I have been asked a number of times over the years, “How does alcohol affect my gains?”. As a fitness professional who does like to have a beer or two from time to time, I have looked into this topic for not only my clients, but myself as well. Here’s what I have found.
Studies have shown that small amount of alcohol can affect your body because alcohol is absorbed in the bloodstream and your body will not utilize fats, proteins and/or carbs until it gets all the alcohol out of your system. This means if you drink several drinks, whatever foods your body has not digested yet will take a back burner and then most likely store the calories from those macros as fat. If you are drinking excessively (for men about 2 drinks a day is your limit and women it’s about 1) it can have long term and life threatening affects. A drink is equal to 12 oz beer, 6 oz glass of wine or a shot. Too much alcohol can lead to the liver not functioning properly which then leads to harmful substances not being eliminated and thus storing in the body. The liver tries to detoxify the blood 1st, so if you’re over drinking several drinks a night and/or even several nights a week your body may start to not function properly. If your goal is to build muscle, you may want to watch how much you drink. Alcohol can affect your testosterone synthesis When your body is not synthesizing testosterone (which is the hormone we use to build muscle) you will not be able to build muscle as efficiently. Let’s say you want to burn body fat. Again, since your body will use the alcohol 1st you’ll store the rest and since your testosterone you will not build as much muscle which burns more fat, you’ll store more.
The obvious affects of alcohol on the body are:
- Drink too much=you don’t feel great the next day=you don’t work out as hard (if at all) and then you are not making gains.
- Drink too much=you may make poor choices at that time as it relates to eating.
- Drink too much=you take in excess calories. An 8 oz glass of wine can have 100-200 calories. A 12 oz light beer can have 60-100 calories. A 12 oz IPA can have over twice as much. A shot can have 80-120 calories.
Alcohol does have some benefits. Some studies have shown a drink a day can lead to lower cholesterol, help you live longer, reduce stress and reduce cardio vascular disease.
You may be wondering, “Should I drink?” or “Should I not?” I can not answer that for you, but I can give you some suggestions.
- Track how many drinks you have. If you’re having more than 1-2 a night then I would suggest you start cutting back.
- If you can not just have 1 or 2 drinks, I recommend you don’t have any.
- Track your body fat and measurements around your midsection. If you see either one going up and you honestly feel your workouts and your nutrition (outside of the drinking) are dialed in, you should cut back.
- If drinking makes you groggy the next day, you should cut it out or again, limit the amount.
- If drinking leads to you making poor choices (with anything) you should cut it out.
I hope you find my view on alcohol as it relates to your fitness goals useful and encourage you to share it with a friend, family member, co-worker, anyone you know that likes to drink and wants to be their best.
To a healthy life,