Health & Fitness

Does beer get in the way of building muscle?

There’s nothing quite like an ice-cold beer after an intense workout session. However, there are varied opinions on alcohol and bodybuilding to consider.

Usually, we’re told to follow a (relatively sensible) healthy diet, but could beer and fitness really be friends after all? Or should drinking beer and working out be branded as total enemies?

The trouble is, fitness fanatics will never recommend the combination of drinking your bodyweight in beer and bodybuilding (we wish). But could beer and fitness work together in moderation?

We take a closer look.

How bodybuilding works

Before we dive deeper into whether do bodybuilders drink alcohol and the relationship between beer and fitness, we must first understand how muscle growth works.

During exercise, our muscles get damaged and depleted of oxygen, sending a bunch of signals around the body. Over a short period of time, our muscles react by repairing the damage, resulting in muscle growth.

In order to measure this response, we need to take a look at the rate of muscle protein synthesis. Of course, your testosterone levels play a huge role here – As does performance.

But what about beer? How does alcohol form a part of our diet?

The history of beer

Produced by extracting raw materials (malt, barley) with water boiling (typically with hops) before fermenting it with yeast. Fermentation occurs when bacteria, yeast or other microorganisms break down a substance – giving your favorite cold one its bubbles and alcohol.

Ice-cold beer has long been the go-to after a tough workout or simply a stressful week at work. However, like most things in life, moderation is key.

Alcohol and bodybuilding

But while we know all about the type of foods we should be getting for maximum gains, what about beer and bodybuilding? Could that frosty cold one post-workout really result in bad blood between beer and fitness?

Or could drinking beer benefit your muscle gains?

According to research, heavy drinking post-workout quickly suppressed protein synthesis. This effect even occurred when alcohol was consumed after 25 grams of protein, revealing that not even the anabolic effect of protein can fight past heavy drinking.

With evidence suggesting that heavy drinking impairs recovery times and muscle growth, if you’re hitting the bar post-workout, you could be suppressing your efforts.

Like we already touched upon, moderation is key. While excessive alcohol and bodybuilding is most certainly not a good combo – could beer and fitness work together in small amounts?

While there’s plenty of room for further research in the area of beer and bodybuilding, the limited evidence we’ve found suggests that a couple of beers won’t undo your hard-earned gains at the gym.

Do bodybuilders drink alcohol?

Competing bodybuilders are likely to tell you that they follow a strict regime to hit their goals and win competitions. But that doesn’t necessarily mean all bodybuilders avoid alcohol at all costs.

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However, yet again, we’re not talking about downing gallons of beer, but simply enjoying a cold one after the gym.

If you’re wondering do bodybuilders drink alcohol? The answer is most likely yes, on occasion. But saving up your occasional treat for a night of binge drinking could set you back.

Alcohol and testosterone

As the primary male sex hormone, testosterone is crucial for building muscle mass. The more free T you have, the easier (and faster) it is to build muscle.

So in a roundabout way, does drinking beer and working out coincide with stunting your muscle growth? Since beer can affect your T levels, the answer is: Potentially.

Drinking too much alcohol can have both a short and long term impact on your body’s hormones, including your testosterone. In order to produce testosterone, three primary glands need to work together.

However, alcohol can disrupt your body’s production of T, by interfering with these glands.

While of course, the odd beer won’t do you any harm, studies have shown that acute alcohol misuse can lead to long-term testicular damage. Therefore, when your T levels take the brunt, alcohol and bodybuilding most certainly won’t prove successful – since testosterone is crucial for muscle growth.

As well as bodybuilding and beer clashing due to your testosterone levels, even moderate levels of alcohol (3 to 4 beers) have been shown to mildly suppress your T.

Does alcohol have health advantages?

While the majority of fitness gurus would never recommend alcohol and bodybuilding, or drinking beer to hit your fitness goals, some research has shown positive links between heart health and alcohol.

Although drinking beer and working out (with beer in moderation) won’t have a significant impact on your muscle growth or goals – consuming too much alcohol can impact your gains by suppressing your testosterone.

