical nature. Your body is unable to digest and metabolize it like other foods. What you need to keep in mind is that when you consume alcohol, your body stops typical metabolic processes like building new proteins or breaking down food for energy. This makes it clear how alcoholics often get a beer belly. In addition to this, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram.
Alcohol and Fat Metabolism
As mentioned above, alcohol is a toxin and your body instantly stops its regular functions as soon as your consume it in order to process alcohol first. While breaking down Ethanol (alcohol), acetyl-CoA is created. Now, this is a specific enzyme that plays a pivotal role in fat metabolism. It creates new fatty acids in your body and eventually results in massive fat storage.
Not just this, another enzyme NADH also increases with alcohol intake. This enzyme makes your body believe that there’s more than enough available energy of calories and that it does not need to burn any more fat for energy. The result is pretty obvious with your body storing more and more fat rather than metabolizing it.
And the story continues even a step further with your body increasing its fat storage even from the regular everyday food that you consume.
How Alcohol Converts Food into Fat?
According to a study, alcohol reduces fat burning or fat oxidization by a staggering 87%. Your body treats it as a toxin and prioritizes to burn it or excrete it as quickly as possibly inhibiting fat and carbohydrate metabolism in the process. Another interesting fact learned during the research was that fat oxidization process gets suppressed for as long as another four hours.
Another important part of the study was to find out how the combination of alcohol and carbohydrates affected fat metabolism. This is of great significance since most people tend to combine alcohol with other sugary drinks and high carb or high-fat meals. And the bad news is that such a combination of alcohol and carbs totally blunts fat oxidation or fat burning in the body.
Alcohol and Muscle Growth
Alcohol consumption bears a massive impact on your muscle building capacity. Alcohol and high-fat food is the perfect way to get a Dadbod!
Protein synthesis is the primary mechanism of building new muscle. When you consume a high-quality protein, your body increases protein synthesis and helps you build new muscle fibers leading to an increase in muscle size. Under normal conditions, this process continues around the clock with you consuming protein every 3-6 hours and training hard in the gym. Over time, this process helps you achieve your bodybuilding goals with respect to muscle size and strength.
Alcohol is the perfect way of destroying all your hard work at the gym. It inhibits mTOR and protein synthesis. What it means is that it not only stops any muscle growth but also impairs recovery and progress. This makes you weaker and smaller in the long run. However, just one or two drinks a week won’t have this kind of an impact but regular drinking is going to take a toll on your recovery process in a big way.
Alcohol on New Protein Balance
Alcohol also affects your net protein balance which refers to the balance between being anabolic (muscle growth) and catabolic (muscle breakdown). What it means is that if you have positive protein balance, your body is in an anabolic state and if this balance is negative, your body is in a catabolic state.
Alcohol and Hormones
Finally and most importantly, alcohol bears a deep impact on your anabolic hormones. According to various studies, alcohol can reduce both growth hormone and Luteinizing hormone. While growth hormone is important for both fat burning and muscle growth, LH is crucial for testosterone production and regulation in your body. Not just this, alcohol intake also increases cortisol or the stress hormone that may increase muscle protein breakdown and impair recovery.
Finding a Balance
While regular andor high alcohol consumption is a big NO NO, it may be possible to create a balance and drink in moderation. More importantly, it all depends upon your fitness goals. If you are a pro or are preparing for a competition, alcohol will slow down your progress and thus its best to avoid it altogether.
However, if you are fitness freak 1-2 drinks a week would not do any harm!