Ultimate Post-Workout Testosterone Booze: Hard Liquor Increases Late PWO Testosterone Levels by Almost 100%

"No pain no gain?" No, that ain't the blood dropping from you wound hands.Those are the remnants of your next goto PWO drink. A Bloody Mary!
While I have been covering all sorts of testosterone-related stuff within the past couple of weeks, one thing has still been missing: The classic herb from the darkest jungle that'll increase the testosterone levels of one out of the two testers the respective company claims to have beta-tested their product on by whatever incredible percentage. Ok, I must admit, I don't have such an herb at hand at the moment, but what about Bloody Mary? No, not for the tomato juice, although that would be an awesome addition (learn more about "TomatoRade(R)") to the alcohol!

Alcohol? You're kiddin' me... right!?

At least at first glance it certainly looks as if you could hardly find better news for all the partying muscle heads out there, than the soon-to-be-published paper by Jakob L. Vingren, David W. Hill, Harsh Buddhadev, and Anthony Duplanty from the Department of Kinesiology, Health Promotion and Recreation at the University of North Texas (Vingren. 2013). After all, the four Texans discovered that the ingestion of booze instead (and probably also along with) your protein shake after your workout will prolong and amplify the "anabolic state" you're in once you leave the gym fo a couple of hours. Bullshit? No, it's not April the first, yet.

The participants were 8 healthy previouly resistant trained men (21-34 years; 87.7kg, 177 cm, 15.1 % body fat) who performed 6 sets of 10 repetitions of Smith machine squats starting at 80% of 1RM and 2 min of rest between sets (assisted forced reps, when necessary) after an appropriate warm-up:
Figure 1: Relative changes in free and total testosterone, SHBG, the testosterone to cortisol ratio and estradiol levels; data expressed relative to values at rest (Vingren. 2013)
You see? No changes in SHBG, cortisol and only a statistically non-significant increase in estradiol, but a persistent elevation of free and total testosterone. How that works? Well, you just pick a drink of your choice (the scientists obviously simply dilluted ethanol in water so that the mixture would have 19%) and drink as much of it as would be necessary to cover your "post workout ethanol requirements" of 1.09g/kg of lean body mass.
Want to know more about the net gains / fat loss testosterone produces? Or are you interested in the negative consequences of really low testosterone levels? Click here to learn more.
Did you know that a very recent study from the University of Chile shows that testosterone works its muscle building magic via the very same PI3K/Akt and mTOR pathways you are targeting with your hitherto non-alcoholic post-workout nutrition (Basualto-Alacon. 2013)? Since testosterone does yet also act on the androgen receptor, it can't be excluded that the effects are (a) additive / synergistic or (b) a certain degree of T-induced androgen receptor activation is necessary for the PI3K/Akt pathway to work. If you want to learn more about post workout browse through previous article on the matter, here.
A guy with a lean body mass of 65kg, for example would need ~71g of pure alcohol. That's about 668ml of regular red wine or drink enough Bloody Mary's to his TBA (testosterone boozing allowance) of ~165ml of vodka (100% proof). If we further assume he gets his Bloody Mary mixed according the standards of the International Bartenders Association, he would have to make room for 4x Bloody Marys in his gymbag ;-)

Sound easy right? But does it help at all?

You probably did not start boozing already, right? Otherwise you would not pose smart questions like the one in the above subheading. Obviously, the researchers asked themselves a very similar question: Can this poison really be ergogenic? Unfortunately, their answer does not really go beyond serving us the same old paradigm of the "anabolic milieu", the validity of which is more than questionable (suggested read: "Does the "PWO Elevation of Testosterone Influence Muscle Growth?"):
Strength, cardio or both for the optimal T:C ratio? (learn the answer)
"Although the T:C [ratio between testosterone and cortisol] is a crude measure, it response shows that the elevated in testosterone in the latter stages of recovery following ethanol ingestion is not associated with a corresponding elevation in cortisol, a hormone with catabolic and anti-anabolic physiological effects. The results for the T:C ratio suggest that a more  anabolic milieu exists during the latter stages of recovery from resistance exercise following ethanol ingestion." (Vingren. 2013)
In the researchers defense, it does yet have to be said that they do not simply ignore the fact that the significance of workout induced changes in the "anabolic milieu" in terms of immediate skeletal muscle growth may have been overrated.

Now, while we do not have any studies on the "the effect of post-exercise ethanol ingestion on protein accretion" (Vingren, 2013), we do have studies showing that the ingestion of alcohol in general appears to hamper the recovery from resistance training (Barnes 2010; Barnes 2012) and increases the suppressive effect of exhausting endurance exercise on testosterone production (Heikkonen. 1996). The logical conclusion, Vingren et al. draw is thus that it "remains unclear" how the ethanol induced maintenance of high free and total testosterone levels in the hours after a workout would affect the muscular adaptation processes and their downstream effects on muscle size and strength in response to resistance exercise.

Bottom line: Personally I don't believe that 1.5 pints of red wine make the ideal post workout drink, not just because they are lacking protein, but rather in view of the previous research from Barnes and Heikkonen which may not disprove the possibility that 1.06g of ethanol after a workout could potentially exert "anabolic" effects that will eventually manifest in greater gains in muscle size or strength, but should suffice to rate an already highly questionable hypothesis "very unlikely".

Click on the image above to read my previous article series called "Chest Fat, Bitch Tits, Chesticles, Gynecomastia, Lipomastia and Co.: Infinite Ways to Name it, 45 Ways to Prevent It". Plus: Is your gyno in fact just too much body fat? (read more)
We should also take into account that the mechanism by which this increase or, to be precise, the absence of a decrease in total testosterone and the 2nd spike in free testosterone come about, may very well decide whether it's a good or bad thing. When I think of alcohol I usually think of the liver and, when I think of the liver, alcohol and testosterone, I think of the accumulation of estrogen in heavy drinkers with a alcoholic fatty liver, which renders them prone to develop gynecomastia. Why? Simply because their liver cannot get rid of the end-products of the hormonal cascade. So, if the higher testosterone levels are simply the result of a temporarily hampered hormone metabolism in the liver, it stands to reason that the results are unlikely to increase your strength and muscle growth, right?

Overall the study at hand is thus nice for some intellectual masturbation, but should not serve as an excuse for regular alcohol consumption. Physical culture and booze were, are and will always remain incommensurable.

  • Barnes MJ, Mundel T, Stannard SR. Acute alcohol consumption aggravates the decline in muscle performance following strenuous eccentric exercise. J Sci Med Sport. 2010; 13(1):189-93.
  • Barnes MJ, Mundel T, Stannard SR. The effects of acute alcohol consumption and eccentric muscle damage on neuromuscular function. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2012; 37(1):63-71.
  • Basualto-Alarcón C, Jorquera G, Altamirano F, Jaimovich E, Estrada M. Testosterone Signals through mTOR and Androgen Receptor to Induce Muscle Hypertrophy. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Mar 6.
  • Heikkonen E, Ylikahri R, Roine R, Välimäki M, Härkönen M, Salaspuro M. The combined effect of alcohol and physical exercise on serum testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and cortisol in males. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1996 Jun;20(4):711-6.
  • Vingren JL, Hill DW, Buddhadev H, Duplanty A. Post-Resistance Exercise Ethanol Ingestion and Acute Testosterone Bioavailability. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Mar 6.
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