Effects of beer on muscle recovery after exercise

Effects of beer on muscle recovery after exercise

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I noticed it several times that when I drink beer (even one bottle) after some heavy workout, the next day my muscles are more stiff than other times, and not the same way… Is it because that lactate and NADH levels are raised both due to the anaerobic training and alcohol metabolism?

There are a few studies around related to this. One particular study(1) suggests that:

  • Neural drive is decreased following eccentric exercise leading to a reduction in muscle force. Alcohol may further reduce the already depressed neural drive.

  • Alcohol also has been shown to affect the innate immune system by altering the activity of a number of inflammatory proteins. A lot of these play "important roles in the damage and repair processes occurring after eccentric exercise". Alterations in these proteins may affect muscle recovery post-exercise.(2).

The second point is maybe what's relevant to the question at hand? They say more research is required though.

Edit (expanded discussion per comment below). The study itself was carried out using 8 (+/-1) standard drinks immediately following a workout. The article(1) itself doesn't hypothesise the point made earlier regarding inflammatory proteins, it rather points to earlier research(2), to suggest this may be the case.

Whether a dose-dependant relationship exists, or the magnitude of it with regards to the alteration in inflammatory proteins is not discussed (except in the context of chronic versus acute alcohol use). Just that the possible effect on inflammatory proteins exists which may affect muscle recovery post-exercise.

  1. Barnes, et al. Acute alcohol consumption aggravates the decline in muscle performance following strenuous eccentric exercise. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport. 2010. 1:189-93.

Edit 2. Szabo. Consequences of alcohol consumption on host defence. Alcohol Alcohol. 1999. 1999:830-841.

Does Drinking Alcohol Ruin Post-Exercise Recovery?

The office team just won the big soccer game and everyone is headed to the bar to celebrate. But take care before downing a six-pack of brewskies. Recent research suggests consuming large amounts of alcohol after a strenuous workout can significantly reduce recovery Post-exercise alcohol ingestion exacerbates eccentric-exercise induced losses in performance. Barnes MJ, Mündel T, Stannard SR. Institute of Food, Nutrition, and Human Health, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2010 March108(5):1009-14. Epub 2009 Dec 11. A low dose of alcohol does not impact skeletal muscle performance after exercise-induced muscle damage. Barnes MJ, Mündel T, Stannard SR. Institute of Food, Nutrition, and Human Health, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011 Apr111(4):725-9. Epub 2010 Sep 28. .

Think Before Drink &mdash Why it Matters

But besides needing a few aspirin and some greasy hangover food after the buzz has worn off, what damage can drinking do to muscles? A recent study found that excess alcohol consumption after resistance training can significantly decrease strength recovery Post-exercise alcohol ingestion exacerbates eccentric-exercise induced losses in performance. Barnes MJ, Mündel T, Stannard SR. Institute of Food, Nutrition, and Human Health, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2010 March108(5):1009-14. Epub 2009 Dec 11. . Participants consumed one gram of alcohol per kilogram of body weight following exercise, or roughly 6 standard drinks for a 175 pound male. Apparently binge drinking could result in more than a nasty headache and some embarrassing photos on Facebook and actually decrease performance in future workouts.

But don&rsquot cancel tomorrow&rsquos pub visit just yet. Another study from the same researchers found no significant performance drop when participants drank only half that amount after exercise A low dose of alcohol does not impact skeletal muscle performance after exercise-induced muscle damage. Barnes MJ, Mündel T, Stannard SR. Institute of Food, Nutrition, and Human Health, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011 Apr111(4):725-9. Epub 2010 Sep 28. . It seems moderate drinking post-workout&mdash up to two drinks for men and one for women&mdash will not significantly harm performance compared to staying dry. Good news to sip by!

The Big Gulp &mdash The Answer/Debate

While more research is still needed to measure the effects of alcohol before and during a workout, for those who wish to partake in a post-workout cold one, the focus should be on keeping quantity in check. Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, among other benefits. Some alcohols&mdash including unfiltered beer&mdash also contain vitamins and proteins that might aid the body on its road to muscle recovery.

So for an after-gym bar crawl, just make sure to keep those orders by the glass (or maybe, ahem, pint) instead of the pitcher.

Certainty Level

Matthew McConaughey keeps those muscles intact by keeping his brewsky consumption moderate.

