Most of us are aware that alcohol dehydrates the body, ruins sleep and temporarily degrades the central nervous system. Alcoholic beverages contain empty calories, so they confer little or no nutritional benefit—why many people have difficulty shedding weight.
For an athlete or anyone who is working out, this is the exact opposite of what they should be putting into their bodies. Of course, many of us still drink alcohol, that is if we’re of legal age.
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To make matters worse, it appears that consuming alcohol seriously messes up the muscle-building process.
In a recent Instagram post, Dr. Jacob Wilson, a human performance researcher based in the Tampa Bay area, points to a study that assessed how alcohol affects muscle growth after a workout.
Subjects in the study performed a Leg Extension workout, then consumed either whey protein, protein and alcohol, or carbohydrate and alcohol immediately after the workout and again four hours later. Alcohol consumption was equivalent to approximately 12 drinks—the exact amount depended on their body weight—a significant amount of booze.
The protein group saw muscle protein synthesis increase by 109 percent after the workout. The protein and alcohol group increased by 57 percent and the group who took in carbohydrate and alcohol increased by only 29 percent.
So if you indulge in alcohol after a workout, you are leaving approximately 50 percent of your potential muscle growth on the table. And, we can surmise that it seriously messes with the recovery process after non-muscle-building activity, such as a sports game.
This is akin to wasting a workout. Why expend effort in the gym or take an expensive supplement if you won’t get the most out of it?
To prevent alcohol from ruining muscle growth, Wilson advises drinking only on off days. Ideally, you shouldn’t drink at all.
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