Alcohol's Effect on Protein Synthesis

Alcohol and muscle development don't mix. The Notre Dame Office of Alcohol and Drug Education states that alcohol can basically wipe out any physiological benefits achieved through training, weightlifting or physical activity. Protein synthesis is the process required to build muscle. Alcohol can hinder this process, so your true muscle-building potential is never achieved.

A man selecting wine. (Image: Jochen Sand/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Protein Synthesis

To achieve muscle growth, you must have a positive muscle protein balance. If you don't consume enough protein or exercise enough, your muscle breakdown may exceed your muscle gains, leading to a catabolic state in which you are losing muscle tissue. Alcohol can also put your body into a catabolic state due to its high calorie content and disruptive nature when it comes to normal bodily processes, such as protein synthesis.


A ground-breaking study conducted in 1991 and published in the journal "Alcohol and Alcoholism" found that chronic intake of alcohol suppressed protein synthesis and caused myopathy in many cases. Myopathy is a condition in which muscle fibers do not function properly, resulting in muscle weakness or loss of movement. This study focused on long-term use of alcohol, but short-term usage also inhibits protein synthesis from occurring at its full potential. According to Notre Dame, alcohol dehydrates you and slows your body's ability to heal itself after a workout.


A major part of protein synthesis involves several hormones involved in the muscle-building process, namely testosterone and human growth hormone. According to Notre Dame, alcohol affects the release of both of these hormones. Alcohol consumption decreases secretion of HGH by up to 70 percent. Alcohol consumption also causes your liver to release substances that virtually cancel out the effects of testosterone in your body. The result is an environment not suitable for muscle growth.


Moderate alcohol consumption is generally recognized as being safe and beneficial to heart health, but that's not the case when it comes to muscle growth. The timing in which you drink alcohol following a workout is crucial. According to a 2001 report published in the "International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism," protein metabolism and synthesis occurs for 24 to 48 hours after a workout. So, drinking alcohol within that time frame can potentially hinder your body's ability to build muscle to its maximum ability.

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