Alcohol & Exercise- Understanding The Negative Effects on Testosterone & Growth Hormone Production
If there is one area of little research but huge misconceptions in the fitness field it is that of the negative effects of alcohol and exercise. Alcohol consumption is quite common in our society today, and very tangible social pressures exist for individuals to drink. So much so that many avid gym goers indulge in a drink of two after their workouts from time to time with little thought given to any potential negative effects. Most are aware that alcoholic beverages are high in calories but ignore any possible ill effects given their activity level. The idea is that a good workout counteracts any possible negative outcomes from the consumption of alcoholic beverages and that there are actually some tangible health benefits to the occasional glass. Such thinking however, fails to take into consideration the very less than favorable hormonal consequences. Changes that include sharp and extended reductions in free testosterone levels that are actually made worse by training before drinking and reductions in growth hormone production as well. In this article we will take a hard look at how testosterone is affected by the combination of alcohol and exercise and the suppressive effects of alcohol on growth hormone- findings that may not be popular but ones that will help you make better and more informed decisions as to whether or not to drink.
Alcohol: Health Claims Vs Reality
What isn’t as publicly trumpeted is the fact that these studies benefits apply only to animals in a laboratory environment and that no such findings have yet been confirmed in human beings. The relatively lower incidence of heart disease among the French when compared to their American counterparts in spite of their higher alcohol consumption (the so called French Paradox] has been also constantly broadcasted throughout every form of media possible as proof positive of the health benefits of regular wine consumption.  However, like the resveratrol studies, these findings are somewhat misleading, as equal time is never given to further research that contradicts these health claims. For example, few are aware that the French Paradox is based on an assumption that wine is the cause of their lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. It’s a big assumption to be honest and one that ignores the fact that the French also on average consume more far seafood that we do over here in the United States with three servings of fish a week. [3,4,5] Long chain omega-3 fatty acids present in fish and seafood have been strongly associated with reduced incidence of heart disease and current studies attribute this along with the fact that compared to the average American the French:
- Eat smaller portions
- Consume more fresh fruit and vegetables
- Don’t snack between meals
- Have a diet relatively free of trans fats
- Don’t eat as much processed foods
And have a slower and calmer pace of life as the reason their comparative incidences of heart disease is lower than here in the United States.[3,4] Not as sexy a message as a drink a day will keep the doctor away, but one that has served to increase sales and consumption of wine from 568 million gallons in 2000 to 784 million gallons in 2010.[6,7] And I have a bit of an authority on the subject matter as my wife is French, and as someone who majored in French Literature and has been over there numerous times, I can personally attest these statements to be true. Along with the fact that French men and women today don’t look any different than Americans at this point as they are beginning to suffer the same increases in obesity as everywhere else ins the world. Marketing hype talking about the French Paradox is just that- a way of increasing wine sales and should not be construed in any way as being real. And if you don’t believe me, take a hop across the pond and see for yourself! (Read my article on The Economics Of Obesity for more information on how the commercial industries manipulate studies to increase sales)
Alcohol & Calories- A Tip Of The Iceberg
Alcohol contains a total of 6.93 calories per gram but unlike just about every other food or drink that we consume, it isn’t digested, but is instead absorbed completely intact and processed directly by you liver. What happens next isn’t exactly the same for everybody as enzymes in your liver converts it to acetaldehyde. Sounds ominous? Well it should since acetaldehyde is a toxic chemical responsible for most of the liver and heart damage we see in those who drink heavily on a regular basis. Not a pretty substance at all, but how much of it remains in your body after drinking depends on how much you drink and some predetermined genetic factors. A healthy liver can usually tolerate small amount of alcohol and can convert the acetaldehyde to acetate- which our bodies can use as an energy substrate and or is harmlessly excreted as water and carbon dioxide. If, however you drink to the point where those incoming calories are in excess of what your body needs for the day, it will be stored as body fat. Drink too much alcohol at one time though and the liver is unable to do its job of metabolizing it from toxic acetaldehyde to relatively harmless acetate- causing an accumulation of this dangerous toxin and a possible deposition of fat in the liver itself. Both very precarious situations from a health perspective. The problem is that everyone reacts differently in terms of how they metabolize alcohol- which is one reason why people who drink heavily aren’t always necessarily obese, and why in some cases they can have even lower body weights than nondrinkers.
Effects Of Alcohol & Exercise On Lowering Testosterone Levels
Effects Of Alcohol On Lowering Human Growth Hormone Production & Disturbing Sleep Patterns
Not only does acute alcohol use depress testosterone levels, but it also disturbs deep sleep patterns in healthy individuals, and in so doing affects another component critical to recovery after exercise- human growth hormone (HGH). In addition to increasing muscle mass and protein synthesis, HGH also promotes fat burning and stimulates the immune system. HGH is secreted by the pituitary gland with secretory peaks occurring during sleep,  however several studies have found that acute alcohol ingestion interferes with sleep cycles and reduces growth hormone production by as much as 70-75%.[18, 20,22] This alcohol related growth hormone suppression has been found to be dose related, so the more you drink the less growth hormone your body will produce. Alcohol’s ability to induce drowsiness often prompts many individuals who work out regularly to use it as a sleeping aid in times of high stress or acute insomnia. However while many report that alcohol does indeed induce sleep - the quality of that sleep isn’t always the same as it would be under normal circumstances. In an interesting twist, while alcohol does appear to help chronic insomniacs sleep better it has the very opposite effect on healthy individuals who use it sporadically. For reasons not quite fully understood, healthy individuals experienced marked sleep disruption during the second half of the night- disruptions that were not observed in those suffering with chronic sleeplessness.[19, 20]
The clinical implications of alcohol’s inhibitory effects on growth hormone are unclear, particularly with chronic and excessive alcohol use. Unfortunately, these findings, as important as they may be, have not been pursued much further. More studies are needed as well with regard to the suppressive effects of alcohol on testosterone with regards to its overall impact on exercise recovery. Women secrete as much as 20 times less testosterone daily than their male counterparts [16,17] and thus it is important to discern how much of an effect alcohol would have on them after training as no such research currently exists. One would imagine that the overall depressive effect might have a greater negative impact on their exercise recovery but we can’t know for sure. More research is also needed to determine the relationship between alcohol dosage and testosterone suppression but such research is hard to come by as funding for studies on drinking that will most likely reveal a negative outcome is hard to come by. It is a simple but seldom spoken economic reality that such studies do cost money- and it hard to sell research that isn’t necessarily profitable, much less experiments that might be detrimental to product sales. In the end it isn’t for me or anyone else to tell you whether you should drink or not after training, but it is important to have all the facts so you can make an informed decision as opposed to relying on clever marketing that always paints alcohol consumption in a positive light.
