How muscles grow
In order for your muscles to grow, you need to exercise and consume enough protein. Heavy training will start the process of building muscle, and protein will serve as a building material. These factors do not depend on alcohol — you can easily go to the gym, eat protein foods and at the same time drink alcohol every night.
However, protein and exercise are only basic requirements.
Muscle building is also affected by:
- the ability of amino acids, the building blocks of muscle, to penetrate cells;
- the rate of protein creation and destruction in tissues;
- the amount of hormones that help or hinder weight gain.
Alcohol affects all these factors, and below we will analyze how exactly.
How alcohol affects protein synthesis
Both high and low doses of alcohol inhibit the creation of protein in muscle cells — protein synthesis.
An hour after drinking alcohol, protein synthesis decreases by 23%, and after 24 hours-by 63%. Especially strongly alcohol inhibits this process in the muscle fibers of type II, which quickly increase in size. That is, it is in those tissues that all bodybuilders pray for.
However, most of the studies on the effects of alcohol on muscle were conducted on mice that were given huge doses of ethanol. A large amount of alcohol has a bad effect on people. Alcoholics who consume more than 100 g (2 liters of beer, 250 g of vodka) a day often suffer from myopathy – the destruction of muscle tissue. One to two-thirds of drinkers have muscle atrophy, which leads to frequent falls and difficulties even when walking.
As for moderate doses of alcohol, it is not known whether they affect protein synthesis in humans.
- Ethanol reduces protein synthesis, but it needs to be constantly consumed in large doses.
- Alcoholism can cause myopathy — the destruction of muscle tissue.
- Small doses of alcohol in the future can slow down the formation of protein, but the effect is not proven.
How alcohol affects the level of hormones
Effect on testosterone
Testosterone is one of the most important hormones for maintaining good physical shape, building muscle and reducing fat.
Alcohol reduces the level of testosterone, but for significant changes, you need to drink alcohol often and in large quantities. If you drink one and a half to two bottles of beer every day for three weeks, testosterone in men will decrease by only 6.8%, and in women it will remain unchanged.
More large-scale drinking is reflected in the level of hormones much faster: after 16 hours after taking 120 g of ethanol (this is more than five cans of beer, 300 g of vodka or almost a whole bottle of wine), testosterone in men decreases by 23%.
Smaller doses of alcohol have almost no effect on hormones. A single drink of one and a half cans of beer or 150 g of vodka after training does not affect the level of testosterone, luteinizing hormone and corticotropin.
Another thing is really heavy training for strength or endurance and large doses of alcohol. 200-300 g of strong drink after such loads will significantly reduce recovery and weaken the muscles.
Effect on insulin
Insulin is simply necessary for building weight. This hormone triggers protein synthesis in ribosomes and prevents catabolism – the breakdown of protein. In addition, it helps glucose and amino acids to enter from the blood into the muscle tissue.
The higher the sensitivity of the cells to insulin, the better it supplies them with glucose for glycogen storage and amino acids for muscle building.
Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. But to increase it, you need to drink alcohol in small quantities and periodically. A single intake of small doses of alcohol does not change the level of insulin.
- Small doses of alcohol slightly reduce the level of testosterone.
- Testosterone drops significantly only after heavy training and taking a large amount of alcohol.
- Moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages increases the sensitivity to insulin.
How to drink, so as not to harm the figure
The only requirement is moderation. 30-40 g of ethanol per day does not harm the build-up of muscle mass and does not lead to the accumulation of fat. In terms of drinks, it will be 700-900 g of beer with a strength of 4.5%, 300-400 g of wine with a strength of 10%, 75-100 g of vodka.
Ethanol combined with exercise reduces lipid peroxidation, which causes oxidative stress and increases the risk of atherosclerosis. So, if you can not give up alcohol and worry about your heart — go in for sports.
Moderate alcohol consumption — no more than 30-40 g of ethanol per day-does not harm your physical fitness.
Keep drinking your glass of beer or wine after your workout if it relaxes you. But do not forget that alcohol should not replace you with full meals with a lot of protein. Without dietary protein, your results will be more than modest.