Does Alcohol Affect Muscle Growth – The Effects of Alcohol Explained

does alcohol affect muscle growth

Is that drink ruining your muscle growth!?

Does Alcohol Affect Muscle Growth?:

Does drinking an alcohol beverage once a week ( in moderation, like 6 to 7 drinks of 7% per drink of alcohol contents ) affect building muscle or muscle we have? - John C.

My Answer:

As a group, bodybuilder are more health conscious of the foods we put into our bodies than the Average Jane or Joe.  I picked up the following line from Arnold Schwarzenegger in regards to soda pop but it applies to anything that doesn’t directly provide nutritional value or support for the individual.

“Why take something the body doesn’t need right now?” – From Arnie Goes Crazy

Does alcohol affect muscle growth comes to me more often than “can I build muscle and burn fat at the same time.”  It’s a valid question and one that requires a bit more than what advice I keep hearing

  • you shouldn’t drink any alcohol if you are serious about bodybuilding
  • people who on a fat loss quest wouldn’t be caught dead with a drink in their hand
  • drinking completely destroys your muscle building efforts
  • having even just one drink can ruin a week’s worth of gains
  • and so many more statements made by people who’ve never done a set of JD Squats (Jack Daniels Squats)

While it’s true that alcohol has many negative effects on muscle building and the worthless calories from each drink can add up, especially on a fat loss quest where you’re always hungry and every calorie counts, you can still indulge.  If you’ve ever asked yourself does alcohol affect muscle growth such as, “Will 1 night of consuming alcohol negatively affect my ability to gain muscle or will 1 or 2 beers hurt my gains,” this article is for you.

But first, let’s take a look at generally what alcohol does to the body in relation to the bodybuilder who’s trying to build as much muscle as humanly possible.

Does Alcohol Affect Muscle Growth?

Many of us associate the effects of alcohol on the body with the heart, lungs, liver, brain, memory, etc. Furthermore, if asked about effects of drinking alcohol in terms of our fitness goals, most people will let you know about the infamous beer belly.

Drink too much and you end up storing too many calories as fat.

Many people will choose low calorie alcohol drinks or low carb alcoholic beverages in an attempt to avoid the fat storage issue. They feel that by making this choice the only bad effects of alcohol – increased fat storage – will be minimized.

But what you didn’t know is that only about 5% of the calories from alcohol are stored as fat! [14]

Then it hit me as it should hit you right about now… does alcohol affect muscle growth? Absolutely but the calories have been framed as the culprit.

The effects of alcohol on the body are potentially more damaging than can be predicted by the number of empty calories in some alcoholic beverage.

The answer to does alcohol affect muscle growth is…

1- Alcohol really affects the amount of fat your body can and will burn for energy!

In a study done by the American Journal of Clinical Research [4] they concluded that just a mere 24g of alcohol consumption showed whole-body lipid oxidation ( the rate at which your body burns fat) decreased by a whopping 73%!

When alcohol goes thru the liver, the by-product is called Acetate. It would appear that acetate puts the proverbial brakes on fat burning.

Your body can use many types of fuel. Protein, carbohydrates and fat. In many cases, the fuel used is dictated by it’s availability.

Your body tends to use whatever you feed it for fuel right? As your acetate levels increase, your body burns more acetate as fuel.

What this means is… Fat burning takes a back seat!

What it all boils down to is this…

  1. You consume a couple of alcoholic drinks or more.
  2. Your liver metabolizes that into acetate.
  3. Your body uses the acetate for fat as fuel.

2- Increase in appetite

In another American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, there was evidence to suggest that consumption of alcohol lead to an increase in appetite over that of any other carbohydrate type drink. [5]

Researchers over in the Research Department of Human Nutrition and Center for Advanced Food Studies in Denmark [8] concluded that consumption of alcoholic beverages, and wine in particular, may enhance total energy intake at a meal relative to a soft drink, when served with no restriction.

