The Dangers of Binge Drinking

I've never felt compelled to write a page about what alcoholism does. It seems pointless.  Everyone knows it is very hard on the body and brain, so I would just be stating the obvious. But what may not be so obvious are the evils of so-called "binge drinking." Many men will drink heavily on a weekend night or two figuring that they "have the rest of weekend to recover." The problem is that you don't really recover. Sure the hangover goes away. And, yes, you feel fine in 24-48 hours. But, unbeknowst to most people, damage is accumulating.  And, if you binge drink repeatedly, it can take its toll.

It turns out that binge drinking has actually been quite heavily studied.  And the reason undoubtedly is that it is so hard on the body. They even have technical definitions for it, which usually is five or more drinks on one occasion (for men).

Below are eight nasty effects that result from binge drinking and, as you'll see, these attack everything you hold near and dear as a man:

1. Testosterone. One study gave 1.5 grams of alcohol per kg of body weight during a three hour period to young men in their early to mid 20's. [1] Now, admittedly, that is quite a bit of alcohol, but the results are instructive nonetheless and mimics what a lot of guys consume in a drinking contest or on a night with certain friends.  Let's take the typical 180 lb man.  Those 180 pounds are about 81 kg and so he would need to consume about 122 grams of ethanol to match the dose in this study.  In the U.S. that would be about 8.7 "standard drinks", or almost nine 12 oz beers.  Now that's a lot of beer - at least for this cowboy - but certainly not totally unrealistic.

And  let's look at what happened to the testosterone levels of these young men.  The researchers took measurements every four hours and found that testosterone decreased on average by 23% with the nadir occurring between 10 and 16 hours afterwards.  This means that testosterone will be significantly suppressed for about 24 hours in most of these men. Another study found that the men with hangover symptoms had the most profound decreases in testosterone and found that "ten to twenty hours after drinking, the testosterone concentrations were significantly decreased in all subjects." [2]

2. Growth Hormone.  The same study found that "ethanol profoundly suppressed the pulsatile secretion of growth hormone." [1] So forget anything worthwhile coming out of your gym time the next day with testosterone and growth hormone hammered downward.

3.  Heart Disease.  Research shows that this kind of "drinking in bursts" can lead to heart disease.  One study found that "binge drinking increased the risk of coronary heart disease in both men (hazard ratio (HR) = 2.26, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.22, 4.20) and women (HR = 1.10, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.18)." [3]  Now this is not that much of an increase for females, but notice that it more than doubled th risk for men.

4.  Arteriosclerosis and Hardening of the Arteries. One interesting study followed young people for 15 years.  It was found, in general, that the more alcohol consumed, the greater the arteriosclerosis.  However, the authors made special note that "calcification was also more common among binge drinkers (odds ratio = 2.1, 95% confidence interval: 1.6, 2.7). These associations persisted after adjustment for potential confounders (age, gender/ethnicity, income, physical activity, family history, body mass index, smoking) and intermediary factors (lipids, blood pressure, glucose, C-reactive protein, and fibrinogen)." [6]

5. .  There is no study that shows binge drinking is linked to erectile dysfunction.  However, if either #3 or #4 is true, then it very likely does affect hardness factor and bedroom performance.  Almost anything that affects the heart affects the penis after all.

6. Anti-Muscle.  One study showed that consuming alcohol post-workout sabotaged the best laid plans to put on muscle. [5] Their conclusion should surprise no one: "it appears that alcohol intoxication interferes with the testosterone response to resistance exercise workouts."

7.  Permanent Weight Gain and HPA Axis Dysfunction.  If you binge drink at a young enough age, it can lead to permanent changes in your HPA Axis such that you put on weight easier forever thereafter according to one study. [7] This shows the very toxic nature of alcohol intoxication and animal studies show that alcohol can actually alter one's epigenetics in many different tissues. [8]

8. Disrupted Sleep.  Alcohol is a sedative and helps you sleep, right?  Yes, that's true, but what many men do not realize is that it acts like a sedative for a couple of hours and then as stimulant later on the early morning hours.  For this reason,  binge drinking is associated with shortened sleep. [10] And sleep is one of your primary engines of testosterone.  It is during the early morning hours that the pituitary sends out pulses of leutinizing hormone that then triggers testosterone production in the testes.  As I discuss in my link on Sleep and Testosterone, the less the sleep, the less your testosterone.

9. Permanent Memory Damage.  A recent study showed that binge drinking as a teen likely resulted in permanent loss of memory for the rest of one's life. [11] I doubt anyone was too surprised, since other studies have shown that it increases the risk of dementia as well.

CONCLUSION and COMMENTS:  One comment that I have gotten on the Peak Testosterone Forum from time to time is that men, after a significant of drinking, notice strong morning or next day erections.  This may be explained by the fact that alcohol is a vasoilator..  However, more is not always better and binge drinking is a great example of that.

There are plenty of other drinks that can help you get and keep your erections.  I have a link on True Manly Drinks that gives you many ideas. One of them,  pomegranate juice, may actually clear out your arteries while it's boosting your nitric oxide. For more information, see my link on Pomegranate Juice.

CAUSES:  What would cause one to want to binge drink?  I have asked myself that question when I look back at my college days!  Researchers have found that, interestingly enough, as cortisol decrease, risky behaviors, i.e. "sensation seeking" go up. [9] So there may be an underlying cause that has its roots in the HPA axis.


1)  Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, Dec 1990, 14(6):928-931, "The Pulsatile Secretion of Gonadotropins and Growth Hormone, and the Biological Activity of Luteinizing Hormone in Men Acutely Intoxicated with Ethanol"

2) Journal of Steroid Biochemistry, Nov 1974, 5(7):655�658, "Low plasma testosterone values in men during hangover"

3) Am. J. Epidemiol. (2002) 155(3): 242-24, "Alcohol Volume, Drinking Pattern, and Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality: Is There a U-shaped Function?" 

4)  The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Feb 1 2002, 87(2):589-598, "Age Trends in the Level of Serum Testosterone and Other Hormones in Middle-Aged Men: Longitudinal Results from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study"

5) Strength & Conditioning Journal, Feb 2006, "Effect of Postexercise Alcohol Consumption on Serum Testosterone: Brief Overview of Testosterone, Resistance Exercise, and Alcohol"

6) "Alcohol Consumption, Binge Drinking, and Early Coronary Calcification: Findings from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) Study"

7) AJP - Endo, February 1 2010, 298(2):E320-E328, "Binge-pattern alcohol exposure during puberty induces sexually dimorphic changes in genes regulating the HPA axis"


9) Hormones and Behavior, Nov 2001, 40(1):396�402, "Sensation Seeking and Hormones in Men and Women: Exploring the Link"

10) Am. J. Epidemiol, 2009, 169(9):1052-1063, "Sleep Duration in the United States: A Cross-sectional Population-based Study"