The relationship between health and alcohol can be a difficult one to navigate. If you only drink a small amount, alcohol can actually bring you health benefits such as better cardiac function and improved sensitivity to insulin. However, if you consume it in large amounts it can cause you all kinds of problems both physically and mentally. When it comes to fat loss and muscle gain, alcohol can have an impact too, so let’s take a closer look at its effects on our bodies.
Does Alcohol Make Me Gain Weight?
Some people believe that consuming alcohol automatically causes weight gain. Yet, that isn’t actually always the case. Evidence has shown that consuming alcohol in moderation has been linked with lower bodyweights, not higher ones. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should drink alcohol to become fitter. In fact, consuming alcohol may actually hinder your efforts to lose weight, albeit in a more indirect way.
Although alcohol isn’t stored in the body as fat itself, it does block fat oxidation. In turn, it accelerates the speed at which the body stores fat from your diet as body fat. That means it isn’t actually the calories in alcohol that make you gain weight. Rather, it’s the unhealthy food that you tend to eat when you’ve had a drink, since it becomes more difficult to resist snacking if you’ve consumed alcohol.
If you’d like to drink alcohol and still drop dress sizes, it’s best to consume alcohol on only one day of the week. There are some tips you should take on board too to prevent excess fat from being stored in your body.
On the day you consume alcohol, restrict your consumption of dietary fat. Also, eat no fatty foods when you’re drinking.
Obtain the majority of the calories you intake from carbs and proteins on any day you consume alcohol, making sure most are derived from lean protein.
Avoid drinks that are carb-heavy such as fruity cider and beer. Choose spirits or dry wine instead.
If you follow this advice, you can have a couple of drinks each week and not feel guilty about ruining your diet.
Does Alcohol Affect My Testosterone Level?
Evidence has shown that alcohol suppresses testosterone levels, however the extent of the effect varies between individuals. One study showed that men who consumed 30 to 40g of alcohol each day experienced a 7% drop in testosterone on average. That is quite an insignificant change. A different study involved men drinking 60g-70g of alcohol following a workout and they saw no effects at all on their levels of testosterone for the five hours following their alcohol consumption.
Consuming a lot of alcohol after a workout does cause a significant testosterone drop, though. One study that involved men being administered 1.5 grams of ethanol for every kilo of their body weight revealed that their levels of testosterone dropped by as much as 23% between 10 and 16 hours after they began drinking alcohol.
Furthermore, their levels of cortisol were raised by around 36% and their secretion of growth hormone was extremely suppressed. As a result, it’s clear that binge drinking after a workout is very bad for your testosterone production.
With this evidence in mind, it appears that it’s possible to have a couple of alcoholic drinks from time to time without negatively impacting your testosterone level. However, consuming alcohol in large volumes after a workout is a very bad idea.
Does Alcohol Affect Muscle Performance And Recovery?
A study carried out in vitro and in rats revealed that alcohol can impair the process of protein synthesis. However, that kind of research cannot be directly applied to humans. It doesn’t automatically mean that alcohol consumption stops you from being able to build up muscle and even accelerates the loss of muscle tissue. It’s important to understand that humans and rats have significant metabolic differences.
Not only that, but findings from in vitro studies don’t always have the same impact in vivo. With live humans, the muscle-wasting impact of alcohol is only seen in people who are chronic alcoholics. Anyone who consumes seven or more drinks each day will struggle to build up muscle.
Many people also believe that consuming alcohol impairs your strength and even interferes with your body’s muscle damage repair capabilities. Studies have shown, however, that this belief doesn’t hold true. Alcohol doesn’t have any effect on your strength, and produces no indicators of any muscle damage caused by exercising.
While there has been a single study that revealed a gram of ethanol administered for every kilo of a person’s body weight post exercise caused greater post-workout damage to the muscles, this research cannot be realistically applied to a traditional, low volume workout since the workout regime that was used during the research was extremely intense.
Should I Consume Alcohol?
Although people who are advocates for alcohol often say that it’s a form of superfood, it isn’t good for your health at all, and it certainly gives you no performance benefits. For anyone who doesn’t consume alcohol at all, there’s no reason to begin consuming it now.
However, if you’re a moderate and infrequent consumer of alcohol who notices no unwanted after-effects when they’ve consumed a few drinks like hangovers or any other lingering issues, there’s no real reason to quit drinking completely.
For most people, occasional moderate alcohol consumption shouldn’t cause them to gain an excessive amount of weight as long as they live an overall healthy lifestyle with regular exercise, and shouldn’t cause them to lose muscle or suffer any negative impact on their workout regime. Even an occasional heavier drinking session shouldn’t cause you any long-lasting harm.
But it’s important to be aware that if your alcohol consumption tips over into regular binge drinking or frequent heavy consumption, you could not only gain weight and experience negative effects on your muscles, but you could also cause yourself a raft of other health issues.