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Ethanol Does Not Delay Muscle Recovery but Decreases Testosterone/Cortisol Ratio

Haugvad, Anders1; Haugvad, Lars2; Hamarsland, Håvard3; Paulsen, Gøran2,3

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2014 - Volume 46 - Issue 11 - p 2175–2183
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000339
Applied Sciences

Purpose: This study investigated the effects of ethanol consumption on recovery from traditional resistance exercise in recreationally trained individuals.

Methods: Nine recreationally trained volunteers (eight males and one female, 26 ± 4 yr, 81 ± 4 kg) conducted four resistance exercise sessions and consumed a low (0.6 (females) and 0.7 (males) g·kg−1 body mass) or a high dose (1.2 or 1.4 g·kg−1 body mass) of ethanol 1–2.5 h after exercise on two occasions. The first session was for familiarization with the tests and exercises and was performed without ethanol consumption. As a control trial, alcohol-free drinks were consumed after the exercise session. The sequence of trials, with low and high ethanol doses and alcohol-free drinks (control), was randomized. Maximal voluntary contractions (MVC) (knee extension), electrically stimulated contractions (knee extension), squat jumps, and hand grip strength were assessed 10–15 min and 12 and 24 h after the ethanol/placebo drinks. In addition to a baseline sample, blood was collected 1, 12, and 24 h after the ethanol/placebo drinks. The exercise session comprised 4 × 8 repetition maximum of squats, leg presses, and knee extensions.

Results: MVC were reduced by 13%–15% immediately after the exercise sessions (P < 0.01). MVC, electrically stimulated force, and squat jump performance were recovered 24 h after ethanol drinks. MVC was not fully recovered at 24 h in the control trial. Compared with those in the control, cortisol increased and the free testosterone/cortisol ratio were reduced after the high ethanol dose (P < 0.01).

Conclusions: Neither a low nor a high dose of ethanol adversely affected recovery of muscle function after resistance exercise in recreationally strength-trained individuals. However, the increased cortisol levels and reduced testosterone/cortisol ratio after the high ethanol dose could translate into long-term negative effects.

1Jessenius Faculty of Medicine, Martin, SLOVAKIA; 2Norwegian Olympic Federation, Oslo, NORWAY; and 3Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Oslo, NORWAY

Address for correspondence: Gøran Paulsen, Ph.D., Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, PB 4014 Ullevål Stadion, 0806 Oslo, Norway; E-mail:

Submitted for publication November 2013.

Accepted for publication March 2014.

© 2014 American College of Sports Medicine