3- Decrease in Testosterone and an Increase in Cortisol

A study of 8 healthy male volunteers observed that after drinking alcohol, the effects of a significant decrease in testosterone and an increase in cortisol (a muscle destroying hormone) lasted up to 24 hours! [6]

If you are serious about building muscle and burning fat, you want all the free testosterone levels you can get and you want to reduce cortisol in any way you can. That means go lite on the drinking because it does affect your hormones.

What more answers to does alcohol affect muscle growth?

Is that the effects were even worse if you exercise before drinking. [1] This means that if you are going out and will be drinking more than a small amount of alcohol, you might as well skip the gym.

Not shocking is a study done by the Department of Radiology, Sahlgrenska Hospital, Goteborg, Sweden [2] that determined increased waist to hip ratio of alcoholics may include not only changes in adipose tissue, but also in muscle tissue distribution.

In layman’s terms.. that means more fat around the waist and less overall muscle mass.

4- Decrease in vitamin and mineral absorption

When you consume large quantities of alcohol, your liver is busy converting the alcohol to acetate and any vitamins and minerals that it might process are taken up by the detoxification process.

Alcohol interferes with the metabolism of most vitamins, and with the absorption of many nutrients. Alcohol stimulates both urinary calcium and magnesium excretion. [13]

This just means that you’ll get less of a benefit from the “healthy” meal you may be consuming.

Food in the stomach will compete with ethanol for absorption into the blood stream. It is well known that alcohol competes and influences the processing of nutrients in the body. [12]

5- Decrease in protein synthesis of type II fibers

This means the actual building of muscle is slowed down by 20%+ or more. This included a 35% decrease in muscle insulin-like growth factor-I (GF-I). [9]

6- Dehydration

A common side effect of alcohol is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic. Drinks containing 4% alcohol tend to delay the recovery process. [11]

Considering how important water is to muscle building and general health, it’s clear that dehydration can put a damper on your progress. After alcohol consumption the first thing you might want to do is drink coffee. But that’s a diuretic as well. How to avoid dehydration? Drink more water.

7- Sleep

Alcohol consumption, especially at the times when you would normally sleep, can have effects on the quality of sleep. Clearly high quality sleep is extremely important to the rebuilding and growth process of muscle. Without proper rest and recovery, your gains will be affected.

Alcohol consumption can induce sleep disorders by disrupting the sequence and duration of sleep states and by altering total sleep time as well as the time required to fall asleep. [10]

8- The next day

A rather obvious conclusion but if you plan on drinking on a Friday night in excess then the leg workout you thought of doing on Saturday morning won’t be top notch. It takes a bit to recover, your body to detoxify and for you mentally to be prepared to workout.

Not to mention you need energy for the workout ahead.

Sure you can hit the weights but my point is…

It’s not going to be the best workout you’ve ever experienced.

At this point you might be totally discouraged to ever drink any alcohol again. But there’s some good news.

Here’s proof…

In the November 2004 issue of the International Journal of Obesity [7] they did a study on the effects of moderate consumption of white wine on weight loss.

Each group consumed 1500 calories. 150 calories came from white wine in one group and 150 calories from grape juice in another.

The conclusion to the question does alcohol affect muscle growth?

An energy-restricted diet is effective in overweight and obese subjects used to drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. A diet with 10% of energy derived from white wine is as effective as an isocaloric diet with 10% of energy derived from grape juice.

It’s simple: Moderation is the key! (with first place being abstinence as you already know).  1-2 drinks per day for the general public, is considered moderation.

As a bodybuilder looking for the best possible muscle gains, maybe 1 drink per day or even 1 drink per week would fit into your goals.  However, 6-7 drinks would be detrimental to your muscle building efforts.  You’re better off having 1 drink a night for 7 days than 7 drinks in one sitting.

Does Alcohol Affect Muscle Growth …

The effects of alcohol on your body when it comes to building muscle and burning fat are quite clear. It is a lot more than just some extra calories stored as fat. If you consume too much, it can derail your goals a lot longer after your head has hit the pillow and you’ve gone to sleep.

