This Is What Every Lifter Should Know About Alcohol

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It does not matter how serious you are about your fitness and your lifting, chances are that every now and then, you will still want to have a beer or two, perhaps a glass of wine or a nice, single-barrel bourbon.

And while some lifters can resist the call of an occasional drink, for most of us an occasional indulgence is part of our routine. Today, we will be looking at what alcohol means for your lifting and your body in general from a strictly scientific point of view.

Maybe these insights will make you change your view of alcoholic beverages or maybe it will reinforce what you already know. In either case, here we go.

The first thing that you will notice is that different studies have produced some very interesting results, to say the least. Some of these studies have shown that alcohol can negatively affect lifters while other studies have shown that ingesting alcohol following workouts mighty actually have positive effects. But, let’s start from the top.

The component of alcohol that makes it different from non-alcoholic beverages (which also gets you drunk) is ethanol. Our bodies do not exactly love ethanol and when it is introduced to the body, the system makes it its priority to get rid of it. It metabolizes it into acetaldehyde, then acetate and thenacetyl-CoA. The final two metabolites can be utilized by the body for energy but they are inefficient. In order to produce energy, too much energy is expended.

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In this regard, alcohol is very much like protein. The positive side-effect of this is that this also makes alcohol a poor source of fat. Once again, the process is too much for the body. That being said, all this acetate and acetyl-CoA in the cells is going to tell your body that it doesn’t need to burn fat or sugar. In short, if you drink alcohol, you will impede your fat burning processes.

While we are on the subject of metabolism, fats and weight, we should also point out that alcohol has an effect on your food intake. Just as it will make you more likely to strike up a conversation and overcome your social inhibitions, alcohol will also “bring you closer” to foods that you would otherwise avoid. In addition to this, it is believed that alcohol intake increases levels of cortisol in the system, which leads to increased appetite.

When we are talking muscle building, to fully appreciate the effects of alcohol, you would be best off with a degree in biochemistry. Namely, stuff likedecrease in glycogen resynthesis, reduction in cellular phosphatidic acid and impairment of IGF-1 signaling come into the picture. For those of you without a degree in biochemistry, all of this is, well, not good.

A study was done which had subjects complete some very intense workouts after which they were divided into two groups. After 30 minutes, one group was given orange juice while the other was given 1g/2.2 lbs of alcohol (about six drinks). After 36 and 60 hours, the “booze” group performed up to 22 percent worse in isometric, concentric and eccentric contractions.

A similar study was done some time later, with half the amount of alcohol given to the “booze” group and when they were measured after the same periods of time (36 and 60 hours), there was no difference between them and the orange juice group.

It seems moderation is the key here.

Another study was done on professional rugby players. After their matches, the guys drank in amounts that can only be described as epic (up to three times those of the original booze vs. OJ study). Two days later, when they came in for practice they were not affected at all.

Like we said earlier, things get quite complicated quite quickly when we are talking about alcohol and lifting.

If we had to give some definitive advice, it would be to keep the alcohol intake under 1g per 1.1 pounds of body weight. Also, it would be a good idea to avoid mixed drinks because of the high sugar content. If you drink with your meals, it is best to keep those meals protein and veggies-heavy.

Of course, you should always keep in mind that alcoholic drinks are all but completely devoid of any nutrients, so you need to be careful about that.

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