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WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DRINKING AND TRAINING

Posted by UPROTEIN on

You've heard the “train hard, play hard” rhetoric, but do you wonder if the booze is holding back your gains? 

You hit the gym several times per week, you consume more protein than a horde of cannibals, and you own at least one of every product from the local supplement store. Yet when the weekend rolls around, it’s inevitably time for a pre-party pump and a night on the booze.

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There are the staunch bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts who extol the virtues of abstinence to keep themselves in peak condition, flaunting their abs as proof the system works. But is alcohol really undoing all your hard work? Before you embark on a weekend of excess, learn just how alcohol affects your muscle growth, weight loss and training motivation.

Do you know how your body metabolises alcohol?

When you drink alcohol – whether it’s beer, wine or a vodka and OJ – your body prioritises the metabolism of the ethanol in those beverages above all else, meaning that other energy sources (e.g. F/P/C) will not be used until all of the ethanol has been metabolised, if at all. 

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Considering that the metabolic by-product of alcohol (acetate) is toxic, it makes sense. The bad news for your abs is that alcohol puts the brakes on fat oxidation, allowing dietary fat to more easily be stored in fat cells.

Alcohol & Performance

Alcohol’s impacts on performance reaches far beyond the bedroom, so even if you can drag yourself to the gym after one-too-many, you’re unlikely to see the same gains as your teetotaller mates. 

Dehydration is a prime issue. You need to be hydrated when you exercise to maintain the flow of blood through your body, which is essential for circulating oxygen and nutrients to your muscles. Hydration also helps control your body temperature, so you’re more likely to overheat.

Lowered testosterone levels

Testosterone is reduced whenever alcohol is consumed, which isn’t a good sign for your lean muscle mass gains. An important thing to remember is that while alcohol is absorbed rapidly, it is metabolised very slowly, and as such its effects may still impact performance even up to 48 hours after your last drink.

Suppressed fat burning

With seven calories per gram, alcohol is almost twice as dense in calories as carbs, and is right up there with the number of calories per gram of fat (which sits a 9). And with little-to-no nutritional value, that’s a lot of additional empty calories.

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While alcohol is not easily converted to fat, it does compromise the body’s ability to burn calories and promotes excess fat storage. In this case, it’s important to carefully consider what you’re eating on days that you’ll be drinking, and also ensure your lowered inhibitions don’t lead to a complete blow-out in the diet plan.

Alcohol kills sleep

If you’ve ever woken up after having a few drinks the night before and then spent the day in a sleep-deprived daze, you’ll know this all too well. Alcohol robs you of much-needed deep and REM sleep. Anyone serious about packing on the muscle will know that sleep is also essential to growth; it is when your body recovers and repairs itself, and when the body releases a nice dose of growth hormone. Miss out on that slow-wave sleep and you could be impeding your body’s ability to build muscle

Increased appetite

After a night of drinking it’s common to feel tired and crave sugar to artificially generate energy. Lack of quality sleep has also been known to contribute to increased appetite and weight gain due to lower levels of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone.

In addition to this, studies have shown that alcohol can have a big impact on appetite and subsequent food consumption. Maccas run, anyone?!

Motivation drain

Alcohol can create a mental roadblock to gains, sapping you of your motivation to train. Alcohol intake slows glycogen metabolism, and as glycogen is the brain’s main source of energy it means poor brain function. Add this lack of mental energy and focus to a potentially upset stomach and tiredness, and the thought of a gym session may be all too much.

By understanding what happens when you drink, you can make your own judgement call as to whether alcohol has in a place in your social life. Alcohol and muscle-building are not the best of friends, however if you’re not in training for a major event or competition a few after-work beers or glasses of wine with a nice meal are unlikely to completely derail your muscle and fitness goals.

Do you or someone you know have a problem with alcohol? To find where to get help for you, your family or friend, talk to your GP, local health service or the Alcohol And Drug Information Services in your state or territory. 

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