Does alcohol inhibit muscle growth? While many people seem to believe that alcohol can impact muscle growth, there seems to be more to the story than simply drinking alcohol. Building muscle takes time, energy, and plenty of effort. Because we spend so many hours in the gym working on ourselves and our physical fitness, answering the question of whether or not we can have a drink in the evening seems of great importance.
Further, muscle growth may depend on the amount of alcohol you drink and not just drinking alcohol in general. However, it's essential to look at the research to help figure out exactly what we mean by this myth. So, we checked out some of the most recent research studies regarding alcohol and muscle growth.
Alcohol and Muscle Growth Study
Research has shown that alcohol can reduce muscle protein synthesis (MPS), thus impairing our muscle growth. Additionally, other studies have shown that alcohol can impact hormone levels, including testosterone, and even decrease metabolism. Both of these impacts can increase our ability to reduce body fat.
Even though we have seen that alcohol can affect muscle growth, it is relatively unclear how much alcohol we need to drink to be impacted by it. So, does drinking beer affect muscle growth? Yes, but the amount you need to drink may vary.
Skeletal muscle disease can occur in nearly 40% to 60% of individuals who struggle with chronic alcoholism. While many research studies have looked at how alcohol decreases skeletal muscle size and function, very few have investigated whether or not alcohol impacts muscle growth.
This study found that chronic alcohol consumption can lead to weakness in your muscles as well as atrophy. It does this by suppressing MPS and mTORC1. However, this impact on muscle growth is related to chronic and excessive alcohol drinking. While they found that there is alcohol-mediated loss of muscle mass and muscle function, they did not see any reduction in skeletal muscle growth due to consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol.
Plus, the researchers concluded that those who drank only moderate amounts of alcohol and do not regularly binge drink would likely not see any impact on their muscle growth. So, will one beer affect muscle growth? Research indicates that it will probably have minimal effect on your muscle growth. However, make sure you stick to that one beer to avoid the potential downfalls of excess drinking.
Does Alcohol Impact Muscle Recovery?
Another area worth investigating is whether or not alcohol impacts muscle recovery. As we have seen above, small amounts of alcohol may not impede muscle growth, but alcohol can have other impacts on your body that are important to mention. For example, alcohol can make us feel relaxed because it is a depressant. This means that it will relax our bodies to make us sleepy and not as active.
Even though many people can fall asleep when they drink alcohol, staying asleep is typically the problem. This is because alcohol will disrupt our deep rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is vital because it helps us stay awake during the day and concentrate on our work and activities.
Even so, some studies show that having one or two drinks, which is considered to moderate alcohol consumption, will not have a drastic impact on our sleep patterns. So, similar to muscle growth, having a drink or two may not stop you from experiencing gains in the gym.
Indirect Ways that Alcohol Impacts Muscle Growth
Now that we learned that drinking alcohol in moderation will not necessarily impact muscle growth, it is worth pointing out the potential indirect ways that alcohol affects muscle growth. According to a study done in 2011, individuals who drink alcohol at unhealthy levels were generally less active. In this study, we can conclude that this is a correlation, and there is no exact causation here. Meaning, drinking lots of alcohol does not mean you're going to be less active.
However, alcohol does not have much nutritional value. While some people like to say that the calories in alcohol don't count, they do. Many alcoholic beverages are high in sugar and carbs, which may increase the needless calories that you're adding to your diet. So, you may be consuming excess calories that your body cannot necessarily use for gains or function.
Alcohol has more calories in it than you might think. Even light beers and low-calorie spiked seltzers have calories. For example, a 12-ounce bottled beer is about 150 calories, a small glass of wine is about 100 calories, and just 1.5 ounces of liquor is about 100 calories. And, this is not even counting the mixers that you use for alcohol or the fact that most people drink way more wine than they're supposed to in a single glass.
Additionally, let's talk about hangovers. Because alcohol dehydrates your body, drinking too much of it and the evening may cause severe headaches and an overall feeling of illness. When we feel ill, exercising and weightlifting may be the last thing that we want to do. Of course, we don't want to speak for everyone, but this is a common excuse.
That said, if you don't go to the gym and workout, your likelihood of gaining muscle and losing fat is slim. Also, research has shown that you may make less healthy choices while you were under the influence of alcohol. Think about how many nights you and your buddies have gone out for drinks and then ended up at a pizza place or fast-food restaurant afterward. Again, not trying to speak for everyone, but many people have had this experience; in fact, it's become kind of an association and stereotype.