I saw a link to an article in Runner’s World magazine which referenced a couple of studies, so I pulled the studies on my own to see what they were all about.
The two studies carried out by Barnes et al. and presented in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, looked at the effects of post-workout alcohol consumption on the recovery of strength after resistance training session designed to use eccentric muscle contraction to induce muscle damage.
Both studies, on Alcohol and Exercise Recovery, utilized ten male subjects who performed 300 maximal eccentric contractions (muscle lengthening) of the quadriceps muscle (OUCH!!) with one leg only using a leg extension machine that employed tension in both phases of the range of motion in order to emphasize the eccentric contraction phase of the contraction. Loaded eccentric contractions have been shown to induce more muscle damage than concentric contractions (muscle shortening phase).
Following the exercise treatment subjects were either given an alcoholic beverage consisting of vodka and orange juice or a non-alcoholic beverage consisting of just orange juice.
Strength measurements were taken prior to the exercise, and at 36 and 60 hours post-exercise.
The difference between the two studies was the size of the alcohol does. The original study (2010) used a dose of 1 gram of alcohol per kilogram of body weight, while the follow-up study used 0.5 grams of alcohol per kilogram of body weight.
While the original study found the strength to be significantly reduced 36 hours post workout using the ‘screwdriver’ recovery drink versus the straight OJ beverage, the follow up found no significant difference between the lower doses of alcohol compared to the non-alcoholic beverage.
I am a bit conflicted as I conclude this summary because I never would recommend drinking alcohol immediately post-workout (Alcohol and Exercise Recovery), but, according to these studies, a small dose won’t reduce your ability to recover your strength.
However, to put this in real world terms, for a 165-pound individual this would equate to about 2.5 twelve ounce beers (5% abv) or about 12 ounces of wine (12% abv).
To conclude, this study was examining the effects on STRENGTH, not hydration, glycogen resynthesis, or fat burning. In fact, if fat burning is your goal, you should never, or very rarely, follow up a workout with an alcoholic beverage.
To quote from Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance, by Powers and Howley, “Alcohol intake is balanced by its own oxidation, but in the process, it suppresses fat oxidation” (pg 422). In other words- when alcohol is in your system, fat burning is shut off! Alcohol and Exercise Recovery!
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