While the general image of most bodybuilders is that of an individual consuming only chicken breast and brown rice for every meal of the day – it may come as a shock to many that bodybuilders do, in fact, unwind in a similar manner to everyone else.
While it is generally understood that any kind of alcohol is bad for the body, certain kinds may be consumed by individuals wishing to watch their waistline due to a lower caloric value, of which may be particularly beneficial for bodybuilders and similar individuals.
Should Bodybuilders Drink Alcohol?
Bright Future Recovery, an alcohol detox center says that from a health and fitness perspective, bodybuilders or just humans in general should avoid the consumption of alcohol as much as possible.
This is due to a variety of factors concerning such things like epithelial tissue damage, altered neurological function, disrupted homeostasis and many other health effects that can have a direct impact on the normal function and appearance of the body.
These effects are even more pronounced in individuals that wish to optimize the way their body works, such as professional athletes and bodybuilders, who consider minute factors like sodium intake and micronutrient profiles in order to maximize their physical abilities.
The consumption of alcohol, therefore, would appear to be in contradiction to these efforts, and as such it is best for bodybuilders to avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible – even in the offseason wherein their dietary restrictions are more relaxed.
In the case that the bodybuilder still wishes to consume alcohol, it is best for them to retain a level of moderation and keep track of the volume and type of alcohol they are consuming so as to factor it in their diet.
What Alcohol has the Lowest Calorific Value?
When one is choosing what sort of alcohol to drink as a bodybuilder, the first and most important factor to consider is the relative caloric value of the drink itself.
This is due to the fact that alcohol, even in its most pure form, has a rather high caloric value per unit of volume, and as such even one or two beers can be the equivalent of up to an hour of cardiovascular fat burning exercise.
Not all forms of alcohol are created equal in terms of calorific value, however, and as such one should seek out pure shots of clear alcohol with no added mixer ingredients that may impart even more calories than just the alcohol itself would.
Low Calorie Beers
If the bodybuilder finds the taste of pure spirits unpleasant or does not wish to become overly inebriated, it is entirely possible for them to instead drink beers specifically meant for the purposes of only imparting a low amount of calories per unit of volume.
Though it may depend on one’s geographical location, the majority of low calorie beers will usually only possess around 100 calories per bottle, and as such may be easily consumed in line with the sort of diet that most bodybuilders prescribe to.
A classic diet tip for individuals wishing to drink while restricting their calories is that they stick entirely to spirits with low sugar mixers, if any at all.
Among these spirits is vodka, which is considered the alcohol with the lowest amount of calories, clocking in at only 100 kcal per 50ml, or approximately 10 minutes of jogging for an average weight individual.
Other spirits that possess a similar volume of calories per unit of volume are gin and tequila, both also clear high proof alcohols that impart an approximate 110 kcal per 50ml.
This, of course, is if the respective alcoholic spirits are consumed entirely plain and without any other sort of mixer or additive incorporated into the drink – as the addition of such extra ingredients can result in more calories being consumed by the bodybuilder.
Zero or Low-Calorie Mixers
Not quite a type of alcohol and more an additive ingredient used in the creation of cocktails and similar alcoholic beverages so as to create a desired effect or flavor – mixer ingredients are generally seen as high calorie due to the high sugar content found therein.
However, this is not always the case, as many mixers such as diet soda or specific low calorie drink mixers meant for drinking on a diet can all fulfill their role without significantly impacting a bodybuilder’s diet.
Other ingredients that may double as low calorie mixer ingredients are lime or lemon juice, unsweetened tomato juice, sparkling water or flavored club soda as well as simply using water as a chaser.
Can Alcohol Cause Muscular Catabolism?
While there is no doubt that the consumption of alcohol can interfere with the appearance and presence of fat tissue in a bodybuilder and their subsequent bodily tissue composition, its particular effects on muscle mass are only partially researched.
However, what can be found with cursory research alone may be more than enough for any professional bodybuilder to think twice about their consumption of excessive alcoholic beverages.
The primary effect alcohol was found to cause on muscle mass (that was already present in the body) is that of an induced level of catabolism – that is to say, excessive alcohol consumption led to the reduction in total body muscle mass – especially when in a state of caloric deficit and muscular disuse.
Why Does Alcohol Cause Muscular Catabolism?
The exact biomechanics of this are in fact a variety of factors all compounding together and combining with the bodybuilder’s lifestyle choices, of which may be the deciding matter on how much muscle mass can or may be lost from excessive alcohol consumption.
Generally, alcohol is found to decrease serum levels of hormones normally associated with the growth and function of skeletal muscle tissue such as the ever-famous testosterone, IGF-1, and HGH.
This is in combination with other characteristics of alcohol consumption such as decreased muscle protein synthesis, raised insulin levels during and after consumption, chronic alcoholic myopathy and many other side effects that can directly affect both muscle size and strength in a habitual drinker.
Of course, these effects are not likely to crop up or become a problem after one or two drinks on weekends, and is nothing to worry about if the bodybuilder only drinks in moderation.
Can Alcohol Prevent Muscle Growth?
Just as alcohol can induce muscular catabolism or skeletal muscle tissue loss, it can also prevent subsequent muscle growth from occurring through a multitude of ways and biochemical pathways in a similar manner.
The largest and most clearly researched way that alcohol can prevent or dampen muscle growth is in its subsequent reduction of anabolic and androgenic hormone synthesis, such as in the case of testosterone and human growth hormone, two endocrinological compounds responsible for the maintenance and development of skeletal muscle tissue.
This is in relation to the fact that alcohol is also shown to increase serum levels of estrogen, a hormone primarily responsible for the development of female sex characteristics in the body – in direct opposition to the development of significant musculature, of which is considered an androgenic male sex characteristic.
And finally, regular consumption of alcohol was found to significantly decrease the synthesis of muscle proteins, both during the drinking session and at a serum total level over the course of longer periods of time.
This means that, even with one night of drinking, the muscle repairing and growing enzymes produced by the body are dampened or stopped for a short period, interrupting any muscle gains that the bodybuilder may have accrued over the course of the day.
Does Alcohol Cause Bloating?
Alcohol may cause bloating after a night out drinking because of two primary reasons, one of which is simply the body’s instinct to retain water weight after undergoing a significant period of dehydration, such as it would experience after excessive consumption of alcohol without subsequent additional fluid intake.
This, of course, is in combination with the chronic inflammation that is so commonly seen with habitual heavy drinkers, as well as other bloating-like effects of drinking such as the build up of gas in the gastrointestinal tract after a night of drinking as the internal lining becomes inflamed from the alcohol’s acidity.
For bodybuilders who focus quite a bit on their physical appearance, drinking can be rather detrimental – decreasing the vascularity and leanness that they may normally have as well as reducing their hip to waist ratio or V-taper by causing a temporary swelling of the abdomen.
- Lang, C.H., Pruznak, A.M., Nystrom, G.J. et al. Alcohol-induced decrease in muscle protein synthesis associated with increased binding of mTOR and raptor: Comparable effects in young and mature rats. Nutr Metab (Lond) 6, 4 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-6-4
- Alcohol Ingestion Impairs Maximal Post-Exercise Rates of Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis following a Single Bout of Concurrent Training
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