How Alcohol Affects Building Muscles

Taking alcohol after a day’s hard work or while chilling amongst friends is really not a bad idea. This does not mean it does not have some side effects.

If you want to build your muscles several studies have pointed out that alcohol, which is also known as ethyl alcohol or ethanol, is not advised for you and here is why according to research.

Alcohol seems to reduce the muscle protein synthesis also known a MPS and this adversely affects muscle growth. A research was conducted with eight active men who were physically fit. They made them perform a number of routines like weight lifting and HIIT during the research period.

After each workout, they would have some whey protein and alcohol four hours after and a meal of carbohydrates after two hours. They then had their muscle biopsy taken two and eight hours after the training exercise.

When the results came, it revealed that the alcohol levels were more with both the consumption of protein and carbohydrate. The muscle biopsies also reveal that there was a reduction in muscle protein synthesis (MPS) after physical training. When the alcohol was consumed with protein, the muscle protein synthesis reduced by 24% and when consumed with carbohydrates, the MPS reduced by 37%.

Thus, it was concluded that alcohol does hinder muscle protein photosynthesis. If one engages in binge drinking, the results would even be lower.

Alcohol is a small molecule which easily passes the blood-brain barrier quite easily (hence you getting tipsy after just a glass). Here it will sodden the brain part that is responsible for rational thinking also known as the cerebral cortex and leaves the limbic system which is the more emotional part of the brain to remain unaffected, thus making the person more emotional than usual.

Alcohol also has depressant effects. In a bid to fight this depression, the brain releases GABA. This is a neurotransmitter whose job is to restrict or depress the excitability of the brain. It can be increased when one takes stimulants. The postsynaptic receptors which receive the message passes by the GABA then respond and work to reduce the possibility of an electrical charge which is carried through a neuron and that causes stimulation in it.

As time goes on, with a regular intake the GABA receptors adapt to the amount that is usually consumed and then requires more before it is alerted to take action and it begins to function improperly. This could result in anxiety, tremors, hallucinating and disorientation when one abstains from a drink.

Alcohol affects the production of testosterone which is vital in the process of muscle-building. Alcohol hinders the Leydig cells in the testicles which are the cells responsible for the production of testosterone. Its toxicity can even shrink the testicles of a man which also reduces the production of testosterone. It disrupts the function of the brain signal which could reduce the sending of a signal to the testicles to produce testosterone.

Alcohol also decreases the body’s ability to burn fat and can reduce metabolism. Alcohol is recognized by the body as a toxin and not a nutrient and so the storage of its calories differs from the storage of food calories. After just a few drinks, acetaldehyde and acetate are consumed and the body proceeds to eject the toxins, this causes you to head to the bathroom. This, in turn, delays the metabolic process of fat stores which are not burned. It also inhibits the body from burning the fat located around the belly which results in a beer belly.

Sleep is adversely affected by high alcohol intake. Although alcohol gives a feeling of relaxation it does not aid sleep. It usually helps in going to sleep but fails in keeping one asleep which distorts restorative eye movement (REM). This then results in fatigue and poor concentration during the day.

Therefore here is a summary of what alcohol does to your system

Dehydration: This is a major cause of head throbbing and a dry mouth. Alcohol reduces the water level in the body faster even when you have some water after the drink. Due to inadequate water in the body, the portion that should go to the brain gets taken to other parts which then results in a headache.

Weight gain: As explained, it slows the process of fat burning in the body and therefore leads you to increase in weight and calories. The average alcoholic drink contains about 200-300 calories which mostly become stored as fat.

Muscle growth: Alcohol disrupts the process of muscle growth by impairing muscle protein synthesis. It blocks other nutrients from being dissolved because it is the first to be metabolized.

Sleep deprivation: In addition, alcohol disturbs sleep and causes either poor quality sleep or no sleep at all. No sleep equals a bad workout session for a while.

Slow recovery: Downing alcohol after a weightlifting session, according to research in New Zealand, gives an experience of soreness as well as increases the levels of creatine kinase, which is an enzyme that alerts the body of tissue damage.

Low testosterone production: This affects the production of muscles in males.


The effects of alcohol come with excessive drinking or regular intake. This does not mean you have to stay away from the beverage fully but that you must watch the amounts you consume per time.

Here is some advice for your alcohol intake:

  • Be sure to consume huge amounts of water after to replenish your body before, during and after a cocktail.
  • Be careful of the makeup of the alcohol.
  • Some alcohols, like beer, are packed with a lot of calories; ciders have the lowest quality sugar and alcohol. They usually possess high amounts of sugar.
  • Don’t use it to make yourself go to sleep. It does the opposite in most cases.
  • Do it moderately. Remember that alcohol taken regularly even though it is not in large amounts is still harmful to your body. Take it at intervals.
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