Is Alcohol Ruining Your Gains?

Ah it’s the weekend, your boss has been killing you all week or your professor has you buried under a pile of coursework, only a pint of beer or a glass of wine can make your sorrows go away! But what effect is this having on your body and most importantly, your hard earned gains? 

Hollow calories
While alcohol might give you a shot of courage to break the ice with a girl across the bar, this so-called magic potion has absolutely zero nutrients. However it does have a caloric value of 7 calories per gram. Now a can of beer (330 mL) has only 154 calories, so if you adjust your calories by not having a muffin (roughly 700 cals) during the day to fit say 5 cans (5 x 154 = 770 calories) at night, will you not put on any fat? Sadly the answer is no. Alcohol slows down your metabolism by disrupting the Kreb’s cycle. The body prefers burn the alcohol as fuel first, pushing any other calories to the back of the line. And as the Kreb’s cycle is affected the body stops burning fat completely. So even if you are having the same net calories, the calories from alcohol will affect your fat loss goals. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published results of a study that stated by consuming 24 grams of alcohol-roughly two drinks-the participants experienced a drop in fat metabolism by 73%.

Although an ice cold beer is considered as a thirst quencher on a hot summer’s day, it has the opposite effect. Alcohol acts as a diuretic, causing you to pee thus sapping the muscle belly of fluid along with other minerals such as calcium, phosphorus magnesium, iron and potassium. It is also one of the reasons why you have an earth-shattering headache, or at least that’s what it feels like, the next day. All of this means you can seriously jeopardise your muscle growth and your workout the next day will be affected.



Protein synthesis
Along with impeded recovery, alcohol also has an impact on the body’s protein synthesis. In a study done on rats published in the American Journal of Physiology, researchers found that alcohol consumption was associated with a decrease in muscle weight and lean body mass. What’s more, a separate study from Penn State University College of Medicine found that alcohol decreased the production of human growth hormone, a key factor in muscle repair and growth by 70%. There is also a case of reduced testosterone and increased estrogen following a hard session at the boozers.
The increased estrogen is due to a boost in activity of aromatase enzyme that may result in gynecomastria (man boobs) over a period of time in men.

These studies were based on high levels of intoxication among participants and animal subjects and so alcohol consumption in smaller quantities won’t have the same magnitude of side effects.

Helpful Tips
Here is a list of tips that may help avoid ruining your gains as much as possible and having fun at the same time.

1. Water
Ensure you are drinking plenty of water (close to 2 litres) during the night and especially before going to bed. Leave a jug of water by your bedside when you turn in for the night.

2. Protein
Have yoghurt or cottage cheese or eat something dense in protein before climbing into bed. This will help stop the catabolism inside your body.

3. Timing
Alcohol reduces protein synthesis by 15 to 20% after 24 hours, but not sooner. So as crazy it may sound, having a few drinks after training is better than having it on a rest day.

4. Big breakfast
Feast on foods that rich in protein, calcium, phosphorous and iron for breakfast. Your body is craving these essential nutrients due to boozing from the night before.

To live a healthy life it is okay to let loose sometimes and have a few drinks. But make sure you work hard in the gym to prevent that beer belly. At X-FITT we offer HIIT workouts that torch that belly fat and build strength and muscle.

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