Alcohol: impact on sports performance and recovery in male athletes

Alcohol is the most commonly used recreational drug globally and its consumption, often in large volume, is deeply embedded in many aspects of Western society. Indeed, athletes are not exempt from the influence alcohol has on society they often consume greater volumes of alcohol through bingeing behaviour compared with the general population, yet it is often expected and recommended that athletes abstain from alcohol to avoid the negative impact this drug may have on recovery and sporting performance. While this recommendation may seem sensible, the impact alcohol has on recovery and sports performance is complicated and depends on many factors, including the timing of alcohol consumption post-exercise, recovery time required before recommencing training/competition, injury status and dose of alcohol being consumed. In general, acute alcohol consumption, at the levels often consumed by athletes, may negatively alter normal immunoendocrine function, blood flow and protein synthesis so that recovery from skeletal muscle injury may be impaired. Other factors related to recovery, such as rehydration and glycogen resynthesis, may be affected to a lesser extent. Those responsible for the wellbeing of athletes, including the athlete themselves, should carefully monitor habitual alcohol consumption so that the generic negative health and social outcomes associated with heavy alcohol use are avoided. Additionally, if athletes are to consume alcohol after sport/exercise, a dose of approximately 0.5 g/kg body weight is unlikely to impact most aspects of recovery and may therefore be recommended if alcohol is to be consumed during this period.

5 Things You Need to Know about Alcohol and Exercise

The night before the 2015 D.C. Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, my first half marathon ever, I was sitting at the bar drinking a glass of Chianti at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant in Penn Quarter waiting for my friend to join me for a spaghetti dinner. My friend wasn’t planning to run the race but she’s a seasoned competitor. The restaurant was full of out-of-towners carb loading before the race.

I caught my friend’s eye as she walked into the restaurant but before I had a chance to say hello, she slid my wineglass across the bar.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m drinking Chianti,” I said, as I pointed to my glass.

“You cannot have alcohol the night before your race,” she said. “Not even one glass.”

“What are you talking about?”

I’m not a big drinker or a great runner but I’m attracted to the social aspects of running and participating in races and inevitably there’s alcohol involved in these events. I mean you see champagne corks popping all over the locker room after championship football and baseball games and beer races have never been more popular. There’s even a whole host of races for wine lovers.

While the effects of alcohol can vary widely from individual to individual, in terms of athletic performance, the use of alcohol can impact motor skills, hydration, aerobic capacity, and recovery, according to Claire Siekaniec, MS, ED, CSSD, in The Effects of Alcohol on Athletic Performance, published in the May 2017 issue of the NSCA Connect. The article popped into my news feed and caught my attention because I was just about to register for my local Suds and Soles 5K, which features a post-race party with live music, beer in the finishers’ corral, and a beer and distillery tasting festival.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Drinking before exercise

This one is simple. Don’t do it in the hours just before a hard workout or race. Consuming alcohol affects your central nervous system, compromises your motor skills, decreases your coordination, delays your reactions, and impairs your judgment as well as your balance. The kind of stuff that makes up your A game during a race.

According to Siekaniec, research shows even small amounts of alcohol prior to exercise leads to a decrease in endurance and on top of that your body will metabolize alcohol over carbohydrates and lipids, which are your body’s preferred energy sources for endurance exercise.

If you’re accustomed to drinking wine and you consume extra water and carbohydrates with your wine the night before a race, you should be fine, according to Runners World. (I was.)

2. Drinking after exercise

This one is also simple. If they’re serving it in the finishers’ corral and you have to consume alcohol immediately after exercise, just drink a little. But the best thing to do is to replenish carbs, restore fluid balance, and stimulate muscle repair first and then enjoy a glass of beer or wine.

There are several reasons for this. Essentially alcohol consumption can interfere with the recovery process after a race or hard workout. For starters, drinks containing more than 4 percent alcohol (pretty much all beers) can cause you to produce less of an anti-diuretic hormone that your body needs to reabsorb water and to urinate more. So if you’re already dehydrated after a race, drinking beer won’t help and could make things worse. In order to replace lost fluids after a workout or race, you need something re-hydrating, such as water or a sports drink. And alcohol can impact how the body processes carbohydrates and proteins, which you need for recovery, according to Siekaniec. Alcohol significantly decreases the body’s ability to synthesize protein even if you consume adequate amounts of protein, Siekaniec writes, and beer doesn’t have enough carbohydrates or electrolytes for recovery after a long workout or a race despite claims that beer can be considered a post-workout recovery option.

