Alcohol after exercise ‘disrupts your body’s efforts to recover’

    18 August 2016

    Drinking a few beers after exercise may be highly satisfying but, according to a new study, it also appears to disrupt the body’s recovery process.

    Researchers followed 10 men and nine women. All the participants did the same workout — six sets of 10 squat exercises with weights — but afterwards half were given water and the other half water-diluted vodka.

    The team took muscle biopsies before the workout and then two hours and five hours after. The vodka group experienced a sharp reduction in muscle growth.

    The researchers found that drinking alcohol reduced the activation of mTORC1, a chemical pathway that stimulates muscle growth after exercise.

    The effect was more pronounced in men than in women. Co-author Jakob Vingren, of the University of North Texas, said this suggested that alcohol’s effect on testosterone may be to blame.

    Testosterone helps muscle growth and after exercise men experience a greater rise in testosterone than women.

    Vingren said: ‘If you’re doing heavy resistance training, if you’re going to go out drinking that night, don’t go to the gym right before.

    ‘It’s possible the next day you’re going to be worse off than if you hadn’t gone to the gym.’

    Instant analysis
    If you’re one of those men who feels you’ve justified having a couple of pints after a workout in the gym, you may be undoing any good work that you’ve done more than you think.

    Apart from putting alcohol-based calories back into the body, this American study found that taking alcohol shortly after exercise appears to affect a chemical pathway necessary for effective repair and growth of muscle.

    Drinking reduces the activation of mTORC1, a chemical pathway that stimulates the muscle-growing process after exercise, and men appear to be affected more than women because alcohol is particularly damaging to testosterone.

    This is more of a sensible advice piece of research rather than one that will significantly impact on medicine, but it does at least give some scientific credence to the common sense view of not drinking alcohol after heavy exercise.
    Research score: 3/5