Alcohol, although it can offer some benefits in moderation, it plays a very negative role in building muscle and losing weight. Lets take a look at alcohol and its effects.
Alcohol has had a rocky history. It’s beginnings may have been an accident, when the juice of berries was allowed to ferment accidentally. The resulting drink had surprisingly refreshing qualities and it exploded from there. In early historical records alcoholic beverages were used for medicinal, spiritual, and social purposes. In these early times drunkenness was discouraged, although still a regular side-effect of consumption. It has gone through many periods of control and moderation, from religious bans to the U.S. prohibition. It has recently begun to enjoy a resurgence for its medicinal qualities. But, as a bodybuilder, is it a benefit or detriment?
Does Alcohol Have any Benefit?
Alcohol has been found to be beneficial to the heart in moderate doses. One to two glasses of beer or wine a day can be a great stress reliever and protect the heart and circulatory system. However, those are additional calories that have no direct benefit to the body. Calories from alcohol tend to be stored as fat easier than other nutrients. The effect of alcohol on the hormones in the body turns on the receptors in the fat stores and shuffles the calories there quickly. This also carries over to other food eaten with alcohol.
Alcohol is also a mild diuretic. It quickly pulls water from the bloodstream and organs to help the liver and kidneys to filter and dilute it. The body will use this water and then excrete it through the kidneys and into the bladder for removal. So, that vital water that you have take in to keep the muscles full and keep the system running properly is robbed from the body. It also tends to cause water to spill into the space between the muscles and skin leaving a “puffy” appearance.
Alcohol and Dehydration
This dehydration is one of the major causes of the hang-over, as well. It is tough to train effectively when hung over. It is also impossible to get a good pump when dehydrated. Mild intoxication can lead people to do some stupid things that may lead to injury. And, of course, injuries can be detrimental to bodybuilding success.
Many people enjoy mixed drinks, and these can be even more dangerous to the bodybuilder. A fruity mixed drink packs a lot of extra, empty calories. The sugar in the drink, combined with the alcohol, causes a rush of muscle hiding water to be released and the insulin spike also causes the fat stores to open up for depositing of the excess calories. Fruity drinks also lead to over consumption which leads to hundreds (and even thousands) of extra calories.
Drinking is associated with eating. Hot wings and beer. Beer and pizza. Wine and cheese. Peanuts, pretzels, subs, you name it, they all have been tied to alcohol in some way. These foods are a diet killer. Even when drinking at home, the act is often tied to food consumption. This leads to a mental association with food and often adds unwanted, and unneeded, calories.
Alcohol in moderation may be a good choice to improve heart health in sedentary people, but a better solution for the bodybuilder is a few extra minutes of cardiovascular work. If bodybuilding is done correctly heart health should not be an issue and the alcohol will only be a hindrance to future success. The diuretic effect will actually lead to more muscle hiding water in the body and will rob the muscles of the water needed to appear full. The extra calories just add to the fat stores and lead to other calories being shuffled there, as well.
In the long run, alcohol and bodybuilding are not great partners. An occasional social drink will not stop all gains or lead to failure, but long term use can be a problem for the bodybuilder.