For many of us, the only way to get through a set of pushups or running a few miles is knowing there’s a crisp, ice cold brew to guzzle the moment our workout ends. A refreshing adult beverage is such a delicious reward after an intense sweat sesh, but is it sabotaging all the hard work we just put in at the gym? Maybe.
According to a recent study from researchers at the University of North Texas, drinking alcohol after your workout can stunt potential muscle growth after exercise. The study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, monitored 10 men and nine women who completed the same workout: six sets of squats on a Smith machine with weights.
After the workout, all of the participants given water. They all did the workout again, and then were given enough water-diluted vodka to push them past the legal blood-alcohol limit for driving.
Muscle tissue samples were taken before both workouts, three hours after, five hours after, and then evaluated to see how alcohol affected the post-workout recovery process. The researchers found that alcohol reduced activation of mTORC1, which is the chemical pathway that stimulates muscle growth.
But unfortunately for the guys, this reduced muscle growth was much worse for men than in the female participants. Study co-author Jakob L. Vingren told Men’s Journal, “When the men drank only water, the activation of this pathway increased, which is what you’d hope to see after exercise. But after consuming alcohol, there was no increase in activation. So basically, alcohol prevented it from rising above rest.”
Vingren believes this might be because of testosterone. “We know for sure that testosterone affects the mTORC1 pathway.” And, “we know for sure that exercise affects the mTORC1. So it’s reasonable that testosterone may be involved somehow,” he said.
Now, since this study compared the muscle growth with water vs. enough alcohol to get you legally drunk, it seems to offer a common-sense piece of wisdom: Don’t go get hammered after your workout, no matter what your gender is, unless your goal is to undo all your hard work. But ladies, it IS nice to see at least something tipped in our favor, don’t you agree?