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Think Before You Drink: Alcohol Messes with Muscle & More

Does Drinking Alcohol Ruin Post-Exercise Recovery?




The Effects of  Drinking Alcohol

Consuming moderate amounts of alcohol has its advantages;  It can help you relax, make a meal more enjoyable, lower heart disease and diabetes risk factors and it may also add a few years to your life.

Drinking more than you can handle is obviously a problem. When you overindulge, alcohol impairs judgment, amongst many other things, and effects fitness goals by increasing appetite or lowering your guard so you eat more.

How Alcohol Affects Your Body

Excess alcohol causes dehydration and nutrient depletion which can last for up to 48 hours after your last swig.
If you are eating to lose weight or eating right and exercising to build lean body mass, imbibing too much alcohol will interfere with your goals. It can contribute to actual fat gain, muscle loss, and decreases in the muscles’ ability to synthesize protein for growth.

Six Specific Effects Of Alcohol on Weight & Muscle

According to M. Rudolph there are, “4 Reasons Why If You Booze, You Lose Muscle (1)”. I’m going to list six, the first 3 are hormone related.

  1. Alcohol directly inhibits muscle growth by lessening insulin’s ability to help muscle growth. It may possibly shunt insulin into storing fat which may explain the dreaded “beer belly” effect of drinking.


2. Small amounts (2 drinks) of alcohol may boost testosterone (T) but more is definitely not better where T is concerned. Alcohol interferes with the release of T. Less T, less muscle mass, ie,  less muscle definition, less sex drive, more fat mass.


3. Alcohol can cause cortisol to be released. Cortisol is a stress hormone that works to break down muscle and inhibit protein synthesis. Working in its natural state cortisol is not detrimental but when environmental factors, like alcohol, tip the scales, it is not ideal especially where muscle strength and size are concerned. Cortisol, like insulin, is also associated with belly fat.

4. Metabolic weight loss and muscle growth pathways are influenced by alcohol.  Alcohol inhibits phosphatidic acid (PA). PA activates mTOR. “mTOR is like a molecular switch that turns on the machinery that manufactures muscle proteins (2).” If PA levels are low, protein synthesis via mTOR becomes less and muscles cannot reach their potential growth.

5. Excess alcohol intake negatively effects fast twitch muscle fibers (type of muscle needed for power) that play a role in increasing muscle size and strength.

6. Increases in myostatin can interfere with muscle growth by preventing muscle repair and the formation of new fibers and decreasing mTOR-driven muscle protein synthesis.

Alcohol Effects Sports Performance

When sports performance counts, alcohol is very detrimental for two main reasons. One, it dehydrates the body leaving muscles more susceptible to injury (soreness, flexibility, tears, etc…) and nutrient depletion.

For example, calcium, magnesium, and potassium are nutrients involved in muscle function. These electrolytes are lost through the urine. As a result of dehydration, there is not enough nutrients to do their jobs. You suffer from injuries.

Two, You may also find it more difficult to complete aerobic activities as it lowers endurance and aerobic capacity (VO2 max).


Alcohol Wrap-up

The same rules apply to alcohol as with anything else. Control “how much” alcohol you drink to maintain weight loss and muscle growth and sports performance. Excess alcohol robs your body of water, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes leaving it without nutrients to sustain optimal health. Too much alcohol messes with metabolic pathways contributing to weight gain, muscle loss, and impaired sports performance. Working out hard may be hardly working for you if you drink too much. So think before you drink and have a drinking plan to avoid sabotaging your goals.  After Memorial Day, look for “Sticking To A Keto Diet With Alcohol”.



  1. http://www.musculardevelopment.com/articles/research-and-review/13904-4-reasons-why-if-you-booze-you-lose-muscle.html#.VNO2E53F88x

2. http://www.nutritionexpress.com/article+index/authors/jeff+s+volek+phd+rd/showarticle.aspx

About the author

Valerie Goldstein

Valerie raises the bar for health and nutrition know how with unconventional expertise and unconditional support for wellness.