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Muscles and Booze Don't Mix

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While most of us can recover from a night of social drinking with a solid eight hours of shut-eye, our muscles actually remain under the influence for days. That’s according to an eye-opening study out of New Zealand in which scientists found that when athletes consumed alcohol after a training session, their muscle performance was hampered for almost 60 hours.

The study’s specifics: Eleven men in their early 20s completed 300 max eccentric contractions of their quadriceps muscles before downing six to eight screw driver mixed drinks (orange juice and vodka) or an equal dose of juice sans liquor. The researchers noted that this amount of alcohol is on par with what many athletes drink to celebrate a big athletic win or on a night out with friends. But imbibing just that will sap your strength.

The researchers discovered that when their study subjects returned to the gym 36 hours after being intoxicated, their muscles showed signs of poor recovery from the previous training session. What’s more, during a follow-up round of the same 300-rep exercise, the men generated a lower level of torque through the movement, unable to match their past muscle performance.

According to Amanda Carlson-Phillips, R.D., director of performance nutrition for Athletes' Performance, rehydrating immediately after imbibing probably won’t help side-step alcohols impact on muscle. “The study does not go into the effect of alcohol if proper recovery strategies are employed—taking in fluids and electrolytes and rebuilding muscle with carbohydrates and protein—before ‘celebrating,’ but other studies have shown alcohol to slow down glycogen repletion and slow the recovery of other types of muscle damage.” Carlson-Phillips goes on to say that, all in all, alcohol can and will slow recovery and hinder performance.

Is your lure for lager strong? Check out these other effects of alcohol consumption on your body, from the American Council on Exercise:

Muscles: Reduces blood flow to the muscles, causing weakness and deterioration.

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: Can hinder the supply of oxygen to the brain, killing tens of thousands of brain cells.

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.

Sleep: Causes sleep disorders by disrupting the sequence and duration of sleep states and by altering total sleep time and the time required to fall under.

Nutrition: 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.

About The Author

David Schipper – David began writing for CorePerformance.com in 2008, after spending six years at Men's Health magazine digging up the newest scientific research in health, weight loss, nutrition, muscle and cardiovascular fitness.

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Tags: Hydration, Beverages, Strength, Build Muscle