Alcohol and Protein Synthesis

Instructor: Dominic Corsini
How does alcohol affect your workouts? Is it good for you or bad for you? Can it influence hormone levels, and if so, does it matter? This lesson addresses these questions through an investigation into the role of alcohol on protein synthesis.

What is Protein Synthesis?

Have you ever exercised really hard? How does exercising help your body to get bigger, faster, or stronger? Well, the answer is that exercise promotes protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the process your body undergoes to produce protein molecules, which are used for things such as muscle building, tissue repair, basic cellular function, and enzymatic activities like digestion and DNA replication.

Needless to say, protein synthesis is vital to your health and survival. Interestingly, there are ways you can impact protein synthesis. One of which is by controlling your diet, or more specifically, by controlling whether alcohol is part of your diet. Alcohol is a colorless, flammable liquid found in wine, liquor, and beer that can cause intoxication.

Role of Alcohol on Protein Synthesis

Simply stated, alcohol and protein synthesis don't mix. Alcohol hinders the protein synthesis process, thus negating any gains obtained through exercise. There are several reasons this occurs.

Influence of alcohol and protein synthesis.
Influence of Alcohol on Protein Synthesis

First is the fact that alcohol can cause your body to enter a catabolic state. Catabolic is a term used to describe the breakdown of proteins into their amino acid subunits. So, in a catabolic state your body is actually breaking down protein rather than building it. If you remember, protein synthesis is when your body is building protein. So a catabolic state is the inverse of this condition.

Second is that alcohol can affect the release of hormones necessary for promoting protein synthesis. Hormones can be thought of as molecules that carry messages within the body. To be more specific, the consumption of alcohol can affect the function of testosterone and human growth hormone (or HGH) in the body. In the first case, alcohol causes the liver to release molecules that negate the influence of testosterone. Hence, the message it carries to build protein is never delivered. In the second, alcohol simply reduces the body's release of HGH. Both hormones are required for protein synthesis, so their reduction negatively impacts the body's ability to produce protein.

Breakdown of Alcohol

When someone consumes alcohol, his or her ability to synthesize protein is diminished. However, the liver breaks down alcohol and thus restores an organism's protein synthesizing ability to its full potential. This begs the question, how long does it take for this restoration to occur? How long before the inhibiting affects of alcohol on protein synthesis pass? Well, that can be difficult to answer depending on the organism, body composition, activity level, etc. So let's approach the question from a different angle.

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