Posted by Dayne Hudson in Muscle Building
Estimated reading time: 5mins
As with most things, the dose of alcohol determines how bad it is for your muscle growth.
Beginning with men, and testosterone is obviously good for muscle growth. It signals to myocytes (muscle cells) to grow.
But alcohol is NOT good for testosterone; toxic for the cells that produce testosterone in the testicles. And those who abuse alcohol long-term can hinder the production of testosterone from the testicles in general.
So how much are we talking?
Well, 1-3 drinks will actually cause a man's testosterone to increase. And that's not the end of the world for their muscle gains at all; research shows this doesn't affect the recovery of even very taxing muscle building workouts.
But after 4 drinks is when the problems can start.
So that's a day of less testosterone. But, if a man was planning on competing in the natural Mr Olympia, well, he wouldn't want a drop of alcohol at all!
But if the health and fitness lifestyle is about moderation, balance, and all-around wellbeing, then this is perfectly acceptable (though we'd always recommend men consume closer to the lower end of this range).
Well, this is where things can get pretty ugly.
And what does that look like for muscle growth?
Well, research has found that 9 glasses of alcohol after training can decrease muscle protein synthesis by a whopping 24%.
So a male can go and train as hard as he likes, but if he goes and has a big night out with 9 plus drinks, he'll grow 24% less muscle.
So that workout will still be somewhat useful, but obviously not as good as if he stayed sober.
One review into alcohol concluded:
"...levels of cortisol (stress hormone) were increased, and levels testosterone and rates of muscle protein synthesis were decreased, which indicates that long term muscular adaptations could be impaired if alcohol consumption during recovery is consistent."
In other words, a big night out with friends once a month hinders his workout from that day significantly. But if that's only a handful of times a year, it's probably not going to be noticeable.
But if it's consistent, then gains will be severely hindered; not to mention the production of testosterone which we touched on at the beginning.
Let's face it, women have it tough with hormonal changes and menstrual cycles that make exercise and ideal body composition much harder than it is for their male counterparts!
But women might have the leg up here in terms of how alcohol affects muscle growth!
This study found that several shots of vodka right after a workout decreased muscle growth signalling in males, but not females!
And get this: it doesn't seem to affect a females recovery after training, either! This study discovered that up to 6 drinks of alcohol after training didn't hinder a woman's recovery as much as men.
And it's only fair with all the other hardships women have to put up with!
Alcohol isn't a death sentence for muscle growth, with its effects actually being quite mild. But long term abuse certainly is severely detrimental.
For men, 1-3 drinks are fine. But 4-8 drinks can result in a testosterone decrease of 18-40%, and given testosterone vital role in muscle growth, this isn't ideal. But 24 hours later you'll be back to baseline. However, more than 9 drinks will lower testosterone levels by 45%, where they might remain lowered by up to 23% the day after. This will decrease muscle protein synthesis by a whopping 24% and isn't advised.
For women, up to 6 drinks doesn't hinder recovery, and alcohol consumption for women looking to grow muscle seems to be fairly insignificant.