If increasing muscle mass and reducing body fat are your goals, then think twice before you go out for a night of heavy drinking. Consuming alcohol in large quantities has a direct effect on your metabolism, causing fat to be stored instead of being utilized as an energy source. Alcohol contains seven "empty" calories per gram, meaning that these calories don't provide you with any of the essential nutrients you need to build that muscle mass you desire.
Effects of Excessive Alcohol Consumption on Your Body
- Muscles- Reduces blood flow to the muscles, causing weakness and deterioration or catabolic state.
- Hormones- Reduces testosterone in your blood and increases conversion of testosterone to estrogen, causing increased fat depositing and fluid retention.
- Liver- Creates imbalances that can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), fatty liver and hyperlipidemia (build-up of fats in the bloodstream)
- Brain- Cuts off the supply of oxygen to the brain, resulting in a "blackout" that can kill tens of thousands of brain cells.
Effects of Excessive Alcohol Consumption on Physical Performance
Alcohol is a known depressant that suppresses the brain's ability to function. Even though you may feel a "high" after several cocktails, the truth is that your reaction time, accuracy, balance, hand-eye coordination and endurance all decrease dramatically. Furthermore, the after-effects of a night of excessive drinking can be detrimental to your fitness goals. Alcohol is a diuretic that may result in dehydration. This dehydration is known to decrease physical performance, so that previous night of drinking will continue to affect you the following day.
Alcohol and Sleep
Alcohol consumption can cause sleep disorders by disrupting the sequence and duration of sleep states and by altering total sleep time and the time required to fall asleep. It is popularly believed that a drink before bedtime can help a person fall asleep. However, alcohol's affect on sleep patterns results in increased fatigue and physical stress to the body. Therefore, alcohol consumption indirectly affects a person's strength-training ability due to increased fatigue and a lack of healthy repairative sleep.
Alcohol and Nutrition
Alcohol inhibits the breakdown of nutrients into usable substances by decreasing the secretion of digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Regular alcohol consumption also impairs nutrient absorption by damaging the cells lining the stomach and intestines and disabling transport of some nutrients into the blood. In addition, nutritional deficiencies themselves may lead to further absorption problems.
Putting on the Pounds, Calories Add Up Fast:
- 12 ounces of beer = ~150 calories
- 5 ounces of wine = ~100 calories
- 1.5-ounces of distilled spirits = ~100 calories
Safe in Moderation
Now that you know some of the negative effects of excessive alcohol consumption, you might be scared to have that glass of wine with dinner. Don't be. When alcohol is consumed in moderation (no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men), it has been shown to have some positive effects:
- Increased HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) within one to two weeks
- Reduced stress levels
- Reduced insulin sensitivity
In conclusion, if you want to increase muscle mass, decrease fat or improve general health, make sure alcohol is only consumed in moderation. Next time you are asked to go out socially, be the designated driver. Not only will your friends appreciate it and be much safer, but you will be one step closer to your fitness goals.