Alcohol and Recovery
Written by Calvin Sun
The weekend is finally here. With another week of intense training under your belt, it’s probably time to have a hard-earned beer. Or not. Besides leaving you hungover, feeling fluffy, and in a potentially regrettable sleeping arrangement with a complete stranger, alcohol can severely impact your body’s ability to recover from the beating you have dealt it during the week.
In addition to hindering your ability to make good decisions, alcohol can inhibit the repair processes that occur at the cellular level. Penn State’s College of Medicine conducted a study that found acute alcohol intoxication can severely inhibit protein synthesis in both muscle tissue and the liver. Protein synthesis is essential to biological functions and plays a critical role in the growth and repair of your muscles. Compared to a placebo, protein synthesis was decreased by 39% in skeletal muscle and in the liver it was decreased by 21%. They also found that alcohol consumption caused “myocyte degeneration, loss of striations, and myofilament dissolution.” In other words, it means alcohol causes muscles to deteriorate.
You don’t have to become intoxicated in order to achieve such results either. Researchers at Penn State also found that chronic consumption of alcohol can lead to decreased protein synthesis as well as a condition known as myopathy. Myopathy is a general term for a class of muscular disease which includes rhadomyolysis. Myopathy causes muscle tissue dysfunctions, common symptoms include cramps, stiffness, and weakness, none of which are beneficial to a serious athlete. There are actually case reports of people who have been admitted to hospitals for alcohol-induced rhabdo. I have seen several cases of localized rhabdo in experienced CrossFitters that consume alcohol during intense training cycles. If you are serious about your performance, I would not recommend consuming any alcohol. If you really must drink, consume in moderation and try limiting your alcohol consumption after workouts that involve high-volume rep schemes or heavy eccentric loads.