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How Alcohol Really Affects Exercise

How Alcohol Really Affects Exercise

Fitness Together - Auburn

The Nutrition tip this month was chosen to explain exactly how alcohol affects your fitness. Our clients are often shocked when we break the sad news to them, yet they still ignore the reality of the matter. Therefore I am going to explain 4 different reasons why alcohol could be detrimental to your exercise results.  But first, some background information on protein syntesys... the stuff that makes up every muscle and tissue in our bodies.


Testosterone directly affects muscle growth by binding to receptors on the surface of muscle cells and amplifying the biochemical signals in muscle tissue that result in protein synthesis. Testosterone also increases levels of another growth factor, called growth hormone, which the body releases in response to exercise. Like testosterone, growth hormone increases protein synthesis and can result in increased muscle growth. Read more:

Human Growth Hormone:

  • Protein metabolism: In general, growth hormone stimulates protein anabolism (Building up) of many tissues including muscle. This effect reflects increased amino acid uptake, increased protein synthesis and decreased oxidation (breakdown) of proteins.
  • Carbohydrate metabolism: Growth hormone is one of a battery of hormones that serves to maintain blood glucose within a normal range. Growth hormone is often said to have anti-insulin activity, because it suppresses the abilities of insulin to stimulate uptake of glucose in peripheral tissues and enhance glucose synthesis in the liver. Somewhat paradoxically, administration of growth hormone stimulates insulin secretion, leading to hyperinsulinemia.
  • Fat metabolism: Growth hormone enhances the utilization of fat by stimulating triglyceride breakdown and oxidation in adipocytes (Fat cells).

Now that these terms have been defined it will be easier to understand the following:

1)       Alcohol dramatically slows down protein synthesis. Usage of alcohol suppresses protein synthesis and causes myopathy in many cases. Myopathy is a state when muscles do not function as they should which makes muscle contractions weak or impossible.


2)        Alcohol causes dehydration which affects the ability of your body to heal post-workout. “As alcohol is absorbed through your stomach and small intestine and into your cells, it can disrupt the water balance in muscle cells, altering their ability to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is your muscles’ source of energy. ATP provides the fuel necessary for your muscle to contract.” Without ATP it is hard to achieve muscle growth because there is no energy to facilitate the process.


3)       Your hormones play a very large role in protein synthesis, especially in regards to testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH). Patricia N. Prinz, lead author for a 2011 study published in "The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism" States that HGH is responsible for signaling to the muscle that it needs to get bigger and stronger. Alcohol decreases the secretion (release) of HGH by nearly 70%.


Not only does alcohol relatively negate the effects of HGH by up to 70% but it is also is a toxin to testosterone.  The effects of alcohol are more prominent in muscle protein synthesis, which may be reduced by 75% due to the consumption of alcohol

Read more:


4)       Timing of drinking is also crucial in order to not waste your workouts. People have said that in moderation, alcohol is good for overall health because the alcohol contains many High Density Lipoproteins (HDL) which helps to get rid of Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL); this improves cholesterol and blood pressure levels. However, when it comes to protein synthesis, alcohol does not need to be consumed within 48 hours post- exercise.

In conclusion if you drink within 48 hours of exercising you WILL waste your workout.  This is due to Alcohol suppressing protein synthesis (muscle building/repairing) by causing myopathy, dehydration, and decreasing the effects of hormones on protein synthesis. Not only will alcohol affect building muscle but it will also directly affect fat and carbohydrate storage through interfering with HGH. Please take this topic seriously, especially if you have been working out for a while without seeing any results