And no. If you’re thinking you should just consume more beer to get more carbs or electrolytes, more is never better where alcohol is involved.

3. Sleep, injury, and hormones

You need adequate, quality sleep for recovery and the production of hormones associated with muscle growth, Siekaniec writes, and although studies show alcohol might help you fall asleep, it interferes with your cycles of restorative sleep throughout the night.

You know by now that every time you exercise your muscles endure tiny tears, causing an important inflammatory response in your body, and it’s this process of repair and adaptation that allows you to progress in your training. According to Siekaniec, alcohol limits the inflammatory response by increasing your body’s production of anti-inflammatory molecules and decreasing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules. On top of that, alcohol can increase blood flow to the injured muscles, possibly increasing the severity of any tears and prolonging your recovery.

If you’re a weight lifter or doing regular strength training in the gym, drinking alcohol after your session can essentially stunt muscle hypertrophy, which is the whole point of resistance training. Siekaniec says drinking large amounts of alcohol after resistance exercise messes up the hormonal balances necessary for hypertrophy by increasing cortisol, which stimulates protein breakdown, and decreasing testosterone, which increases protein synthesis.

So maybe save resistance training sessions for days when you’re not planning to go out to a club or to meet friends for drinks.

4. Hangovers

It’s hard for your body to recover from vigorous exercise if you’ve got a hangover, but in addition, according to Siekaniec, research shows your aerobic capacity decreases by 11 percent while exercising with a hangover. It’s kind of an understatement to say you’d have a competitive edge if you competed without one.

5. Chronic effects of alcohol on exercise

Alcohol is seriously caloric, with 7 calories per gram. Siekaniec says the average drink in the United States contains 14 grams of alcohol, which would be 98 calories and that’s before you add in the calories in soda or juice mixers. Over time, the extra calories in alcohol could have an affect on your body’s composition and impact your performance in the gym or out on the trail, according to Siekaniec.

What’s less obvious is the impact heavy alcohol consumption has on your body’s ability to absorb and utilize important nutrients necessary for optimal athletic performance. Siekaniec notes that if you engage in vigorous exercise you may already have additional nutritional needs and may already be at risk of suffering nutritional deficiencies due to the physical demands of training. What happens when you drink too much too often is your liver cells can become inefficient at activating vitamin D, important for maintaining and developing muscle size and strength, and metabolizing vitamin B6, critical for supporting your nervous system, according to Siekaniec, and can reduce your ability to absorb vitamin B12, important for immune function, thiamin, which enables your body to use carbohydrates as energy, and folate, which is important for neurological functioning.

Oh yes and there this. Long-term alcohol abuse is associated with a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease, liver disease, and cancer, according to Siekaniec, completely reversing the health benefits of exercise.

So yeah, go ahead and celebrate your finish with a beer or two or a glass of wine or even a Cosmo, or a Hugo. Just make sure you’re keeping an eye on how much you’re drinking and when.

For additional information, see the National Strength and Conditioning Associations recommendations for rest and recovery.

How Your Post-Workout Beer Affects Muscle Growth

Kamal Patel is the director of, and is a nutrition researcher with an MPH and MBA from Johns Hopkins University on hiatus from a Ph.D. in nutrition. He has published peer-reviewed articles on vitamin D and calcium as well as a variety of clinical research topics.

Even the most dedicated athletes need time off to unwind. While partying usually results in nothing worse than a hangover, you may have also noticed that your Monday morning gym session feels harder after a weekend of indulging. While many people extol the virtues of the post-workout beer, it can be difficult to determine what effect alcohol actually has on muscles.

Some research shows that alcohol can impact your rate of muscle protein synthesis -- the process by which muscles grow and repair. But could a post-workout drink (or two) really undo the effects of your reps and sets -- or will it take way more than that to truly set you back? Read on to find out.

Breaking Down the Post-Workout Beer

Beer, like many sports drinks, contains carbohydrates and electrolytes. But does that mean it could replace a Gatorade? Not so fast.

