Man with beer mug

It’s hard to say. It kinda depends on what your goals are: Are you trying to ask that really hot chick out who’s surrounded by a gaggle of girlfriends at the bar?

Friend.

Are you trying to get shredded, gain muscle, increase your fat-burning potential and get the hot chick to ask you for your number instead?

Foe.

While it’s pretty common news that alcohol is not exactly the best post-workout supplement, believe it or not, there are some boozy-hacks that you can implement so that you don’t have to sacrifice good times in exchange for your health.

Here’s an A-Z guide on some of the science behind alcohol consumption and ways that you can make it work with your workout regime:

Alcohol doesn’t make you fat, it just doesn’t make you skinny.

When it comes to Ethanol, it’s like it was given the better ticket # at the DMV. It just has higher priority with your metabolism. Yet it’s undeserved, because it just converts terribly. 1 gram of alcohol is equivalent to 7 calories, but due to it’s very high “thermogenic effect”, most of that energy gets lost.

Pretty lame.

And contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t really convert to fat. It’s just too much work. Instead, all that acetate and acetyl-COA simply tells your body ‘no other fat burning needed’. If anything, it acts more like a fat burning suppressant.

Alcohol kicks the poop out of your muscles.

There’s no doubt that when you’re building your kick-ass health routine, you want to be managing calories AND hormones. The problem with alcohol is that it kind of messes with both, which can lead to less than ideal results.

Effects on muscle metabolism range from impairing insulin to decreasing post exercise inflammation….all BAD news for your muscles.

A study published in the June 2014 Issue of Sports Medicine made 2 groups of people workout together, except they had one group get wasted while doing it, while the other group got to drink orange juice instead.

Both groups immediately felt terrible, but the alcohol groups’ muscles felt substantially worse. No big surprise there. However, when the scientists changed the amount of alcohol being drunk, it yielded some interesting results.

When they pitted two groups against each other, with both drinking alcohol, the group that kept their consumption down to .5 grams vs 1 gram or more, felt hardly any effect on their muscles.

This can be the difference of 6 drinks after working out and crushing you, or limiting yourself to 3 drinks instead and feeling pretty good.

Alcohol can affect your post-performance based on your rest time.

Based on a study done on Rugby players, who are no doubt expert drinkers AND athletes, scientists found that as long as the players waited a few days before practice, they could drink as many as 20 drinks and still perform at peak levels. (NOTE: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME)

In short, if you are going to binge drink (which I wouldn’t advise), at least take a few days off before engaging in any rigorous exercise.

Alcohol storage in your body is expensive and inconvenient.

As we already know, Alcohol has a very high thermogenic effect, kind of like protein. That being said, it’s costly energetically to store in your body, unlike protein.

When that same acetate and acetyl-coA that we mentioned earlier starts accumulating, it basically closes shop on the burning of carbs, fats and other fuels.

Shop closed

Yikes!

Not to mention that alcohol consumption is terrible at suppressing your cravings and appetite. It’s no coincidence that after a night at the bar, 2am hits and you find yourself faced with a massive case of the munchies and suddenly craving fried burritos and pizza slices.

Yum. Fried burritos. I digress.

Interestingly enough, there was a study published in Pharmacology, BioChemistry & Behavior that stated that the type of alcohol consumed determined how mad your munchies got.

Beer which lowers cortisol acted as a short term appetite suppressant. Red wine, known to increase cortisol, acted as an appetite stimulant.

So, beer made you less hungry and red wine made you more hungry. Either way, they both do raise cortisol, it just takes beer a little longer. That being said, you don’t want high rates of cortisol in your system since it doesn’t bode well for your workout recovery.

Alcohol Vs. Your Hormones: What You Need To Know

The effect of alcohol on testosterone and estrogen has a lot to do with how much you’re consuming.

When you’re talking .5 grams of alcohol (ie. 3 drinks), the effect on testosterone isn’t huge. More than amount, the effects are usually altered by what kind of exercise you’re doing. Exhaustive cardio and a few drinks will usually leave your testosterone levels pretty depleted. Drinking after weight lifting however, can actually elevate your testosterone levels.

While this can be good for dudes, this also applies to women, and for the ladies, raised testosterone usually means a muffin top.

The effects on estrogen are fairly negligible.

To sum up, here are a few rules of thumb:

1. Alcohol can be ok if you limit yourself to 3 drinks. If you’re going to drink more just make sure to rest a few days before engaging in intense physical activity.

2. Try to avoid mixed drinks because the sugar AND alcohol is just a terrible combination and will wreak havoc on your insides.

Hopefully this helps! Cheers!

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