Headed to happy hour after a hard workout? Meeting some buddies for a beer to watch the game? Or maybe you’re just headed home for a glass of wine after spin class. Either way, you might want to rethink imbibing after perspiring.
Drinking after exercise directly impacts muscle growth and repair, setting the stage for disappointing gains, muscle fatigue, poor recovery, and possible injury. Studies have consistently shown that alcohol in all forms tends to diminish musculature adaptations to exercise.
And to be clear, we’re not talking binge drinking here, folks (which, naturally is a detriment all its own)- we’re talking alcohol consumption within the normal, healthy, and accepted limits. Which, for the record, is one drink per day for women and two for men, according the the National Institutes of Health.
So what, exactly, does the research say?
While we’re not going to bore you with a comprehensive literature review, here are a few studies that may pique your interest.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that men who drank after lifting weights experienced less muscle repair (and subsequently, less muscle growth), thanks to reductions in anabolic signaling. In the study, well-trained, fit participants were subjected to the same bout of strength training exercise. The group was then divided in half, with the experimental group being given both water and vodka after the workout while the control group was given only water. The experimental group (those drinking both water and vodka) showed reductions in the activation of the mTORC1 signaling pathway, a pathway responsible for stimulating muscle growth and recovery.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that protein synthesis was decreased in subjects after the consumption of 71 g of alcohol (approximately five drinks) but was not diminished to so heightened a degree when subjects consumed 28 g alcohol, suggesting a potential dose-dependent effect.
In a study published in the journal PLOS One, men were subjected to a bout of resistance exercise and high-intensity cycling. The men were then given a mixed carbohydrate meal and either a whey beverage or a beverage containing alcohol. Men in the study who consumed alcohol (rather than whey) experienced a reduced rate of myofibrillar protein synthesis when compared to the men who consumed whey.
Morgan Medeiros is a certified nutritionist, holding a both a Bachelor and Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Morgan completed her undergraduate education at Central Washington University, and her graduate education at Northeastern University. During her time as a graduate student, Morgan focused her area of expertise in health education, weight management, and behavioral change. Morgan has experience working in areas of nutritional neuroscience and disease prevention, obesity prevention, and weight loss. Morgan also works in areas of nutritional analysis and menu labeling for restaurants, where she is able to creatively bridge her interest in food culture and health education. In her free time, Morgan enjoys traveling, reading, writing, running, and spending time with her family and friends (including- most importantly- her dog, Clyde).