After a young life seemingly defined by losing myself in a world of drugs and alcohol (and with a short spell in the county jail for good measure), entering an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center felt like, excuse the pun, the last chance saloon. However, by the end of this year, I’ll have notched up a whole decade of living clean and sober, yet my recovery will continue. There is no cure for addiction, whether it’s substance abuse or alcoholism, only 100%-proof abstinence. And so I abstain.
Rehab was a holistic journey for me. A medicated alcohol detoxification, healthy nutrition classes, daily physical exercise, and individual and group therapy provided the core elements of this holistic journey. Rehab gave me the knowledge and the tools to maintain a healthy body and a healthy mind, enabling me to maintain healthy abstinence.
One of the best series of classes they held was about the effect of alcohol on both your weight-loss goals and your muscle growth. It is the basic concepts of this, the ways in which alcohol will affect these goals that I wish to share.
1. Reduced Muscle Protein Synthesis
If you’re looking to build muscle, alcohol is your enemy, not your friend. Muscle protein synthesis (MPS) has been found by researchers to be “the driving force behind adaptive responses to exercise.” In other words, MPS promotes muscle growth. However, this process is reliant on the body being fully hydrated. If the body is dehydrated, as is the result of excessive alcohol consumption, no such synthesis will take place, and hence, no new muscle will grow.
2. Calories: Eating & Burning
Bodyweight is the sum of your calorie intake minus what calories you burn off. However, what many people aren’t aware of when embarking on a dietary regime or exercise program is that not all calories are the same. In fact, they can be very, very different. You may be on a calorie-rich diet, but those particular calories are not easily absorbed by the body, leading to your body taking only a small amount of them. Alcohol is calorie-dense, meaning it’s loaded in calories, and all of them can be easily absorbed by the body.
Did you know that one gram of alcohol has around twice the number of calories as one gram of carbohydrate or protein? Therefore, the daily consumption of alcohol will result in a calorie surplus which can lead only to weight gain.
3. The Disruption of Your Kreb’s Cycle
No, that’s not a new technologically-advanced exercise bike. Kreb’s Cycle, also known as the Citric Acid Cycle, is a major component of the way in which our metabolisms operate – think of it as a series of chemical reactions in the body which enable the release of our stored energy. When you consume alcohol, with its high-calorie content, your Kreb’s Cycle is interrupted. When you fail to burn fat, the process of building muscle becomes a whole new ball game and a much harder, if not impossible one at that.
4. False Appetite
The consumption of alcohol affects our brain function, making us lose inhibitions, engage in risky or behavior, and generally make choices we wouldn’t normally make. Furthermore, it stimulates our appetite, and, when you add in our temporary bad decision-making, unhealthy eating is the result.
This appetite stimulus has been studied by researchers at the Francis Crick London Institute, England, who found that specific brain cells, known as AGRP neurons, actually induce hunger by becoming more active when we consume alcohol, whether we need to eat or not. The result? Alcohol consumption leads to over-eating and subsequently, the dreaded weight gain.
Excessive alcohol consumption dehydrates the body – this is because alcohol is a diuretic, defined as any substance that promotes diuresis, the increased production of urine.
Place a hungover and dehydrated body in the environment of a gym, and you’re fatigued before you even think about beginning a workout. Additionally, alcohol takes around 48 hours to fully be broken down by the human body, during which time you and your brain are receiving less glucose, resulting in tiredness and headaches. A physical workout? That’s the last thing you feel like doing.
Raw Eggs & Concrete
Raw eggs with added concrete won’t make for a good omelette. As about as good a recipe as exercise mixed with alcohol. By abstaining, as I have done, or by really watching and limiting your alcohol consumption, you will enjoy far higher levels of energy and motivation when it comes to hitting your weight-loss and muscle growth objectives.
Most articles tend to begin with a quote, if there is one, and not end with one.
“Every rippling muscle is a book not read, a movie not seen, or a conversation not held.” – Richard Cohen, U.S. journalist
Author: Hi, my name is Andy! I was born in Bogota, Colombia, but raised in Los Angeles, California. I’m a recovering addict and an active entrepreneur, with my own successful digital marketing agency for a global client list based in Medellín, Colombia.