Alongside heart health, alcohol has the potential to positively impact cholesterol. Research has shown that alcohol can increase high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) which is considered the “healthy” type as it removes “bad” cholesterol from tissue.

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Beer and fitness: Weight loss

prohormone vs test booster

While excess alcohol and bodybuilding may not go hand in hand, a recent study has found potential benefits between beer and weight loss. According to the study, isohumulones (the main compounds responsible for the bitter taste associated with hops) could support weight loss.

However, before you go downing every drop of alcohol in sight with the hopes of cutting weight, it’s important to note that the study only investigated isohumulones – not beer as a whole.

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Be warned, the calories in booze can quickly add up!

Bodybuilding and beer: Benefits

While alcohol and bodybuilding may not usually be a match made in heaven, balancing a healthy amount of beer and fitness can be beneficial for hitting your goals – as well as helping you socially.

Vitamins and carbs

According to research, vitamin B is essential for cell function, energy metabolism and maintenance of skin cells, body tissues and brain cells – all of which are crucial for repairing muscles and recovery time.

However, before you go overboard drinking beer and working out, bear in mind this is for one serving. While drinking too much alcohol and bodybuilding could deplete existing B vitamins.

Quick, easy carbs

During bodybuilding, your body needs enough fuel in order to exercise and build muscle. When you’re running on empty, your muscles use the stored form of glucose (glycogen) as fuel, which can result in muscle depletion and potentially the breaking down of muscle proteins.

This means that beer and bodybuilding could go well together, since a typical beer serving contains anywhere between 7 to 14 grams of carbs.

Sticking to your routine

what to do before exercise

According to studies, drinking a small amount of alcohol can increase social bonding in groups, making you more consistent with your workouts.

Further research has shown that our social networks (and no, not Facebook!) can be a powerful motivator for exercise and bodybuilding. Being surrounded by positive, active people can help you stay on track with your fitness goals.

So! Drinking beer and working out (but not too much beer!) can keep you motivated.

No real impact on hydration

After a heavy night of drinking, it’s natural to feel hydrated and hungover the next day.

However, drinking beer and bodybuilding – cautiously – has shown to have no considerable impact on hydration levels. This means that enjoying a cold beer after a heavy workout won’t cause any real damage, but drinking moderately is key.

The dangers of heavy drinking

Of course, drinking too much beer and bodybuilding won’t set you on the path to success. Unfortunately, not all of us know when it’s time to stop.

Heavy drinking can not only damage your results in the gym, but it can also have a huge impact on your body long term.

A hangover will kill your workout

Sure, a beer or two won’t significantly impact your hydration levels, drinking too much can lead to a hangover you’ll soon regret.

Not only will drinking too much booze kill your motivation through dehydration and a horrid hangover, but alcohol can also cause inflammation – wrecking your post-workout recovery rate.

Beer gut

While moderate beer and fitness may work together, drinking too much alcohol could lead to weight gain and gross beer gut you’d rather avoid.

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Since beer can pack a serious punch in terms of calories, drinking too much beer after your workout (or even the night before!) may sabotage your muscle gains and lead to a beer belly instead.

Unhealthy food choices and poor sleep

So, can beer and bodybuilding go together? In moderation, maybe.

However, drinking too much alcohol can quickly lead to bad food choices, sabotaging your healthy lifestyle and fitness goals. Sure, we all like a treat now and again, but too much booze can have us reaching for fat-rich foods that can quickly knock us off track.

Plus, while a couple of beers in the evening may feel relaxing, alcohol and a good night’s rest don’t easily go together.

Alcohol and bodybuilding: The conclusion

what to do before exercise

We all like to enjoy a beer once in a while, but knowing when to stop and how often to enjoy a cold one is important, too. While studies suggest that drinking beer can have some benefits, it’s crucial to not go overboard!

Nonetheless, if you enjoy the odd beer after a hard workout, you can enjoy drinking beer and working out pretty guilt-free. A beer or two after an intense training session isn’t likely to hurt, or help, your workout – but the decision is down to you.

To maximize your gains, cut back on beer while bodybuilding. However, treating yourself occasionally can help you to stay on track.

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