Beer and Muscle
by Benjamin Bunting BA(Hons) PGCert
Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.
Nothing beats an ice cold beer to cool down after a tough day at work and a sports event.
Most of the time, people tell us to eat a sensible diet. Could beer and fitness be good buddies after all?
Do you think that working out and drinking beer are enemies or should they be treated as such?
How Is Muscle Built?
Skeletal muscle is a complex multicellular structure that enables us to move around. Individual cells of muscle cannot move even their own finger; therefore muscles only work by employing numerous tiny contraction machines within cells that coordinate together to ensure muscle growth and function properly.
Scientists have revealed how these complex machines develop in order for muscles to continue growing while remaining efficient at doing their job.
Muscle development, or myogenesis, involves several interlinked steps that lead to correctly-patterned muscles.
Myoblasts from embryonic progenitor cells divide to produce myocytes that then differentiate into skeletal or cardiac muscle fibers or smooth muscle fibers during differentiation processes; myocytes then fuse together or combine with other muscle cells in this phase to form muscle fibers.
Myocytes are responsible for contracting muscle fibers by creating an electrical potential within the membrane of a muscle fiber and moving calcium ions across it; myosin attaches itself to this membrane and becomes active when calcium enters cells, controlling this movement.
To create electrical potential in muscles cells, they must be supplied with nerve impulses through what's called a neuromuscular junction, or NMJ. Neurons send electrical signals through this junction that cause muscles fibers to lengthen or shorten accordingly.
Muscle fibers are organized into fascicles, which connect from muscle cell to muscle cell in a network that creates powerful movements.
Within each fascicle, fibers are divided into fast-twitch and slow-twitch groups; many factors affect these arrangements including their production genes ACTN3 and ACE, with 577XX genotype occurring both genes to alter distribution between fast and slow twitch fibers; these genes play a significant role in how quickly you move.
If muscle fibers experience damage during training sessions, satellite cells can activate to repair them and increase their cross-sectional area - though only to a limited degree; too extensive of damage could replace damaged fibers with scar tissue and prevent contracting altogether.
For this reason it is crucial that athletes avoid overtraining as overdoing it could damage satellite cells that repair muscles fibers in return, thus hindering repair processes altogether.
Post Exercise Recovery
It is important to optimize recovery in skeletal muscle by consuming carbohydrates and protein to increase rates of glycogen synthesis.
Protein is recommended to increase protein synthesis, and carbohydrates are suggested for glycogen replenishment.
A 2007 review recommends that the ingestion of high-quality protein and muscle contraction activate complementary but independent signaling pathways that stimulate translation, increasing rates of protein synthesis.
It has been demonstrated that consuming 20-25g of high-quality protein within 4 hours of exercise maximizes the anabolic reaction in skeletal muscles.
What is Beer?
Beer has been around for millennia. While its formulation varies significantly across regions, basic beer is composed of water, malted barley, hops and yeast which undergo fermentation to create carbonation - the signature taste we all love and appreciate!
Though the process can seem complex, brewing beer is actually much less involved than you might imagine. Mashing involves mixing warm water with crushed grains to convert starches to sugars that yeast can turn into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Next comes lautering - draining off mash to leave behind sugary liquid known as wort for boiling and cooling before yeast begins its fermentation process and turns sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide for beer's unique flavour.
Once the yeast has completed its work, the brew is cooled again before filtering out any leftover solids from mashing process. At this point it can either be placed into bottles, cans or glasses for drinking or used as an ingredient for baking and cooking.
Variations is key when it comes to crafting beer; local ingredients (from strains of yeast to the soil in which breweries grow their hops) contribute their own flair and add layers of complexity that set each beer apart from another.
Still, wherever water, malted barley and hops come together with an fermentative process occurring simultaneously is where we find beer!
Beer and fitness: What do we really know about it? Would a cold beer post-workout cause ill feelings between fitness and the beverage?
Can Beer Increase Muscle Mass?
Heavy drinking immediately suppressed the protein synthesis, according to research. Alcohol consumption after 25 grams protein had the same result.
However, drinking beer or alcohol of any sort is often associated with post-match celebrations, particularly amongst team sport athletes.
Post Exercise Drinking
In some cultures, alcohol is consumed in large quantities after competition and training.
Athletes who play team sports are at a higher risk for "binge-drinking". A number of studies show that athletes drink more alcohol than other people. In fact, they are much more likely to do so.
