Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Athletic Performance and Muscle Growth

Whether you’re an athlete or a weekend warrior, there’s no doubt about it; drinking alcohol can hamper your efforts in the gym. Too much alcohol can have a negative impact on both your muscle building endeavours and your results. After all at the end of the day, it is about results isn’t it? PR’s, weight loss, or shooting for a lower percentage of body fat are harder to achieve when alcohol is factored into the equation.

Even several drinks can negate the all the hard work you put in the gym. Alcohol has been shown to affect testosterone levels and we’re not just talking about long-term drinking, even short-term use of alcohol can slow down your muscle gains.

Alcohol – Nutritionally Speaking

Alcohol has 7 calories per gram and is considered a carbohydrate, but it is converted to fatty acid rather than glucose. The bottom line nutritionally whether it is alcohol or one of the 3 macronutrients; consuming more calories than you expend will lead to weight gain and an increase in body fat.

Unlike food that can provide you with energy, the empty calories from alcohol provide no nutritional value. This is why after a night of drinking you tend to feel exhausted and unmotivated. Consuming alcohol not only slows down muscle recovery; it increases muscle soreness.

Alcohol & Muscle Growth: Some More Things To Consider

When you consume alcohol it disrupts your bodies systems and produces a substance in your liver that is toxic to your testosterone levels. Alcohol alters your body’s ability to produce (ATP) adenosine triphosphate. (ATP) is needed for your muscles to contract. This in turn affects your muscle development and recovery.

Let’s take a closer look


Alcohol acts as a diuretic; it not only causes dehydration; it also causes electrolyte imbalances. When you consume alcohol, the kidneys must work extra hard at filtering large quantities of water to breakdown the alcohol in your system. This puts an extra and unneeded strain on your body.

Without being properly hydrated, you become at greater risk for cramping and injury not to mention a less than optimal performance in the gym. If you are going to be involved in a sport, an athletic event, or a training session in the gym; it is best to avoid consuming alcohol the night prior to the session.

Depletion of Minerals and Vitamins

Alcohol consumption affects your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients you need. Minerals and vitamins are necessary to keep your body functioning properly and assist in both the growth and maintenance of your muscles. Listed below are some of the nutrients that become depleted rapidly:

  • A helps maintain a healthy heart, lungs, and kidneys; it also assists with the proper functioning of other organs.
  • C is necessary for tissue growth and repair; it assists in the maintenance and repair of both bone and cartilage.
  • B-1 metabolizes carbohydrates and provides the formation of hemoglobin.
  • B-12 is needed for healthy red blood and nerve cells.
  • Folic Acid assists in new cellular growth.
  • Zinc is critical for energy and the metabolic process.

Fat Storage

You have probably heard that alcohol has very little nutritional value. Consuming liquid calories especially alcohol can quickly add up. Drinking alcohol tends to lead to inhibition and this can lead to overeating. Alcohol also disrupts the Kreb’s Cycle which plays an important role in burning fat.

Lowered Testosterone Levels

Testosterone seems to be all the talk these days and it should be. Testosterone is one of the keys to building muscle. Consuming alcohol lowers test levels and increases estrogen in the body. Heightened estrogen levels can increase the risk of fat deposit.

High test levels are needed for both muscle mass and strength gains. Having higher test levels also aids in a quicker recovery after a training session. Lowered test levels can make a negative impact on your goals. A decrease in test levels leads to a decrease in lean muscle. Heavy drinking can make test levels drop dramatically.

Performance and Sleep

Alcohol interrupts the sequence of an individual’s sleep pattern. Quality of sleep and lack of sleep can also change your hormone levels. This can in turn decrease the availability of oxygen and is not good for athletic performance or stamina. Disturbed sleep can spill over into your next day’s capabilities and performance levels.

Alcohol is known to inhibit how we learn and store information. It can lead to a shorter attention span during daytime activities. If you are an athlete, this is something that should be taken into consideration.

If your goal is to be on top of your game, you should consider severely limiting alcohol intake. By how much you ask? It is best to limit your alcohol intake daily; 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. If you choose to drink, avoid drinking 48 hours prior to an athletic event or a training session. It will affect your performance.

Ultimately you have to make the final decision. It may sound drastic but completely eliminating alcohol from your program is a small price to pay for the physique or PR’s you are aiming for.

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