When I was a college student, I remember asking myself, will drinking once a week affect muscle gains? Just to be clear, we are talking about drinking alcohol here.
I had a problem in my young adult years. I was 6’1” and 135 pounds. The problem is, I had no idea how to put on muscle or weight of any kind. I always heard that you have to eat a lot, but I thought I was eating plenty.
It turns out, I wasn’t eating enough, and I found that out when I started to calculate my maintenance calories.
Another one of my problems was that I was drinking fairly regularly. About 2-3 times per week. Even when I started drinking only once per week, it still negatively affected muscle gains.
Let’s get this out of the way, will drinking once a week affect muscle gains? Yes it will, but to what degree depends on multiple different factors.
Alcohol is not good for you in general
You cannot argue that alcohol is not good for you. It is fairly obvious when you wake up the next morning with a massive hangover. That is your body trying to remove the toxins from the night before.
Anyone who argues that alcohol is good for you is just trying to sell you something. We have all read the articles “drinking 1 glass of wine per day is good for your heart.” They neglect to tell you that the article was sponsored by the wine industry.
It is hard to trust the alcohol industry when they make handfuls of cash at your expense. If crack cocaine was legal, would people think it’s good for you just because it’s legal?
What are empty calories in alcohol?
I am sure you have heard it before. Alcohol has empty calories! Ahhhhhh! What does that even mean though?
It is simple enough. Empty calories are calories that add to your total daily calorie consumption, but provide ZERO nutritional value. Zero carbs, no protein, zero fats, but still a lot of calories.
Depending on what type of alcohol you consume (beer, wine, mixed drinks), there will obviously be additional calories added to the alcohol.
Don’t let those zeros fool you though. Calories are still calories. What happens is that these extra calories are added on top of what you eat throughout the day. This can negatively affect your muscle gains.
Let me give an example. Let’s say your calorie goal is 2,600 calories per day. Before a night of drinking, you have eaten about 2,000 calories of food.
For simplicity, let’s say you take 6 shots of vodka throughout the night, which is about 600 calories.
This means that yes, you hit your calorie goal, but your actual nutrition falls significantly under what your goal is for the day. So your body is not going to have the essential nutrients necessary to stick to your plan and build muscle.
Are you getting enough sleep?
It’s no secret that going out drinking usually messes with your sleep schedule. Even drinking once per week will have a negative affect.
Did you know that getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night is essential to muscle growth? Your muscles grow when you are sleeping, not in the gym. Yes the gym is necessary for muscle growth, but if you aren’t sleeping much, you won’t be growing.
For me, typically I would party on a Friday or Saturday night, and stay up until 3-4am. Then who knows when I would wake up. 10am, noon, 2pm? There was never any consistency.
We all know that building muscle is a marathon, not a sprint. Any interruption in the process is a sure fire way to set yourself back one step.
What is your workout schedule like?
When I was consistently drinking in college, I was working out 5 days per week. I thought that I was going to rapidly accelerate muscle growth this way.
I was not only wrong, but I spent 7+ years not gaining an ounce of muscle. It’s embarrassing to look back now and think about how much time I wasted.
When I finally figured it out, I was only working out 3 days per week. I ended up making my own workout plan called “3 DAY OVERLOAD.” If you are interested, this workout plan can be found in our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play).
Combined with my 3 day workout plan, and eating enough food to build muscle, I was able to gain over 20 pounds of muscle in my first year doing this. During this period, I only drank alcohol about once every 2 months.
After a year of working out and seeing great results, I ended up quitting alcohol altogether and have put on 35 more pounds since then.
Here are 3 tips for going from a thin body to a muscular body. If you follow these tips closely, you will not struggle to build muscle.
Main Point: Will drinking once a week affect muscle gains
By now, you understand that drinking alcohol is not great for muscle gains. As much as we want to justify having a night out of fun, it might not be in our best interest.
Just think about YOUR goals. If your goals are to get into the best shape of your life, maybe it isn’t the best idea to go out for a night of drinking once per week.
Life is all about choices. The better choices that we make, the better we are going to become. I want you to think about these 4 truths:
- Alcohol is not good for you in general
- Alcohol has empty calories, which means ZERO nutrition
- Alcohol affects your sleep schedule negatively
- Your workout schedule plays a big part in your muscle gains
All in all, yes, alcohol stops muscle growth in more ways than one. What are your thoughts on this? Will drinking once a week affect muscle gains? I have laid out as much evidence as I can for you. It is up to you to make the decision that works best for your situation.