Two relevant studies published on this topic compared liver protein synthesis rates -- the detoxifying enzymes produced by the liver -- among people consuming various quantities of alcohol. Scientists found that the rate of synthesis changed based on the amount of alcohol ingested. Protein synthesis was suppressed by 24 percent after people consumed 71 grams of pure alcohol, or approximately five beers. However, it was not suppressed after people consumed just 28 grams of alcohol, the amount found in about two standard beers.

The most relevant human study to date found that for a 150-pound person, consuming the equivalent of about seven beers resulted in suppressed muscle protein synthesis. This occurred even if the alcohol was consumed after 25 grams of protein (see what 25 grams of protein looks like here). In other words, your post-happy hour munchies won't help. Animal studies also provide supporting evidence muscular protein synthesis rates in rats were suppressed after they received ethanol injections.

Overall, this evidence suggests drinking upwards of five beers in one sitting could impair workout recovery and muscle growth. There are no studies specifically investigating the impact of a single beer post-workout. But those who love a good post-gym drink will be happy to know evidence suggests drinking about two of your favorite brews won't undo your hard work at the gym.

Alcohol and Testosterone

Testosterone is also important when it comes to building muscle -- the more you naturally have, the easier it is to see gains. Low doses of alcohol (about two beers for a 150-pound person) have been shown to increase circulating testosterone by about 17 percent in both young men and premenopausal women. Unfortunately, this boost in testosterone is probably not enough to noticeably increase muscle growth.

On the other hand, heavier drinking (think: seven beers for a 150-pound individual) has been found to suppress testosterone. Furthermore, even moderate amounts of booze (about three to four beers) have been shown to mildly suppress testosterone when ingested daily for at least three weeks. And that could be enough to undo some of your efforts in the weight room.

The Big Picture

Beer lovers, rest easy. Though more research is needed, there is currently no evidence to suggest a post-workout beer or two can cause long-term harm. If a tall one is your go-to treat after a hard workout, you don't need to worry about your testosterone levels or protein synthesis rates. Just make sure your one-beer reward doesn't turn into a five-beer habit.

How does booze fit into all this?

Confirming a slew of animal studies, the most relevant human trial to date reported that heavy drinking post-exercise (about 7 beers for a 150-pound person) suppressed muscle protein synthesis, according to a 2014 study. The same was true even when the study participants consumed 25 grams of protein before drinking alcohol. So, in short, binge drinking after exercise? Not a good idea for many reasons.

Alcohol is most damaging during the post-exercise anabolic window (the up-to-four hours following a typical weight-lifting session). Remember, though, that muscle protein synthesis can stay elevated for up to 24 hours after a workout (which is why bedtime protein is important). Therefore, having too much alcohol in your blood at any time during this period may hinder your recovery.

On the whole, and especially if you exercise, science would advise that one or two beers is fine. In other words, unless you have a habit of binge drinking, you&rsquoll be okay. Current evidence suggests that if the occasional beer has an effect on your gains, positive or negative, this effect is small&mdashsmall enough that if a refreshing pint of your favorite beer is your way to unwind after a hard workout, then you can drink without guilt.

Related Video:

Finally, a recent study found that isohumulones, the main compounds responsible for the bitter taste of hops, might support weight loss. This study only investigated the fat-burning potential of isolated isohumulones, however, not of beer as a whole, so don&rsquot start downing pints in the hope of shedding pounds, especially because the calories in alcohol can quickly add up. Still, after this study, one cannot help speculating that IPAs, with their high hop content, might have a slight advantage over other beers.

Effect of alcohol after muscle-damaging resistance exercise on muscular performance recovery and inflammatory capacity in women

To investigate the effect of acute alcohol consumption on muscular performance recovery, assessed by maximal torque production, and on inflammatory capacity, assessed by lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated cytokine production, following muscle-damaging resistance exercise in women.


Thirteen recreationally resistance-trained women completed two identical exercise bouts (300 maximal single-leg eccentric leg extensions) followed by alcohol (1.09 g ethanol kg −1 fat-free body mass) or placebo ingestion. Blood was collected before (PRE), and 5 (5 h-POST), 24 (24 h-POST), and 48 (48 h-POST) hours after exercise and analyzed for LPS-stimulated cytokine production (TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-6, and IL-8 and IL-10). Maximal torque production (concentric, eccentric, isometric) was measured for each leg at PRE, 24 h-POST, and 48 h-POST.


