Alcohol and Muscle Recovery

A pint of beer or a few drinks with friends, on the weekend, is a way of tossing away the week’s stress for many of us. The drinks and the laughter around, help us forget about all our worldly troubles, but not when we are aiming to build some muscles. The troublesome thought of alcohol consumption hitting hard our muscle-gain goals often keeps us from enjoying a drink or two. While an effective nutrition plan has a great impact on our fitness journey, should alcohol be totally eliminated from this plan? Does alcohol really derail us, setting us back on muscle recovery? Read on to find out the effects of alcohol on muscle gain and know if it is okay for you to raise a glass or two with your friends. 

Review of Studies on Alcohol and Muscle Gain

Throughout the years, several studies have been carried out to understand the effects of alcohol on workout recovery or muscle gain. A systematic review of as many as 12 studies was done in order to understand the ramification of alcohol intake during recovery after resistance training. A couple of key findings of the review are as given below.

  • Following a resistance workout, the biological, physical, and performance measures were checked and observed to be unaffected even after the consumption of alcohol. 
  • But, it was also noted that for long-term training adaptations, the consistent intake of alcohol could possibly be problematic.

Key Take-Away of the Review

Following the review of the 12 studies regarding the effect of alcohol on muscle gain, an important conclusion was drawn which stated that although a low dosage (<0.5 g/kg) may not seem to meaningfully impair the muscle recover, regular consumption of alcohol will cause an unfavorable impact on muscle protein synthesis, sleep quality, and a number of important hormones. A person might even suffer from Alcoholic Myopathy which is a condition occurring from long-term or heavy drinking that results in loss of muscle strength.

Knowing the Alcohol Content in your Drink

According to the conclusion mentioned above, alcohol, when consumed in low quantity, may not have a greater impact on muscle recovery. But, how do you know how much alcohol is there in your drink? To help you out here, we have prepared the below chart that mentions the Alcohol By Volume (ABV) percentage in various drinks.

  • Beer – 4-6% ABV
  • Fortified Wine – 16-22% ABV
  • Unfortified Wine – 12-14% ABV
  • Whiskey – 35-46%
  • Vodka – 40-95%
  • Rum – 37-80%
  • Tequila – 30-60%
  • Gin – 37-50%
  • Malt Beverages – 5-15%

Looking at the above chart, we can see that beer has lesser content of alcohol. But, it is important to note that although the Alcohol By Volume percentage is less in beer, it is a dense calorie source. And, if building strong muscles is your aim then you have to stay away from the pint of beer to maintain the calorie deficit. You need to also remember that alcohol and binging on high-fat “junk” food go hand in hand. So, there is a possibility that you might overeat while indulging in a glass of drink with friends on the weekend. Moreover, the UK guidelines advise everyone to limit the consumption of alcohol to 14 units per week in order to keep the intake at a low level. These 14 units of alcohol are said to be 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.   

Conclusion

With all that said, many of us may feel elated at knowing that a low dosage of alcohol would not impair our muscle recovery. But, it is very important to note that continuous consumption of alcohol should be strictly prohibited as it does have a detrimental impact. Also, we must bear in our minds that no “significant” impact does not imply that alcohol consumption isn’t harmful. Considering the addictive nature of alcohol, it may prove to be a risk to your life. In fact, there is a study that shows heavier drinking to be associated with mortality risk. So, no alcohol consumption would be the best way to maximize your gains along the fitness journey.  

Author : Aditya Mahajan, INFS faculty, Standard Coach @ Fittr

Contributing Writer : Ketki H is a wandering soul who loves travelling solo, and firmly believes in enjoying the journey rather than hurrying to the destination. Although a graduate in Mechanical Engineering, she took to writing for reaching the masses.

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