This week the ADOFitness trainers will be addressing some of the most common things we get asked about. Coach Suzie explains why alcohol and achieving your fitness goals don’t mix.
It’s Thirsty Thursday and you just smashed your lift in the gym, you PR’d on almost all your exercises and your gym partner says “hey, let’s go out and celebrate our gains and get lit!” You high five and head out to go to the bars.
Fast forward to the bar. You order a double shot because your favorite song came on and you’re still feeling amazing from your lift. You throw it back and order another double…and now we take a magic school bus ride down your esophagus and follow what that alcohol is actually doing to those gains you (thought you) made today.
Alcohol does not have any nutritional value but it does have calories, empty calories. It has 7 calories per gram, so that double (3oz) you just slammed of 80 proof vodka has nearly 200 empty calories in it. If you’re trying to lose fat and you’re drinking you’re slowing down your own progress. Aside from the empty calories you are consuming which will push the number on the scale up, alcohol slows down metabolism because it cannot be stored (it’s a toxin) in the body. Because the body can’t store alcohol it must metabolize it right away, which means the body won’t metabolize sugars and fats as efficiently. This is how alcohol can cause your metabolism to slow down (and fat to be stored). Along these same lines, one of the key functions of metabolism is to keep blood sugar levels stable in the body, but it can’t metabolize sugar efficiently while it’s trying to rid your body of alcohol so blood sugar levels drop causing hypoglycemia which is especially dangerous in diabetics.
Beyond slowing your metabolism and dropping your blood sugar to potentially dangerous levels, alcohol dehydrates the body, which includes your muscle cells. Hydrated muscle cells are important because they create an anabolic environment which encourages muscle growth. If your cells aren’t holding water then they won’t trigger the multiple anabolic reactions needed to grow muscle including increased amino acid transportation and protein synthesis. In fact, alcohol can lower protein synthesis by 20% as well as block the absorption of important nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and potassium. These are key to muscle contraction, relaxation and growth but perhaps not as key as testosterone is to muscle growth (that’s right I said it, the T word).
Now I’ve got your attention because I said the T word and nobody messes with your gains, I better explain myself. Alcohol continues to block your gains by LOWERNG testosterone and INCREASING estrogen. In one study, at the most intoxicated state, testosterone levels dropped by 25%. Another study done with rats found alcohol reduced Insulin like Growth Hormone-1 (IGF-1) by up to 42% (that’s huge). If you don’t know what any of that means, I will make it simple, those BIG drops in testosterone and IGF-1 mean no gains for you.
Keep in mind this is of course temporary and we do promote balance! But if you’re slamming alcohol daily you may want to reconsider. You can of course enjoy a drink in moderation here and there and still reach your goals, but the research should make you reconsider overdoing it if you’re serious about your fitness goals.