References:

1. Heikkonen, E., Ylikahri, R., Roine, R., Valimaki, M., Harkonen, M., & Salaspuro, M. (1996). The combined effect of alcohol and physical exercise on serum testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and cortisol in males. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 20, 711-716

2. Kvist, H., Hallgren, P., Jonsson, L., Pettersson, P., Sjoberg, C., Sjostrom, L., & Bjorntorp, P. (1993). Distribution of adipose tissue and muscle mass in alcoholic men. Metabolism, 42, 569-573

3. Raben A, Agerholm-Larsen L, Flint A, Holst JJ, Astrup A. (2003). Meals with similar energy densities but rich in protein, fat, carbohydrate, or alcohol have different effects on energy expenditure and substrate metabolism but not on appetite and energy intake. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 77, 91-100

4. Siler, S.Q., Neese, R.A., & Hellerstein, M.K. (1999). De novo lipogenesis, lipid kinetics, and whole-body lipid balances in humans after acute alcohol consumption. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 70, 928-936

5. Tremblay, A., & St-Pierre, S. (1996). The hyperphagic effect of a high-fat diet and alcohol intake persists after control for energy density. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63, 479-482

6. Valimaki, M.J., Harkonen, M., Eriksson, C.J., & Ylikahri, R.H. (1984). Sex hormones and adrenocortical steroids in men acutely intoxicated with ethanol. Alcohol, 1, 89-93

7. Flechtner-Mors, M., Biesalski, H.K., Jenkinson, C.P., Adler, G., & Ditschuneit, H.H. (2004). Effects of moderate consumption of white wine on weight loss in overweight and obese subjects. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 28, 1420-1426

8. Buemann, B., Toubro, S., & Astrup, A. (2002). The effect of wine or beer versus a carbonated soft drink, served at a meal, on ad libitum energy intake. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 26, 1367-1372

9. Lang CH, Frost RA, Kumar V, Wu D, Vary TC. (2000). Inhibition of muscle protein synthesis by alcohol is associated with modulation of eIF2B and eIF4E, 3, 322-31

10. Alcohol Alert, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, No. 41 July. 1988

11. Shirreffs, Susan M., and Ronald J Maughan. 91997). Restoration of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration: effects of alcohol consumption, Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol. 83, No. 4, pp. 1152-1158

12. “Alcohol, chemistry and you,” Kennesaw State University, chemcases.com, Aug. 2002

13. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Report to Congress, 1990

14. “Why alcohol calories are more important than you think,” Christian Finn, TheFactsAboutFitness.com

Be Fit, Stay Strong!

Marc David – CPT

Does alcohol affect muscle growth should not be a mystery anymore.

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30 Responses to "Does Alcohol Affect Muscle Growth – The Effects of Alcohol Explained"

  1. Muhammad:
    July 16, 2012 09:46 pm

    This design is incredible! You certainly know how to keep a reader amused.
    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost.
    ..HaHa!) Wonderful job. I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
    Too cool!

    Leave a reply  
  2. Brad:
    July 06, 2012 06:44 pm

    alcohol for bodybuilding ain’t a bad idea lol..

    Leave a reply  
    1. August 24, 2013 12:59 pm

      I do not think so. I think trainers should suggest their trainee to limit their alcohol drinking habit. For some instance, alcohol may help for bodybuilding but there are high chances it may destroy all your hard work for your body.

      Leave a reply  
  3. Bridgett:
    July 06, 2012 06:42 pm

    It’s a shame you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate to this excellent blog! I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to brand new updates and will share this blog with my Facebook group. Talk soon!

