Like to Drink? Want to Build Muscle? Here’s How Alcohol Impacts Muscle Building

Whether you are in college or retired, if there’s one thing that connects generations, it’s the favorite pastime known the world over: drinking.

Alcohol is one of the oldest beverages in the world and it’s still going strong in the modern day. Global alcohol consumption is at an all-time high. What else is extremely popular across the globe? Health and fitness.

With the widespread information of health improvement, more people are pursuing a life of fitness than ever before. If you’re a fan of muscle building and weekend boozing, one may not be so friendly towards the other.

Let’s take a look at how alcohol consumption can help or hurt your gains in the gym.

alcohol, muscle building, danger

Alcohol and Muscle Building

First up, let’s discuss how alcohol can impact muscle building. Muscle growth occurs post-workout during your resting hours. You exercise to cause microtears in muscle tissue so that it will repair to be bigger and stronger. In other words, recovery is key.

Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can impact recovery in three ways:

  • Alcohol prevents your body from entering stages of deep sleep, which is absolutely critical for proper recovery. It is within the R.E.M. stages of sleep that your body releases repair hormones.
  • Growth hormone is released in its greatest amount during deep sleep. If you aren’t able to enter those R.E.M. sleep cycles, you will be missing out on repair, recovery, and growth.
  • Testosterone, a key hormone in male health and muscle building, is directly impacted by alcohol consumption. Studies agree that drinking alcohol will lower testosterone levels but to what degree is dependent upon a variety of factors.

When it comes to muscle building, it’s not wise to drink before bed; otherwise, you’ll be short changing those gains.

Alcohol and Strength Gains

It doesn’t matter if your goal is to build muscle mass, build up power, or spike fat loss, strength training is a very important part of all three. More strength allows you to lift heavier weights to develop power, push past plateaus, and trigger a higher level of EPOC (excess post oxygen consumption) or the amount of calories you burn post-workout.

Does alcohol have an impact on strength intra-workout?

Eh, not really.

Studies show that in the lab, alcohol SHOULD mess with your strength levels and performance but human studies have yet to validate this. The obvious exception would be if you do a power hour before stepping into the weight room. Don’t be that guy or girl.

alcohol, muscle building, danger

Alcohol and Fat Loss

Are you a fan of beer?

Need to lose that belly?

The two are obviously connected.

Alcohol provides you with empty calories that are typically stored as body fat. The way to lose body fat is easy on paper: just burn MORE calories than you consume. That’s going to be tough when you drink three beers at 150 calories each. Not to mention the junk food you binge on during and afterward.

Can you drink and lose weight?

Of course, it’s all about moderation and an effective exercise program. Make sure you are limiting your drinks each week and that you are engaging in an exercise routine, preferably one that is higher intensity to trigger more fat burning.

Tell Us What You Think!

Have you ditched your drinking habit?

What improvements (if any) did you notice in the weight room?

Let us know in the comments below!



Luke D. Vella and David Cameron-Smith. Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery. Nutrients. 2010 Aug; 2(8): 781–789. Published online 2010 Jul 27. doi:  10.3390/nu2080781.

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