Many fitness enthusiasts wonder: will drinking alcohol affect muscle growth?
It’s quite a common question, and the answer may surprise you. It sure surprised me!
The simple answer is yes, alcohol CAN affect muscle growth.
The complicated answer is yes, but it depends on how much alcohol we're talking about.
Before you draw any conclusions though, let's take a closer look at the relationship between alcohol and muscle growth.
That way, you'll leave with all the facts you need to determine how much alcohol is right for you and your goals.
Alcohol and Muscle Growth
For those of us who are committed to a fitness goal, it's important to know how alcohol can affect our progress.
So, how does alcohol affect muscle growth?
While enjoying an occasional drink may seem harmless, there are still several downsides to consuming alcohol period.
Here are 6 ways that alcohol can negatively impact muscle growth, and your overall health and well-being.
1. Alcohol Interferes with Muscle Protein Synthesis
Muscle protein synthesis is a fundamental process in muscle growth. It involves the creation of new proteins in muscle tissues, which is how the muscle repairs and grows.
Unfortunately, alcohol can disrupt this crucial process.
When you drink alcohol, it can impair your body's ability to synthesize proteins and other nutrients effectively.
So ... even if you're putting in the effort at the gym, your muscles may not receive the full benefit of your hard work.
One study even had a group of participants consume alcohol after their workouts to measure the impact against a group of participants who did not consume alcohol after their workouts.
The study found that consuming alcohol suppressed the muscle-repairing process, even when taken with protein (1)!
2. Alcohol Can Disrupt Hormonal Balance
Maintaining a healthy hormonal balance is important for building muscle amongst a laundry list of other things.
The problem is, alcohol can throw this balance off-kilter. Alcohol consumption has been shown to negatively affect hormones like testosterone and progesterone.
Especially with how important testosterone is for building muscle, this can make it harder to see progress.
3. Alcohol Can Lead to Dehydration
When you consume alcohol, you may notice that you need to visit the restroom more frequently. While some of this may have to do with the fact that you're drinking fluids ... It's also because alcohol acts as a diuretic.
That means alcohol can increase urine production, and reduce fluid buildup in the body, which can lead to dehydration.
Well, when it comes to building muscle, or really any health or fitness goal, dehydration is not a good thing. In fact, it can have a significant impact on your physical performance and recovery.
Without proper hydration, your muscles can cramp, fatigue, and even suffer from injury.
4. Alcohol Can Cause Impaired Nutrient Absorption
We all know how important your nutrition is for muscle growth. Really, if you aren't getting enough protein and calories, you can't build muscle! This is why alcohol can be detrimental.
You see, alcohol can hinder the absorption of essential nutrients in your body. This issue is due to the type of alcohol we drink, which is called ethanol. This ethanol can inhibit the absorption of several macro and micronutrients in the foods we eat (2).
For this reason alone, drinking alcohol and reaching your goals don't go hand-in-hand.
5. Alcohol Can Increase Levels of Inflammation
Inflammation can be both a friend and a foe when it comes to muscle growth. Acute inflammation is a natural response that can help with muscle recovery and growth. Chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can be detrimental.
Since alcohol has been linked to increased inflammation, I thought this was worth mentioning. This chronic inflammation can hinder muscle recovery, and potentially cause pain and discomfort.
6. Alcohol Can Disrupt Your Sleep Patterns
Quality sleep is essential for muscle recovery and overall well-being.
The problem is, alcohol can disrupt your sleep patterns. This is because alcohol can lead to fragmented sleep throughout the night, particularly during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep.
So, even though you may only feel a little drowsy, alcohol can impair your sleep more than you may realize.
If this cycle continues, it could mean reduced energy, strength, and even impaired cognitive function. For obvious reasons, this won't help you reach your health or fitness goals!
If you're committed to building muscle, it may be worth finding a balance. That way, you can enjoy a drink here and there while still prioritizing your health and fitness goals.
Remember: Enjoying things like alcohol in moderation is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Alcohol and Muscle Growth: My Thoughts
As long as your nutrition is on point, a few drinks every now and then is not going to make or break your results.
Just make sure you understand the real definition of a "few drinks" ... because anything over 2-3 is certainly more than a few!
You should also be taking the calories into consideration and make sure you are including them in your daily and weekly goals.
Be smart. Be safe. Drink in moderation.
If you can adhere to those 3 things, and your workouts and nutrition are where they need to be ... you will have no problem building muscle and earning the results you want!
So, ask yourself ... Are you tracking your macros? Do you know how much protein you're eating every day? How many calories do you eat every day? What does your training plan consist of?
If you're going to reach your goals, these are important questions you should have the answers to. Now, I get it ... not all of us have the education or expertise when it comes to nutrition and training. That's where we can help!
In fact, that's why we developed the 1st Phorm App. The app is the ultimate all-in-one tool to help you reach your health and fitness goals. The app gives you a wide variety of features that will help you crush your goals as long as you’re willing to do the work.
Inside the 1st Phorm App, you’ll get access to:
• Custom macros and nutrition planning
• Workout programs catered to your goals
• 1-on-1 assistance from your own advisor
• Education videos and live streams
• Food logging and tracking
• Body metrics and progress tracking
…and so much more!
We also have a team of NASM Certified Personal Trainers and Nutrition Coaches who are here to point you in the right direction for FREE. Just give us a call at 1-800-409-9732 or send us an email at CustomerService@1stphorm.com anytime!
(1) Parr EB, Camera DM, Areta JL, Burke LM, Phillips SM, Hawley JA, Coffey VG. Alcohol ingestion impairs maximal post-exercise rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis following a single bout of concurrent training. PLoS One. 2014 Feb 12;9(2):e88384. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088384. PMID: 24533082; PMCID: PMC3922864.
(2) Butts M, Sundaram VL, Murughiyan U, Borthakur A, Singh S. The Influence of Alcohol Consumption on Intestinal Nutrient Absorption: A Comprehensive Review. Nutrients. 2023 Mar 24;15(7):1571. doi: 10.3390/nu15071571. PMID: 37049411; PMCID: PMC10096942.