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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