    Leave a reply  
  4. caesar:
    March 22, 2012 09:37 pm

    I have a drinkng problem its more than the average. I was an athlete at one time im not far from looking the part. I want muscle and im 41

    Leave a reply  
  5. mandy:
    March 17, 2012 03:05 pm

    I’m so pleased to have found an answer to why my ankles swelled and were extremely painful following a very short jog. X i’d been jogging short distances 5 times a week for three weeks, taking iy easy to build my stamina. Then the Monday after I’d had quite a bit to drink on the Friday my ankles had had it. It’s been 5 days since and my ankles still haven’t fully recovered. Well in a way I hope it was due to the alcohol because I can think of no other explanation.

    Leave a reply  
    1. Indika:
      August 23, 2013 03:57 am

      This is very great article Marc . I have been training for the last twi years 4 times a week, two hours, my muscle growth is very little, but cry well toned, tummy bit piping out. Why, because of love for alcohol. If I don’t drink for 5 days , my tummy is firm and very good looking.
      I still can’t stop this bad habit. You are very honest, good guy , who gives the correct advise .

      Leave a reply  
  6. Savaperenic:
    May 15, 2011 02:49 pm

     what happen if i only one day drik a lot of alcohol?

    Leave a reply  
    1. May 15, 2011 08:35 pm

      Nothing in the grand scheme of things when it comes to muscle building. That being said, binge drinking 1 day a week is more damaging than simply have a little bit of alcohol daily. Over the course of 52 weeks, if you drank 1 day a week “a lot” meaning well over 12 ounces per day, then it would and will make a difference? How much? Can’t say but if you are truly looking to be the best, than any edge you can get is worth it (no alcohol or very moderate amounts). There is no way (yet) to consume excessive amounts of alcohol and obtain the body of your dreams. That being said, you can always drink in moderation and have a few “whatever” days and still look and feel fantastic. It’s when you do it all the time it becomes a potential roadblock to maximizing your results.

      Leave a reply  
  7. J.Walkin:
    March 16, 2011 04:07 am

    Most of all… just use common sense. Too much of anything can inhibit certain certain goals. Too much protein, too much sleep, even too much water can be detrimental to an extent. The biggest point of this article..MODERATION. Moderation to the limits of whatever you may be indulging in.

    Leave a reply  
  8. Titan:
    February 03, 2011 04:05 pm

    Don’t be a chode your whole life. If you enjoy drinking, drink. If thats not your bag more power too you.

    Leave a reply  
  9. December 25, 2010 12:33 pm

    that was really informative , thank you :))

    Leave a reply  
  10. Paul:
    June 29, 2010 10:11 am

    good article..this among with other articles i have read regarding the effects of alcohol on your workout has certainly made me think twice about going out every weekend to get smashed..thank you for this.

    Leave a reply  
  11. jesse:
    June 04, 2010 08:24 pm

    I agree mike WTF man?

    Leave a reply  
  12. Brian:
    May 26, 2010 03:56 am

    You are stupid then because those bullet points are things that some people commonly believe, not what the author had concluded.

    Leave a reply  
  13. April 28, 2010 10:27 pm

    Everyone who tells me I am wrong about the effects of alcohol on your body and weightlifting/exercise in general. WAKE UP EVERYONE!!!

    Leave a reply  
  14. April 08, 2010 08:37 pm

    @Mike – You took it what I keep 'hearing' as something I said.

    I said .. “It’s a valid question and one that requires a bit more than what I keep hearing.”

    Let me be clear ~~~> I do not agree that one drink can ruin a week's worth of gains.

    Leave a reply  
  15. Mike Ryan:
    April 08, 2010 08:29 pm

    “Having even just one drink can ruin a week’s worth of gains”

    That's when I stopped reading, because that's when you lost all of your credibility. Good day

    Leave a reply  
    1. Drew:
      December 22, 2010 04:01 am

      he said he heard someone say that, not that it is true. this was one of the reasons he felt he had to go into deeper detail about the effects

      Leave a reply  
    2. Hemanth D:
      March 21, 2011 06:23 pm

      Well said Mike…

      Leave a reply  
      1. March 21, 2011 07:04 pm

        Really? My credibility is intact. Yours may be suspect.

