What Are the Effects of Alcohol on Your Strength?

What Are the Effects of Alcohol on Your Strength?

Ever wonder how your alcohol consumption effects your strength training and athletic performance?

You’re far too competitive and focused to rage on nights before games or practice – but when a birthday or big win rolls around, it’s time to celebrate with a few drinks… and/or bottles… and/or Irish car bombs. Your coach would NOT be thrilled. But even if you’ve got nothing to do besides class (nap time) the next day, too many alcoholic drinks will still affect your strength and endurance well beyond your 24hr hangover.

What gives?

You’ve probably heard that alcohol consumption can have heart healthy benefits for adults when consumed in moderation, and that’s true, but keep in mind, moderation means 1 drink/day for women and 1-2 drinks/day for men. Not saving your 14 drinks for Saturday night, gents.

Regardless of the reported benefits, alcohol is still a toxin. Maybe a fun one that makes you more likely to talk to hot girls, but a toxin nonetheless. Which is part of the reason why heavy alcohol consumption affects hormone levels – namely reducing testosterone levels in men.

Why should you care about that? Testosterone is responsible for typical male characteristics, like your voice changing (cracking) when you’re in middle school. But in addition to making dudes grow facial hair, testosterone plays a big part in aggression, strength, and muscle development. While being over-served tequila might initially make you feel invincibly strong and aggressive towards the creep hitting on your girlfriend, alcohol is directly toxic to testosterone, and will cause the complete opposite effect in the long term.

As if that wasn’t enough, drinking immediately after a workout essentially negates any of the hard work you just did! Yeah, re-read that sentence again because those are the unfortunate facts, fellas. In addition to decreasing your testosterone levels, alcohol also dehydrates your cells, both of which mean altered ATP production (the main source of energy for muscles) and decreased muscle protein synthesis. In normal people talk, post-pump Booze Cruise = decreased muscle gain. It’ll also take you much longer to recover and make you a lot freaking sorer in the process.

Still wanna get your rage on? Well did you know about alcohol’s affect on HGH? Human growth hormone is needed to build and repair muscles, with the majority secreted while you’re catching those zzzz’s (unless you’re Barry Bonds). Because alcohol messes with your sleep cycles, it can decrease HGH secretion by as much as 70%! Not good if you’re trying to get bigger, faster, and stronger.

Okay, so alcohol decreases ATP production and HGH secretion, but what if you’re trying to lose a little pudge? Put down the Jaeger Bomb! A study by The American Journal of Clinical Research found that having just 24g (less than 1oz) of alcohol caused a 73% decrease in whole-body lipid oxidation (fat burning). To put that in perspective, a typical shot glass is 2oz, and a standard glass of vino is 5oz.

Essentially alcohol prevents fat burning and promotes fat gain meaning it provides little to no nutritional value for it’s high calorie content (“empty calories”). On top of that, alcohol interferes with absorption of vitamins and minerals- especially Thiamin (B1), Vitamin B12, Folic Acid and Zinc- which are all critical to metabolizing nutrients and creating new cells for muscle growth and maintenance. Meaning: you booze, you lose.

To top it all off, we all know that the day after a boozefest equals serious hangover. You’re more likely to eat like crap and crave greasy, high sugar foods… ones that offer nothing in terms of re-hydrating or building/maintaining your muscles (hi pizza and Taco Bell). So yeah, all in all you’re not exactly improving your chances of getting ladies to come out for the gun show.

Look, heavy drinking affects your strength, endurance, and obviously your waistline. So unless you can truly partake in drinking in moderation (1-2 drinks a night), leave poppin’ them bottles to the non-Heisman winning crowd.

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Carolyn Brown's picture

About the Author

Carolyn is a Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian and has her masters in Clinical Nutrition from NYU. She went to Tulane in New Orleans for undergrad, spent 3 months traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and then swung through Boulder, CO before landing in her current home of NYC. Carolyn has a blog called One Smart Brownie (www.onesmartbrownie.com) to simplify healthy eating for those who don’t spend their lives studying nutrition. Her favorite hobbies include getting new stamps on her passport and telling yo mama jokes, and she says that if she were to have a crush on a food it would be chocolate biscotti, no questions asked.