Alcohol and Hormonal Alterations Related to Muscle Growth

by | Dec 30, 2020 | Health / Nutrition


Written by: Dr. Paul Henning PhD, CSCS

What are hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate many functions within the body.  Hormones control four major areas of body function: production, use, and storage of energy; reproduction; maintenance of the internal environment; and growth and development.1  For optimal hormonal function, the amount and timing of release must be finely coordinated, and a target tissues must respond to them accurately.  

Alcohol’s negative consequences

It’s known that alcohol can impair the functions of hormone-releasing glands and the target tissues, thus causing medical consequences.2 Excessive alcohol consumption impairs glucose metabolism.3 In addition, alcohol consumption stimulates hormones (aldosterone and glucocorticoids) which affect skeletal muscle metabolism.4 Understanding how hormones are affected from excessive alcohol is important to comprehend how muscle hypertrophy could be impaired. Let’s take a look at the current knowledge on the interactions between alcohol consumption and related hormonal alterations that may alter muscle hypertrophy.

Alcohol effects on protein synthesis and muscle growth

  • Alcohol affects the type II (especially type IIx) muscle fibers, which are more responsive to hypertrophy.5
  • A decrease of 15-20% in basal protein synthesis was observed in skeletal muscle after 24hr of alcohol intoxication.6
  • Alcohol compromised the ability of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) to slow proteolysis (muscle breakdown).6 Basically this means that alcohol negatively affected two hormones’ ability to slow muscle breakdown.

Alcohol effects on hormones

Hormones influence muscle hypertrophy and the hormonal profile is crucial in determining whether the outcome is protein synthesis or protein degradation. 

  • High doses of alcohol (1.5 g/kg bodyweight) shown to suppress testosterone by 20-25% after acute ingestion.
  • Acute intake of alcohol of about 1.5 g/kg suppresses production of testosterone within an hour by decreasing luteinizing hormone release through the pituitary gland.
  • A study demonstrated that during a recovery period from heavy resistance exercise, post exercise alcohol ingestion affected the hormonal profile including testosterone concentrations and bioavailability.7
  • Numerous studies have highlighted the decrease in testosterone after alcohol consumption.8-10

The major findings in the scientific literature are that there is a dose dependency in the hormonal response. A lower dose of alcohol of less than 1.5 g/kg bodyweight shows an increase in circulating levels of testosterone whereas higher dosages above 1.5 g/kg bodyweight demonstrates a decrease. It also seems that this decrease occurs in men while an increase is shown in women.11

Dr. Paul Henning PhD, LLC 

I’m currently an Army officer on active duty with over 15 years of experience and also run my own health, mindset, fitness & nutrition coaching business. The majority of my career in the military has focused on enhancing Warfighter health and performance through biomedical research.

I believe our health is everything and leads to a more fulfilling life for ourselves and our loved ones. I’ve dedicated my professional life to helping people transform their health and wellness through nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle habits.

With over 25 years of academic and practical experience in the fitness industry and over 15 years of leadership experience in the military, I combine a habit-based approach to fitness, nutrition & mindset and utilize my leadership skills and knowledge to guide people through the essential steps needed to totally transform their health, fitness and life. 

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  8. Kumar V, Atherton P, Smith K, Rennie MJ. Human muscle protein synthesis and breakdown during and after exercise. Journal of applied physiology. Jun 2009;106(6):2026-2039.
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