Why Alcohol and Weightlifting Do Not Mix

Updated on August 6, 2017

Alcohol slows protein synthesis

Alcohol presents a serious inhibition to your gains-- it significantly slows the body's protein synthesis. It is common knowledge that alcohol dehydrates you, but few people know that this dehydration creates a less than suitable environment for muscle growth; so if you're going to drink, be sure to drink plenty of water during your bender. Alcohol also has the ability to restrict the body's ability to process certain nutrients that play crucial roles in muscle development. If you choose to indulge in some drinking, it's not a bad idea to bring along a protein shake to try to replenish what is being depleted.

Do you know how many calories are in your favorite kinds of alcohol?

  • 1 fl oz whiskey: 70 cals
  • 1 can beer: 154 cals
  • 1 fl oz vodka: 64 cals
  • 1 fl oz tequila: 69 cals

Consider how many shots you take in a typical night of drinking. The calories quickly add up, especially if you are mixing the alcohol with sugary and high calorie drinks. Not to mention, the calories that you get from alcohol are known as "empty calories." The calories in alcohol contain almost no nutritional value.

Alcohol contains empty calories.
Alcohol contains empty calories.

Alcohol lowers testosterone levels

Testosterone is a crucial hormone when it comes to muscle development. It has been proven that the intake of alcohol significantly lowers the body's testosterone, sometimes for as long as a week. In addition to lowering testosterone, alcohol can increase estrogen levels, which contributes to higher fat storage.

Alcohol causes dehydration

As a diuretic, alcohol will cause you to urinate more than usual and will deplete you of fluids. Muscles grow best when well hydrated, so the dehydration caused by drinking creates a less than optimal state for muscle growth. General bodily functions are also hindered by dehydration. Not to mention, being dehydrated increases the effects of a hangover-- have you even tried to work out while hung over? It's not fun, and you probably won't have a very good workout.

Alcohol interferes with the body's ability to burn fat

While alcohol does contain a significant amount of empty calories, it also disrupts the Krebs cycle in the body, which, in short is how cells create energy through the involvement of oxygen. This cycle is an important element in the body's fat burning efficiency. Therefore, fat metabolism is essentially ground to a halt until the alcohol makes it out of the body's system.

Alcohol can cause a depletion of important nutrients

There are many essential nutrients that help the body function efficiently and aid in the growth of muscles that are decreased by the intake of alcohol. The loss of these nutrients can take its toll on essential organs and how well they perform, as well as the development of lean muscle.

If you are going to drink...

Will drinking every once in a while kill all of your muscle development? No, probably not. As long as drinking is not a common activity, and it is done in moderation, you won't undo all your hard work in the gym. However, if you really want to be serious about weightlifting and your physique, it is probably best to bid adieu to alcohol for the most part.

If you're going to drink, there are some ways to help counter the harmful affects of alcohol. It is important while drinking to try to maintain hydration; a common rule of thumb is for every alcoholic drink you consume, drink the same amount of water. This will help you to keep a hydrated environment that is necessary for optimal muscle growth, and can help decrease the effects of a hangover.

Bringing a protein shake along while drinking is not a bad idea, either. Replenishing protein can help maintain nutrients and protein that is depleted by alcohol. Because alcohol slows protein synthesis and can hinder muscle development, sufficient protein intake is very important to preserve that hard work you put in at the gym. The day after drinking, eating a big breakfast can also be helpful to maintain muscle mass.

Of course, drinking can be a very fun and social activity that most of us will probably never give up completely. Sometimes after a long day of work, nothing sounds better than a cold beer. So if you're aware of the implications of drinking and have the knowledge to drink wisely, your muscles won't take too big of a hit.

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Staying hydrated and getting a sufficient amount of protein can be helpful while drinking.
Staying hydrated and getting a sufficient amount of protein can be helpful while drinking.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2017 Annika Faught


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    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      2 years ago from Norfolk, England

      I hardly ever drink, I'll have maybe 1 glass of wine a week, if that. Can't ever see me weight lifting lol, but I am quite fit and do a lot of walking and bike riding.


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