Alcohol’s Effect on Muscle and Fat Loss

Alcohol effects your fitness goals, but maybe in a different way than you think. Everyone has heard of getting a beer belly from drinking too much, and most people think that it’s because of the high calorie content of alcoholic drinks. While this is part of the reason for the unwanted weight gain, it’s not the only reason. Alcohol affects other bodily processes involved in muscle growth and fat loss as well. Moderation is the key when it comes to drinking. If you feel you have an alcohol problem, you should check out local alcohol and drug rehab centers to help get you on the right track.

Protein Synthesis
Alcohol has a direct effect on protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the process of building new muscle in the body. A 2001 study published in the peer-reviewed journal “Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research” found that alcohol consumption can decrease protein synthesis by 15 to 20 percent within 24 hours after consuming alcohol. This can greatly inhibit your body’s ability to build new muscle.

Your muscle’s primary source of energy during high-intensity exercise is adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Alcohol consumption causes water to be pulled from your muscle cells, which directly affects your body’s ability to produce ATP. This results in a less efficient workout each time you hit the weight room. Additionally, your muscles wear out faster and recovery times are lengthened following a workout.

HGH and Testosterone
Two of the key hormones involved in muscle growth are human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone. According to the Office of Alcohol and Drug Education at Notre Dame, alcohol consumption causes your body to release enzymes from your liver that have a toxic effect on testosterone. Additionally, alcohol can decrease secretion of HGH by up to 70 percent.

Fat Loss
When you drink alcohol, your body turns the alcohol calories into a substance called acetate. Your body then burns this substance as its main source of energy. How does this affect fat loss? Instead of your body drawing energy from your fat stores, it uses acetate instead. Each gram of alcohol contains about 7 calories, and these calories add up quickly. For instance, when you down a six-pack on Friday night, it contributes 600 or more calories to your daily caloric intake. These added calories, combined with the “acetate effect,” hinder your body’s ability to burn fat, even if you workout everyday.

I’m all for drinking in moderation, which equates to about two drinks per day for adult men and one per day for women. This may even offer health benefits. However, limit your intake of alcohol if you’re serious about getting in shape. Remember, it’s not just the calories in alcohol that effect your results in the gym, alcohol calories also play a role in inhibiting the fat loss process and protein synthesis.

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