Countless gym bros have asked the question, does alcohol stop muscle growth? Bro, I need to gain muscle, but I can’t miss my precious keystone ice!
If you are like me, you may have partied a bit in college. In fact, college me drank 4 nights a week, and was the scrawniest person in my friend group. Coincidence? I think not.
When I stopped drinking alcohol altogether in 2015, I put on 20 pounds of muscle in the first year. I will admit that I was taking my gym time more seriously, but alcohol consumption definitely had something to do with it.
After that first year of muscle growth, I became interested in the effects of alcohol on gaining muscle. How exactly does alcohol stop muscle growth?
It turns out, there are many reasons that alcohol ruins your fitness goals. Some of them are more obvious than others. I would like to dig into how alcohol stops muscle growth in this article.
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Now let’s talk about the ways that alcohol affects muscle growth.
Alcohol has massive amounts of empty calories
What even are empty calories? They are calories that provide absolutely no nutritional value, yet still contribute to your overall calorie intake.
Here are some examples of the amount of calories certain alcohols have.
Regular 12oz Beer – About 150 Calories
Shot of Vodka – About 100 Calories
5oz of Chardonnay – About 130 Calories
6oz Pina Colada – About 500 Calories!!!
This might not seem like a ton of calories at first, but you have to consider that the average person does not drink just one drink per night.
The average for me in college was probably 4-6. So let’s just assume 5 beers per night. That is 750 calories that provide zero nutritional value on top of what I already consumed.
So if I already ate 2,500 calories that day, my total calorie intake will be 3,250 after a night of drinking.
If you know what your maintenance calories are, you might be over your daily calorie threshold. And if you didn’t consume enough good calories (like protein) that day, then it is completely useless to your muscle growth journey.
Drinking culture is no help to muscle growth
When I first met my wife, I was absolutely SHOCKED to find out that she didn’t drink. I had literally never met a single person my age that didn’t drink.
It’s because I was ingrained in drinking culture. A culture where you must be drinking in order to “have fun.” I quickly realized that I wasn’t actually having fun, and spending all day drinking was not helpful to me hitting my muscle growth goals.
When you have a friend group that encourages going out drinking 2-4 days per week, that takes time away from your other pursuits.
It’s not just the time consumption part though, it is the food also. What do you eat when you are drunk? I can promise you that you aren’t getting the nutrients that you need to fuel muscle building.
Drinking culture wants you to believe that you are cool if you can drink 10 beers in 2 hours. Believe me, there is nothing cool about a beer belly at age 35 with no hope about building muscle or breaking out of that lifestyle.
Learn how to make exercise a habit, and get rid of the notion that you “have” to drink alcohol to have fun.
Alcohol negatively affects your sleep
How many times have you been out until 4am during a night of drinking? For me, it was at least once a week, sometimes twice a week.
Sure, you may end up sleeping until noon or later, but did you really get a good night sleep? According to the sleep foundation, the answer is no. You didn’t get a good night sleep.
Alcohol may help you actually fall asleep faster, but sleep is disrupted through the night as liver enzymes metabolize the alcohol.
As you can probably imagine, this is no good for muscle growth. Sleep is an absolute necessity for muscle growth. If you are not getting a good night sleep, your body does not have the ample time to repair the muscle that needs to grow.
Alcohol is essentially poisoning your body
Before you attack me for being “anti-alcohol,” I want you to think back to the last time you had a hangover. Did that feel like a good time?
When you drink alcohol, your body does not accept alcohol very well. We get short term pleasure from drinking it, but it’s long term effects on the body are well documented.
A hangover is essentially your body’s way of telling you that last night was a bad idea.
Your body is working tirelessly to get rid of what you put into it, and that is why you feel terrible right now.
Do you think that your body is prioritizing muscle growth right now? Absolutely not. Zero chance. It doesn’t matter if you worked out yesterday afternoon before the night of drinking. That workout was a wash.
Alcohol kills your motivation
Let’s piggyback off of the hangover from the previous section. Having a hangover prevents you from doing normal tasks that help you to hit your goals.
I would like to bring you back to a weekend in college that I would like to forget about. I drank heavily on Friday night. It wasn’t until I woke up at noon on Saturday that I realized the gravity of my situation. To say that I was massively hungover would be an understatement.
I drank beers, shots, mixed drinks, and probably some other drinks I don’t remember. I knew it wasn’t going to be a good day.
Well, the day turned into the whole entire weekend. I didn’t even leave my bed that whole weekend except for getting food, water, and going to the bathroom.
What could I have done differently that weekend? If I just didn’t drink on Friday night, maybe I would have worked out, meal prepped, eaten properly.
No. Instead I ate crappy food, laid around like a slob, and just watched TV in my room. With that being said, does alcohol stop muscle growth? From the perspective of motivation, it absolutely does.
Main Point: Does alcohol stop muscle growth?
If you have come this far, you can now answer the question, does alcohol stop muscle growth?
There are many ways that alcohol can stop your gains. We talked about empty calories, which pile onto your existing calorie intake with no nutritional value.
We talked about drinking culture, which claims that if you are not drinking, you are not having fun. I will tell you right now that I have way more fun now that I don’t drink alcohol.
We talked about how alcohol negatively affects your sleep. You might say that alcohol helps you fall asleep. Just know that throughout the night, your body is working extra hard to metabolize the alcohol, which means less REM sleep for you.
We learned that alcohol is essentially poisoning your body. The hangover should give you that indication the next morning.
Finally, we learned about how alcohol kills your motivation. It makes your body weaker, and keeps you lethargic for days.
What are your thoughts on all of this? Does it annoy you? Does it inspire you? We would love to hear from you in the comment section!