Although the exercise bout increased LPS-stimulated production of TNF-α (%change from PRE: 5 h-POST 109% 24 h-POST 49% 48 h-POST 40%) and decreased LPS-stimulated production of IL-8 (5 h-POST −40% 24 h-POST −50% 48 h-POST: −43%) and IL-10 (5 h-POST: −37% 24 h-POST −32% 48 h-POST −31%), consuming alcohol after exercise did not affect this response. Regardless of drink condition, concentric, eccentric, and isometric torque produced by the exercised leg were lower at 24 h-POST (concentric 106 ± 6 Nm, eccentric 144 ± 9 Nm, isometric 128 ± 8 Nm M ± SE) compared to PRE (concentric 127 ± 7 Nm, eccentric 175 ± 11 Nm, isometric 148 ± 8 Nm). Eccentric torque production was partially recovered and isometric torque production was fully recovered by 48 h-POST.


Alcohol consumed after muscle-damaging resistance exercise does not appear to affect inflammatory capacity or muscular performance recovery in resistance-trained women. Combined with previous findings in men, these results suggest a gender difference regarding effects of alcohol on exercise recovery.

A low dose of alcohol does not impact skeletal muscle performance after exercise-induced muscle damage

Moderate, acute alcohol consumption after eccentric exercise has been shown to magnify the muscular weakness that is typically associated with exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD). As it is not known whether this effect is dose-dependent, the aim of this study was to investigate the effect of a low dose of alcohol on EIMD-related losses in muscular performance. Ten healthy males performed 300 maximal eccentric contractions of the quadriceps muscles of one leg on an isokinetic dynamometer. They then consumed either a beverage containing 0.5 g of alcohol per kg bodyweight (as vodka and orange juice) or an isocaloric, isovolumetric non-alcoholic beverage. At least 2 weeks later, they performed an equivalent bout of eccentric exercise on the contralateral leg after which they consumed the other beverage. Measurement of peak and average peak isokinetic (concentric and eccentric) and isometric torque produced by the quadriceps was made before and 36 and 60 h post-exercise. Significant decreases in all measures of muscular performance were observed over time under both conditions (all P < 0.05) however, no difference between treatments was evident at any of the measured time points (all P > 0.05). Therefore, consumption of a low dose of alcohol after damaging exercise appears to have no effect on the loss of force associated with strenuous eccentric exercise.

How Alcohol Hurts Your Workout Recovery

What's more, alcohol is dehydrating, which is the opposite of what you want immediately following a workout, says registered dietitian Cassie Bjork. Dehydration will only make it harder for you to recover from your training session, leading to a longer recovery time and fewer fitness gains. See, the workouts themselves don't make you fitter, it's how well you adapt and recover from that workout that leads to progress, Kitchen says.

When your muscles are already dehydrated after your workout, drinking alcohol will only dehydrate them even more, ultimately preventing those muscles from rebounding and repairing the way you need them to in order to see fitness gains.

In fact, a 2014 study in the journal Plos One found that consuming alcohol reduced muscle protein synthesis (the process of repairing and building new muscle cells after exercise) by 24 to 37 percent following resistance training, steady-state cardio and high-intensity exercise, even when paired with protein and carbs. However, it's worth noting that this study involved higher amounts of alcohol to replicate amounts athletes report while binge drinking.

So if you want to reap the most benefits from your exercise program, chugging a post-workout beer (or two) may not be the best idea.

Effects of beer on muscle recovery after exercise - Biology

Jonathan N. Mike, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, is a doctoral student in the exercise science program in the department of health, exercise, and sports sciences at the University of New Mexico (Albuquerque). He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in exercise science at Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green) and has research interests in strength and power performance, exercise and energy metabolism, exercise biochemistry, exercise endocrinology, and neuromuscular physiology.

Len Kravitz, PhD, is the program coordinator of exercise science and a researcher at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, where he won the Outstanding Teacher of the Year award. Len was honored with the 2006 Can-Fit-Pro Specialty Presenter of the Year award and chosen as the ACE 2006 Fitness Educator of the Year. He was recently presented with the 2008 Can-Fit-Pro Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Watch the video: Is it Good to Drink Beer After Working Out? (January 2023).