Alcohol + Exercise: Review

Alcohol + Exercise: Review

By: Dr. Adam Reynolds

Here's what you need to know...
•  Booze doesn’t so much store fat as it does suppress fat burning.
•  Heavy drinking has several mechanisms that will inhibit muscle protein synthesis and training recovery.
•  Athletes who drink post-competition don't seem to be heavily impacted, as long as they take a couple of days off.
•  The effects of alcohol depend a lot on what you drink (beer, wine or mixed drinks), how much, when, and what you eat with it.
As explained by Dr. Jade Teta on T Nation, when you drink beer, wine, or spirits, the ethanol within receives metabolic priority. Its breakdown precedes other metabolism and goes to work in a four-step process:

Ethanol Acetaldehyde Acetate Acetyl-CoA

Acetate and acetyl-CoA can be used for energy by the body, but it's costly. One gram of alcohol is said to contain 7 calories, but like protein, its conversion into energy is inefficient and 17 to 20% of it is lost. In other words, like protein, it has a very high thermo genic effect.

Also like protein, and contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not easily converted to fat. That process is too costly. All that acetate and acetyl-CoA showing up in the cells does signal that no sugar or fat needs to be burned. So rather than storing fat, alcohol suppresses fat burning.

To build muscle and burn fat you need to manage calories (7calories per gram) and hormones. Alcohol impacts both-- when you drink you consume calories, and under certain conditions, alcohol impacts the hormones that help your body build muscle and stay lean. Alcohol also has its own effect as a cellular messenger, impacting brain chemistry and muscle cell signalling-- restricting muscle building, fat burning and sports performance.


You may be able to use alcohol and still achieve great results. If you're going to drink, do so with minimal impact on your physique and performance:

• When including alcohol at meals, avoid eating carbs and fat. Stick to protein and veggies. You'll benefit from the thermal effect of the meal and avoid storing calories from fats and carbs. 

• Avoid mixed drinks. The alcohol plus sugar means you're likely to store that sugar and you'll drink more.

• Alcohol intake under 0.5g/kg may be the threshold to avoid wasting muscle, gaining fat, as well as endocrine dysfunction and performance issues. 

• Alcohol after weight training may be the best time to drink, but limit your intake under 1g/kg.


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