Intoxication can have a direct impact on the body's physiological processes, as well as an indirect effect by preventing the athlete from eating and resting properly.
The concurrent intake of carbohydrates can offset some of the negative effects of alcohol on the post-exercise resynthesis of glycogen as per this findings of this 1985 study.
You could undermine your workout efforts if you drink heavily post-workout. Heavy drinking can slow down recovery time and hinder muscle growth.
Is Alcohol Detrimental to Muscle Recovery and Development?
Data from a 2014 study reveals a novel finding that alcohol inhibits muscle protein synthesis response in recovery from exercise in human skeletal muscles despite adequate nutrient intake: i.e protein and carbohydrate food sources.
Alcohol consumption in the study was calculated based on the amounts consumed by athletes during binge-drinking.
The current study provides clear evidence that alcohol consumption after high intensity exercise (continuous, intermittent, resistance) can impair recovery, even when optimal nutrition conditions are present.
Alcohol and Testosterone
The testes, anterior pituitary, and hypothalamus make up the male reproductive system.
The functioning of all three components can be negatively affected by excessive alcohol consumption. This may lead to impotence and infertility as well as a reduction of male sexual secondary characteristics.
Alcohol can negatively affect Leydig cell production and testosterone secretion in the testes.
Excessive alcohol consumption can reduce testosterone in blood, according to studies. Alcohol can also affect the Sertoli cell function in the testis, which is important for sperm maturity.
Alcohol can reduce the release and/or the activity of two important hormones that have reproductive functions in the pituitary, the follicle stimulating hormone and the luteinizing hormonal. Alcohol can also interfere with the production of hormones in the hypothalamus.
Aromatization is another mechanism by which alcohol can lower testosterone. As an example, testosterone may be converted to estradiol.
Similarly, the immediate precursor of testosterone--androstenedione--can be converted into a less potent estrogen called estrone.
Men who drink alcohol regularly may have a faster conversion rate. In several studies, it was found that people who have alcoholic liver diseases had higher levels of estrogens (VanThiel et.al. 1974).
Alcohol and Disrupted Sleep
Alcohol is a psychoactive substance that's widely used in society. Alcohol is used by many people to promote sleep.
Alcohol is initially sedating but this disappears within a few minutes, leading to fragmented sleep and a disturbed night's rest in the latter half. Sleep problems are associated with chronic alcoholism and the use of alcohol. Alcohol drinking binges are characterized by sleep disruption and circadian disturbance.
Alcohol disrupts sleep in multiple ways, including disrupting the electrophysiologic architecture of sleep, contributing to insomnia and abnormalities such as circadian rhythms, short sleep duration, or both.
In addition, alcohol increases the breathing events that occur during sleep such as snoring or oxygen depletion.
This is especially true for those who already have problems. New data suggest that short sleep duration, and even circadian disorders can coexist with insomnia.
Alcohol and Nutritional Deficiences
Chronic alcoholism patients often have vitamin deficiencies. Folate, vitamin B6, vitamin A, thiamine and vitamin B6 are the most common deficiencies.
This 1986 review notes that a vitamin deficiency can be caused by a variety of factors, including inadequate diet. Alcohol can interfere with the absorption of vitamins, their storage and metabolism.
Alcohol and Dehydration
Research shows that even a 2% loss in body weight can affect the ability to exercise. A loss of more than 5% can reduce the ability to work by around 30%.
When fluid loss is greater than 3% body weight, the maximum aerobic power (VO2max), even in cool lab conditions, decreases about 5%.
Alcohol's diuretic action has been widely recognized and described for years in many publications.
Alcohol consumption causes diuresis, which is mediated by vasopressin inhibition.
The replacement of electrolytes and water during dehydration is essential to achieving effective rehydration.
You can ingest these electrolytes by drinking a liquid to replace water, or eating food with water.
A body of research published in 1997 found that drinks containing up to 2% of alcohol do not seem to affect recovery, while drinks with 4% alcohol can slow down the process.
Alcohol has been shown to have a negative impact on the human body. Acute alcohol consumption can affect many areas of the body, including metabolism, neuronal function, cardiovascular health, thermoregulation, and muscle myopathy.
In the absence of exercise, acute alcohol consumption decreases muscle proteins synthesis. This is facilitated by alcohol, firstly through the suppression of phosphorylation as well activation the mTOR pathway.
Based on experimental data from cellular models and rodents, athletes are advised to avoid consuming alcohol after intense exercise. Instead, they should focus on dietary strategies that have been proven effective in improving recovery.