Alcohol and Exercise: Don’t Derail Your Progress

Two weeks ago, I published this article about Alcohol Awareness Month and alcohol’s effects on the body. What I didn’t really touch on, was how alcohol will effect your workouts. Like I said in my previous article, I’m not here to tell you to stop drinking NOW or to judge you. I’m simply here to give you some facts, what you do with them is totally up to you. I enjoy fruity cocktails and rosé, especially in the summer! I also rarely drink as much as I used to. I’ll have one or two drinks on a night out, but I can’t tell you the last time I was actually “drunk” (edit: I can, it was my birthday). People always assume I don’t drink because I’m being ‘healthy’. While that is part of it sometimes, the real reason I don’t really drink that much is because I hate how it makes me feel. I always get super bloaty when I drink, and I feel gross the next day. I also have to be careful now, with my strict dietary guidelines. The only hard alcohol I can really drink is vodka (and gin, but that shit tastes like feet), I can’t do beer due to the gluten, and I only like white or pink wine. So my options are pretty limited to begin with.

I’m a big fan of rose!

And yes, being healthy is part of it. It’s no secret that drinking a lot can add A TON of calories to your diet. Honestly, I prefer to eat my calories. I will gladly be your DD if I can get pizza at the end of the night. When I’m preparing for a competition, I go strictly alcohol-free for at least a month before I compete. This way, I never feel shitty during the prep process, and I don’t worry about adding extra cals when I’m trying to make weight.


So how exactly does alcohol effect muscle building and fat loss? Between 1975 and 2014, there were 106 studies done regarding muscle building and alcohol consumption. There were two major findings, related to protein synthesis and hormonal response.

Protein Synthesis

Protein synthesis is the creation of new proteins, which is necessary for muscle growth. Protein degradation is the breakdown of old proteins in the muscle. Protein turnover is the sum total of synthesis minus degradation. Basically, more protein synthesis = bigger muscles. More protein degradation = loss of muscle.

So, what happens when you throw alcohol into the mix?

The studies show that alcohol can INHIBIT protein synthesis by as much as 30%.

They also showed that the most reduction happens in Type II fibers, which are the fibers with the most potential for growth.

It does not seem to effect degradation.

HOWEVER-this could still change protein turnover for the worse.

Hormone Response

Alcohol seems to have negative effects on growth hormone, luteinizing hormone, cortisol, and testosterone.

Growth hormone and luteinizing hormone are crucial for muscle building. GH is also associated with fat loss. Alcohol inhibits both of these hormones.

Alcohol increases cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Unfortunately, the exact reason why this happens is still unclear.

The effect on testosterone is interesting. A low dose of alcohol seems to increase testosterone slightly, however the more you drink the more test levels drop. The studies found that test starts dropping after about five average-strength beers. Continue drinking after five, and it gets worse. I know some of you guys can drink more than five beers in one sitting! I’ve seen it!!


So, if muscle building and fat-loss are some of your goals, I would recommend cutting back on drinking. If you can’t completely cut it out, then drink small amounts. Avoid binge drinking and be sure to drink plenty of water when you’re drinking. This will help you avoid a hangover the next day. And beware of drunk munchies-just another way to add extra calories!

Here’s a challenge for you: go completely alcohol-free for one month, or one full weekend (Fri-Sun). See how you feel. See if your body changes at all. I do this a few times a year, and I always notice differences!



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