🇺🇸 Celebrity Trainer/Nutritionist 🇹🇹
🏆Natural Bodybuilding Champ
🏋🏿 High Intensity Training ⬇️
Please note that all material is copyrighted and DMCA Protected and can be reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the author.
No Time To Train? Click To Get Celebrity Trainer Kevin Richardson’s Free Ebook On High Intensity 10 Minute Workouts!
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, Kevin Richardson’s Naturally Intense High Intensity Training have helped hundreds lose weight and transform their bodies with his 10 Minute Workouts. One of the top natural bodybuilders of his time, Kevin is also the international fitness consultant for UNICEF and one of the best personal trainers in New York City.
One Drink Of Alcohol Can Inhibit Fat Loss
References for How Alcohol Inhibits The Beneficial Effects of Exercise
1. Agarwal B, Baur JA. Reservatrol and life extension. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 2001
2. Renaud S, de Lorgeril M. Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the French paradox for coronary heart disease. Lancet. 1992
3. Clower W. The French Diet Secrets to Permanent Weight Loss. Three Rivers Press 2003
4. Astorg P, Arnault N, Czernichow S, Noisette N, Galan P, Hercberg S. Dietary intakes and food sources of n26 and n23 PUFA in French adult men and women. Lipids 2004
5. Kris-Etherton PM, Taylor DS, Yu-Poth S, Huth P, Moriarty K, Fishell V, Hargrove RL, Zhao G, Etherton TD.Polyunsaturated fatty acids in the food chain in the United States. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000
6.The Wine Institute. Wine Consumption In The U.S.
7. The Wine Institute. California and U.S. Wine Sales 2011
8. Guo R, Ren J. Alcohol and acetaldehyde in public health: From marvel to menace. Intl J Enviornmental Reasearch in public health 2010
9. Liber CS. Perspectives: Do alcohol calories count? AJCN 1991
10. Greenfield JR, Samaras K, Jenkins AB, Kelly PJ, Spector TD, Cambell LV. Moderate Alcohol consumption, dietary fat composition and abdominal obesity in women: Evidence for gene-environment interaction. J Clin Endocrinology & Metabolism 2003
11. Heikkonen E, Ylikahri R, Roine R, Valimaki M, Harkonen M, Salaspuro M. The combined effect of alcohol and physical exercise on serum testosteron, lutenizing hormone and cortisol in males. Alcholism: Clinical & Experimental Research 1996
12. Ellingboe J, Varenelli CC: Ethanol inhibits testosterone biosynthesis by direct action on Leydig cells. Res Comm Chem Pathol Pharmacol 1981
13. Widenius Tv: Ethanol-induced inhibition of testosterone biosynthesis in vitro: Lack of acetaldehyde effect. Alcohol Alcohol 1987
14. Van Thiel DH, Cobb CF, Herman GB, Perez HA, Estes L, Gavaler JS: An examination of various mechanisms for ethanol-induced testicular injury: Studies utilizing the isolated perfused rat testes. Endocrinology 1979
15. Ylikahri R, Huttenen M, Harkonen M, Seuderling U, Onikki S, Karonen S-L, Adlercreutz H: Low plasma testosterone values in men during hangover. J Steriod Biochem 1974
16. Southren AL, Gordon GG, Tochimoto S, Pinzon G, Lane DR, Stypulkowski W. “Mean plasma concentration, metabolic clearance and basal plasma production rates of testosterone in normal young men and women using a constant infusion procedure: effect of time of day and plasma concentration on the metabolic clearance rate of testosterone”. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 27 1967
17. Southren AL, Tochimoto S, Carmody NC, Isurugi K . “Plasma production rates of testosterone in normal adult men and women and in patients with the syndrome of feminizing testes”. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 1965
18. Prinz PN, Roehrs TA, Vitaliano PP, Linnoila M, Weitzman ED. Effect of alcohol on sleep and nighttime plasma growth hormone and cortisol concentrations. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1980
19. Roehrs T, Roth T. Sleep, Sleepiness, and Alcohol Use. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 2001
20. Ancoli-Israel S, Roth T. Characteristics of insomnia in the United States: Results of the 1991 National Sleep Foundation Survey. I. Sleep 2000.
21. Roehrs T, Papineau K, Rosenthal L, Roth T. Ethanol as a hypnotic in insomniacs: Self administration and effects of sleep and mood. Neuropsychopharmacology 1999
22. Ekman AC, Vakkuri O, Ekman M, et al. Ethanol decreases nocturnal plasma levels of thyrotropin and growth hormone but not those of thyroid hormones or prolactin in man. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 1996.