The question up for discussion today is "do creatine and alcohol mix?". I'm going to talk about the effects alcohol has on building muscle and what happens if you drink alcohol while using creatine. There have been no official studies into the effects of creatine and alcohol in the past. We have no scientific evidence that alcohol directly affects the body's use of creatine. However, if we look at the affects of alcohol and creatine on the body it's clear to see if the two mix.
How Muscle Grows
When you are lifting weights at the gym you are actually damaging and breaking down your muscles (it sounds much worse than it is!). Your muscles are pumped up at the gym because you are tearing small muscle fibers. The actual muscle growth occurs when you're resting via a process called protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the production of new muscle proteins. When you're building muscle you are aiming to rebuild more muscle than you damaged during your workout.
How Creatine Works
Creatine is naturally produced in the body in the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Common sources of food that are naturally high in creatine are red meat and fish. Creatine aids in the process of ATP which is energy used for quick, explosive activities (pumping weights). The body only has a very limited supply of ATP, enough for only a few seconds of intense activity. Once the ATP level drops your muscles become fatigued. In theory, taking more creatine supplements allows for more creatine to be available to synthesize more ATP and therefore causes less fatigue in muscles and allows you to punch out those extra reps to get better results.
The Effects of Alcohol on Muscle Building
Alcohol has two very negative effects of muscle building. First, alcohol hinders the process of protein synthesis. As I mentioned in the first paragraph protein synthesis is the production of muscle proteins, literally speaking, muscle growth. Hindering the effects of muscle growth defeats the purpose of working out. Second, alcohol effects the anabolic properties of insulin and growth hormone. Both insulin and growth hormone are essential for inducing protein synthesis after physical exercise. (More information on bodybuilding supplements)
Creatine & Alcohol Work Against Each Other
On one side you're got creatine has been known to stimulate protein synthesis and on the other you've got alcohol that's hindering it. Obviously this effect in itself will limit, if not cancel out, and advantages you have by taking creatine.
Alcohol May Cause Muscle Breakdown
Muscle breakdown can occur if you work your muscles too hard and your body does not have sufficient resources to repair them. This is especially important to consider with alcohol and creatine. When you use creatine supplements you are allowing your muscles to work harder and break down more. If you then drink large amounts of alcohol you are hindering the muscle rebuilding process. If your body cannot repair as much muscle as it needs to you may experience increased recovery times and even a loss of muscle mass.
Let's just recap on what I just talked about. Your muscles build via a process called protein synthesis. When you're in the gym you break down and damage your muscles. Creatine works by giving you more "explosive energy" allowing you to pump out those extra reps and train harder for longer. On the other had alcohol hinders the body's process of muscle building. Alcohol interferes with protein synthesis and the body's production and release of insulin and growth hormone. In extreme cases if you workout hard using creatine and drink alcohol your body may not be able to fully repair all the damaged muscle tissue resulting increased recovery times and negative muscle growth. As you can see creatine and alcohol really do not mix. The possible benefits of creatine will not be seen if used with alcohol. So if you're serious about building muscle and size if might be a good idea to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum especially after your workouts and before bed. If you do drink alcohol, always drink plenty of water while you're drinking and afterwards.
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