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The Lowdown on Alcohol and Muscle Growth

More than a handful of aspiring bodybuilders and novices in fitness often ask if alcohol impedes your progress in the gym. Can you actually get away with drinking alcohol regularly whilst on a strict nutrition and training regimen? Will alcohol get in the way of true muscle growth progress?

Let us seek to answer some of these questions with some of the related findings about alcohol which we have gathered:

1. Alcohol negatively affects protein synthesis-protein synthesis is the process where amino acids are joined together to form complete proteins. In other words, it is the process of building muscle. Muscle growth takes place during the rest period after your muscle tissues are repaired. When you consume alcohol in excess, this process is slowed down by as much as 20%.

2. It lowers testosterone levels and increases estrogen-testosterone is the most important muscle-building (anabolic) hormone in your body. The more levels of free-flowing testosterone you have, the higher your chances are of gaining maximum muscle growth.

Unfortunately, a vast majority of research conducted in the past 25 years in both humans and animals concludes that alcohol inhibits testosterone secretion. This is reason enough for you to drastically minimise your alcohol intake.

3. Alcohol causes dehydration-your kidneys must filter very large amounts of water in order to break down the alcohol. This eventually results in severe dehydration which in turn will wreak havoc on the muscle-building process. Note that your muscles are comprised of 70% water.

4. It increases fat storage-alcohol does make you fat, as it contains roughly seven empty calories per gram. It also disrupts the Krebs cycle which plays an important role in fat-burning.

5. Alcohol results in hangovers-having frequent hangovers means not getting to work out. If you do get to work out, you will most likely not be in the proper mental and physical state to get through it. To sum it up in one equation, it would look like this:

Ineffective workouts = less than optimal muscle stimulation = a waste of time

Some Helpful Tips Regarding Alcohol

If you really can't stay away from alcohol while on a training regimen and sound nutrition program, here are some tips which can help you get by:

1. After a night of partying and drinking, leave 1-2 litres of water by your bed for you to dink before you retire. It's a good bet that this will lead to more ungodly trips to the bathroom, but it's worth it as it will prevent a hangover and help hydrate your muscles.

2. Drink a protein shake or consume some quick-absorbing form of protein before sleeping. This will help curb the catabolism (breakdown) inside your body.

3. Have a serving of ZMA and 5-10 grams of glutamine roughly 45 minutes before breakfast the following day. The ZMA will boost your testosterone levels that were lowered when you drank the night before. Glutamine, on the other hand, will help stop the catabolism.

4. For breakfast, consume a meal rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus and iron. Your body is literally pining for these nutrients as alcohol diminished their levels in your body the night before.


It seems that alcohol does you nothing really good if you want to pack on some muscle. You are determined to meet this goal but somehow want to get a bit of alcohol in to enjoy life. Try to stay away from it as much as possible. If you really can't, minimise it drastically. By keeping your muscle-building goals in mind, you will do a better job of staying away from alcohol as much as possible.

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