But besides needing a few aspirin and some greasy hangover food after the buzz has worn off, what damage can drinking do to muscles? A recent study found that excess alcohol consumption after resistance training can significantly decrease strength recoveryPost-exercise alcohol ingestion exacerbates eccentric-exercise induced losses in performance. Barnes MJ, Mündel T, Stannard SR. Institute of Food, Nutrition, and Human Health, Massey University, Private Bag 11-222, Palmerston North, New Zealand European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2010 March;108(5):1009-14. Epub 2009 Dec 11..Participants consumed one gram of alcohol per kilogram of body weight following exercise, or roughly 6 standard drinks for a 175 pound male. Apparently binge drinking could result in more than a nasty headache and some embarrassing photos on Facebook and actually decrease performance in future workouts.
While more research is still needed to measure the effects of alcohol before and during a workout, for those who wish to partake in a post-workout cold one, the focus should be on keeping quantity in check. Moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, among other benefits. Some alcohols— including unfiltered beer— also contain vitamins and proteins that might aid the body on its road to muscle recovery.
So for an after-gym bar crawl, just make sure to keep those orders by the glass (or maybe, ahem, pint) instead of the pitcher.
Matthew McConaughey keeps those muscles intact by keeping his brewsky consumption moderate.