Actually, it’s a complex process. When you consume alcohol, your body breaks it down into acetate, converting only a scant amount of the alcohol to fat. Acetate, a derivate of acetic acid, causes spikes in the blood as ethanol is oxidized, so not only do you have higher blood alcohol content, but you also have higher plasma acetate concentrations.
Because there’s more acetate present than fatty acids in your bloodstream, acetate, at least temporarily, becomes the body’s primary energy substrate.
That’s bad news folks.
Your body responds to large quantities of alcohol much like it does when you consume an excessively high carbohydrate diet. The macronutrient that’s consumed in the greatest quantity gets burned while fat essentially remains dormant until the substrate that was excessively consumed gets depleted.
Obviously, consuming a diet that has a very unbalanced macronutrient ratio is stupid, unless it’s supporting one’s training goals and helping address health issues. So why do this Friday and Saturday nights when you want to look beach-ready?
Well, you’re probably trying to wash away the misery of your underpaying hellhole of a job, or trying to muster up the courage to talk to a chick that’s way out of your league (and likely getting to the point where taking home that she-male working the door who resembles Bronko Nagurski seems like a good idea).
Although alcohol will quell your anxiety and tension because it’s a depressant, it’ll also suppress libido. Literature has also postulated that alcohol may interfere with Testosterone secreted through resistance training. Along with suppressing serum Testosterone levels, alcohol consumption may also cause strength loss in subsequent training sessions as a study conducted by researchers in New Zealand indicated.
The study had its eleven participants, all of which were active men, perform 300 maximal eccentric contractions of the quadriceps on each leg on an isokinetic dynanometer.
The group consumed alcohol following one training session and then consumed orange juice alone following another session with the opposite leg. Greater peak strength loss was observed in the workout following the alcohol consumption. The study also suggested that even moderate amounts of alcohol may impede recovery and accentuate losses in dynamic and static strength, though it should be noted that low doses of alcohol may not affect strength levels in subsequent training sessions.
However, alcohol isn’t all bad. Research has shown that moderate consumption (10 to 30 g per day) can elicit some benefits such as improving HDL to LDL cholesterol, decreasing platelet aggregability, and may even be beneficial to bone health in men and post-menopausal women.
But for the serious athlete or bodybuilder looking to achieve strength gains and a chiseled physique, alcohol isn’t much better than drain cleaner. Heck, I think drain cleaner might taste better than some of the no-name vodka that comes from plastic jugs found at college parties.