Alcohol and Working Out

By Robin Murhutta (About the author)

Everyone knows that working out and alcohol do not go together at all, and it's really no secret that alcohol can affect a person's goals. But how true is that? I'm going to outline some of alcohol's effects on muscle and some tips to help you stay on track and still enjoy a night out.

1. Calorie Intake

So everyone's biggest concern is usually their weight. Alcohol is empty calories, meaning it has almost no nutrients. Also, alcohol is about 7 calories per gram. Next, alcohol also stops fat metabolism in the body. Furthermore it slows down the krebs cycle which is - in short- means your body focuses so much on breaking down the alcohol that it stops breaking down fat.. As previously mentioned, there is 7 calories per gram of alcohol meaning that in a shot of 80 proof vodka there's close to 100 calories. Think about it this way: If 6 shots, before the mixers/chasers (which can cause the calorie content to rise even higher), average 100 calories a shot you are at 600 calories, in comparison 1 Big Mac from Mcdonalds is 563 calories. Based on some of the information just presented, hard liquor beverages (Jack & Coke, tequila sunrise/sour, orange crush, margaritas, etc ) as well as common beers can boast a significant amount of calories and lead to weight gain.

Below is a list of  common alcoholic beverages so you can make better decisions about what to drink. Remember, this article is to educate you and help you make better decisions not stop you from drinking entirely.

Fit Tip:

When going out try to keep in mind which drinks provide the largest alcoholic content for the least caloric price. Good ones include Jack Daniel's No.7, Amsterdam Vodka, Miller Light, and Michelob ultra. Also try to eat healthier or cleaner on days where you know you will be drinking. This will help lower your calorie intake throughout the day to account for the intake of liquid calories later on. Make sure to eat filling, nutritionally dense foods that won’t leave you hungry and have you potentially cheat. Veggies like broccoli, squash, spinach, artichoke hearts, and peas are all good ones. Fruits also are calorie dense with apples being some of most nutritional. Carb sources like oats, potatoes (sweet and white), rice, whole grain bread, and beans are all nutritional and filling. Protein sources include fish, eggs, chicken breast, turkey, and lean beef that all provide adequate amounts of protein.

2. Recovery & Protein Synthesis

Alcohol has a negative effect on the way the body absorbs protein and lowers protein synthesis by up to 20%. This is important for men and women alike, as protein absorption effects you negatively no matter what your fitness goals are. Firstly it dehydrates your body. Everyone knows that a dehydrated muscle cannot function properly, leading to cramps, insufficient delivery of nutrients including making it harder to get blood to one's muscles. Alcohol also blocks the absorption of important chemicals and nutrients in the body, these include ones responsible for muscle contraction.

Fit Tip:

Alcohol blocks the muscle building amino acid leucine, which is responsible for synthesizing proteins in your body. So take your BCAAs next time you drink, they contain leucine. Try it in a glass of water before you go to bed after a night out, to give your body some extra leucine while you sleep and ensure protein synthesis, recovery, and hydration.

You need 3 things to build muscle, and add lean mass, male and females alike. You need protein, testosterone, but one of the lesser known chemicals needed is IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor-1). It's a stimulus chemical released whose job is to help cells divide and grow. It is specifically released when muscles are being worked out and receive microscopic tears. Alcohol has been shown to drop IGF-1 levels by 42%. Alcohol is shown to drop testosterone levels by 25%. Finally, alcohol also lowers protein synthesis by close to 20%. Meaning that all three important factors involved in building muscle and lean mass, are all lowered due to alcohol.

Fit Tip:

Try eating foods that boost testosterone as a cornerstone in your diet the day of and days following a night out.  Grapes, garlic, milk, strawberries, oysters, shrimp, and tuna are all great ideas that can help boost testosterone levels and therefore help get your body get regulated. Recovery is most important to your muscles the 24 hours after a workout. Meaning although you may feel fine on a saturday night after a tough workout friday, your muscles are still recovering. Most of  protein synthesis decrease has been shown to occur 24 hours after drinking but not sooner.  By slowing protein synthesis, alcohol slows down the process of muscle building and therefore also leads to longer recovery time and can in turn lead to, more soreness. To read more about recovery and soreness read our article on recovery here.

Also, make it a priority to eat something protein packed before and after your night out. It will help to stop the breakdown of muscle tissue as you sleep, as well as give your body all the nutrients that you didn’t take in before drinking to help begin the recovery process.