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Does Alcohol Prevent Progress?

Does Alcohol Prevent Progress?

Do your goals involve either losing body fat or gaining muscle or strength?

Then you may be aware that it’s important to eat well and exercise regularly.

Maybe you start your work week off great! Packing lunches and going to the gym after work, but then comes Happy Hour on Friday and weekend drink specials during the game or girls night.

Every once in a while and in moderation this is fine, but too much and it can slow down your progress making it discouraging when you do not see your results as fast as you would like when progress already takes time.

You may think you sleep like a baby after a few glasses of wine, but really you are not getting quality REM sleep and recovery.  This is important because getting good quality sleep can help the following day to help you not have as many, if any cravings, and have better signaling of the hormones that tell you if you are hungry or full.  AKA helping you stick to your meal plan!

Hormonally alcohol can reduce your testosterone levels.  This goes for the ladies too!  Yes you also have a small amount of healthy testosterone and it helps both men and women build muscle and recover from weight lifting. The more alcohol that is consumed the more testosterone production is inhibited. Think about it… this is a big reason why younger individuals should not drink since they are still growing and developing muscle.

Alcohol Increases Estrogen Levels for both men and women which also decreases testosterone production. This can throw off female estrogen to progesterone ratio impacting their menstrual cycle and symptoms.

Alcohol lowers the body's ability to build and repair muscle by lowering Protein Synthesis.  Muscle Protein Synthesis is the body's process of building protein from amino acids.  These protein molecules are then building blocks for muscle repair, repair and maintenance.

Protein synthesis is the process by which cells build proteins from amino acids and it's essential for muscle growth, repair, and maintenance.

Muscle Protein Synthesis is influenced by many factors, from diet, training, sleep, and even sex hormones. As mentioned alcohol increases estrogen and lower testosterone for both men and women. In particular for men this causes an increased risk for fat gain around the abdomen and decrease in muscle mass.  For women there is more weight gain than muscle loss associated due to the increase in estrogen. 

The decrease in muscle protein synthesis and disrupted sleep are the two main ways alcohol impacts muscle loss and fat gain. As previously mentioned the sleep disturbances may cause cravings, this is most likely due to one of the two circumstances. First increased levels of cortisol, a hormone known for its catabolic effect on muscle tissue.  The second possibility is because disrupted sleep disrupts our insulin levels and thereby inhibits anabolic (building and repairing) activity within our muscles.

Last but not least alcohol can increase inflammation in the body.  This can make you appear more watery and make it harder to recover from workouts delaying your progress. 

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