        Leave a reply  
    3. Daniel Pereira:
      April 02, 2011 10:26 pm

      The truth hurts Mike. Brian, those bullet points are actually not far from the truth, even if the author didn’t conclude with that. I strongly recommend everyone to avoid alcohol altogether if muscle gain or skin complexion is important to you. I don’t need alcohol to have fun. I’m always fun, and without alcohol I get to remember those fun moments haha =) xxxxx

      Leave a reply  
    4. Steven Elliott Jr:
      June 10, 2011 07:20 pm

      You my friend are a jackass and probably have saggy man cans and a beer belly. Alcohol absolutely ruins your gains, even if it’s one drink. If you’re really serious about building muscle and more importantly burning fat then skip the booze. 

      Leave a reply  
      1. tommy:
        January 30, 2014 06:20 pm

        I think this also depends on age. im a 23 year old college student and I drink a lot, and see more gains than almost anyone else at my school. im stronger than most guys on the football team… I think this is all relative, yet good information

        Leave a reply  
    5. Stuart G:
      June 13, 2013 01:24 am

      Your inability to read properly just lead you to missing out on a great article, probably the best I have read on the subject. Go back and try again ;-)

      Leave a reply  
  16. RL:
    August 02, 2008 10:15 am

    FYI, study 9 fed rats the equivalent of 60 bacardi shots to a 165 lb person per day. These studies have a habit of insuring their results. I’ve been a part of these things, take them under close scrutiny.

    Leave a reply  
  17. Marc:
    July 03, 2008 01:45 am

    @Margaret: 1-2 alcohol drinks per day is about the average to be considered moderation. Once a month or even once a week is no big deal depending on your individual situation.

    @MuscleGainingSecrets: It’s not good for you. Provides no value except in the case of red wine and other such substances that have promising heart benefits. But it’s not necessarily all bad depending on your situation and how much you actually drink.

    Interesting thing is.. it’s better to have 1-2 drinks per day than wait until the weekend and have 6 in a row. The 1-2 won’t necessarily do much but the 6 at once can set you back. Especially if you workout hard first and then go drinking.

    If you know you’ll be out drinking, you might as well just skip any muscle building workouts that would put your body in a repair state.

    Bottom line, moderation, low amounts spaced over time is insignificant except to the bodybuilder who’s in a competition mode.

    Leave a reply  
  18. July 03, 2008 01:45 am

    @Margaret: 1-2 alcohol drinks per day is about the average to be considered moderation. Once a month or even once a week is no big deal depending on your individual situation.

    @MuscleGainingSecrets: It’s not good for you. Provides no value except in the case of red wine and other such substances that have promising heart benefits. But it’s not necessarily all bad depending on your situation and how much you actually drink.

    Interesting thing is.. it’s better to have 1-2 drinks per day than wait until the weekend and have 6 in a row. The 1-2 won’t necessarily do much but the 6 at once can set you back. Especially if you workout hard first and then go drinking.

    If you know you’ll be out drinking, you might as well just skip any muscle building workouts that would put your body in a repair state.

    Bottom line, moderation, low amounts spaced over time is insignificant except to the bodybuilder who’s in a competition mode.

    Leave a reply  
  19. July 03, 2008 01:37 am

    I’m certainly no bodybuilder, but am looking at getting back into better shape than I have been in years. I do like to have the occasional bit of alcohol and I do agree that it does all those things, but I would think it’s not very likely to be as huge a problem when you drink one drink a month or even one drink a week. It’s when it’s a six pack (or more) every night that you see the real damage.

    ê¿ê

    Leave a reply  
  20. July 03, 2008 01:37 am

    I’m certainly no bodybuilder, but am looking at getting back into better shape than I have been in years. I do like to have the occasional bit of alcohol and I do agree that it does all those things, but I would think it’s not very likely to be as huge a problem when you drink one drink a month or even one drink a week. It’s when it’s a six pack (or more) every night that you see the real damage.

    ê¿ê

    Leave a reply  

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