Will Alcohol Kill My Gains? (The Answer May Surprise You)

Will Alcohol Kill My Gains? (The Answer May Surprise You)

Will Alcohol Kill My Gains?

What fun is it to be jacked if you can't go out and enjoy life?

Tossing back a cold one every once in a while won't have a significant impact on your body composition. But what about more regular consumption of adult beverages?

While fitness zealots around the world preach total alcohol abstinence, the truth is, it’s complicated.

Frequent drinking can stunt muscle growth, although the effect is surprisingly minor, and it depends heavily on what exactly is consumed (beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks, etc.).


First, the extras:

The sugars and carbs in beers and wine (and some mixed drinks) can pack on unwanted body fat.

Beer and wine contain some interesting healthy compounds that the drive-by-news loves to obsess over, but frankly the amounts are so small, they probably aren't doing much good.

As a result of their higher sugar and carbohydrate content, beer, wine, and cocktails probably do more damage to gains than straight up vodka or tequila.    


Now, the alcohol itself:

From a chemistry standpoint, there are hundreds of different compounds that are alcohols, with a wide range of effects on the human body.

Octacosanol, a key muscle-building, performance enhancing ingredient in UNTAPPED, is technically an alcohol -- a straight-chain aliphatic 28-carbon one, to be precise.

But in this case, we're interested in ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, the type of alcohol humans have used to get their swerve on for thousands of years.

To isolate the effects of the alcohol itself, we’ll assume a shot of vodka, since it’s the closest drink to pure alcohol that’s commonly consumed.

  • As long as one doesn't get too trashed (see the definition of heavy drinking below), studies consistently show surprisingly little negative impact.
  • While chronic heavy drinking lowers testosterone, in the short-term, alcohol consumption actually increases testosterone levels.  
  • Additionally, studies show moderate alcohol use does not reduce strength. And yes, there are peer-reviewed studies where people were asked to get hammered and lift weights. Ah, science. 
  • Finally, several studies have found people who have a single daily drink tend to be leaner and live longer than individuals who don’t consume alcohol.

It’s not all rainbows and sunshine. There are limits.

Heavy drinking (considered greater than 3 shots of liquor in a 3 hour period -- and again, yes, this really has been studied) has been shown to negatively impact protein synthesis for up to 24 hours.

In other words, getting sauced right after a hard workout does indeed make it harder for your body to recover and build muscle.


The bottom line:

Alcohol, in moderation, may not be as big a deal as previously thought.

What you drink matters (beer, wine, and sugary drinks being harder on your physique), and the stuff you might mix with the drinks (sugary sodas or unhealthy food) is probably more of a threat than the alcohol itself.

Keep it clean, limit boozing to only one or two drinks, and let them wonder how you can make gains and still enjoy life.

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