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Nutrition – Reading: 6 min

Alcohol and bodybuilding

By: Alexandre, Founder of Smart Body

Alexandre recommends that you consult this ebook on 

the 6 pillars of weight loss

Before getting into the subject, it is important to remember an important term that dictates weight loss or gain: Thermodynamics.

What is that ? Thermodynamics is the study of energy transformations. To put it simply, in our case, it is the fact of bringing calories to our body, which it will transform following chemical reactions, into energy , energy which will make it possible to move, to play sport etc… (It is a very simplified definition, because in truth, it is much more complex than that).

We can see the thermodynamics like the energy balance , that is, the calories supplied to the body, and the calories used to produce energy.

For example, you eat carbohydrates, your body will digest them, produce energy through glycolysis (a catabolic pathway for converting glucose into energy), so this will create ATP, ATP which will allow you to have mechanical energy which is characterized by movement for example. It’s like a car, we bring it gasoline (food), there is a combustion, which will cause mechanical energy, and make the car move forward.

The 1st law of thermodynamics is that the energy ingested cannot create or destroy anything, it is just a transformation. From this rule, it is easy to say that it is the excess or the calorie deficit that makes you gain or lose weight, and not sugar, bad fat, etc.

So consuming calories in the form of alcohol doesn’t seem to be any different than consuming them in the form of carbohydrates, protein or fat. If you maintain a calorie deficit even by incorporating alcohol into your diet, it won’t matter and you won’t gain fat.

What happens in your body when you drink alcohol?

How is alcohol metabolized in your body?

First, you have to know  that alcohol is metabolized in the liver.  In addition, alcohol reaches the brain, which can lead to drunkenness when drinking too much.

Alcohol is perceived by the liver as a real poison, which involves several things  :

  • The alcohol  is not stored  through the liver

  • Alcohol becomes a priority for the liver to treat . That is to say, it will come before lipid metabolism. The oxidation of lipids for energy production therefore takes a back seat, which means that fat becomes more readily available for storage.

  • The other nutrients are therefore more easily stored.


It is important to note that carbohydrates, compared to fat, are not as easily converted and stored as fat. Which would therefore indicate to us, that it would be more interesting to reduce its consumption of lipids during the day when consuming alcohol.


Warning  !  The effects of alcohol vary from person to person. In some, the appetite will be cut, in others, it will be totally the opposite.  Alcohol can cause some people to have binge eating attacks (when we eat a lot without hunger and without control). If during these crises, you ingest a lot of calories and a lot of fat, there is a good chance that these are stored.


To conclude on this part, we can say that alcohol is not stored in itself. However, it is the excess calories due to other macronutrients that may be stored, especially if they are lipids.

Alcohol and bodybuilding

1 - TESTOSTERONE

Studies and results diverge on this subject. Some studies don’t show changes in testosterone levels, while others show changes. For example, it has been shown that with heavy alcohol consumption, testosterone levels could be impacted.

According to the study in question, the drop in testosterone would be 23% after consuming 9 beers.

What should therefore be noted is that testosterone is not necessarily impacted if consumption remains limited. So be careful not to go overboard (As with everything). Plus, 23% is still really a small drop, which likely won’t impact muscle gains since it stays for a short time.

2 - recovery

Here too, the effects are divergent depending on how much alcohol you are going to consume.

If alcohol is consumed in a moderate and reasonable manner, alcohol would not have an effect on recovery (ie “repair” of muscle fibers).

However, it has been shown that with a Big consumption (1g of ethanol / kg), recovery was poorer, cortisol levels increased, and recovery time was increased.

3 - protein synthesis

One of the points that interests us the most when we want to gain muscle is protein synthesis. It has been shown that this was greatly reduced if alcohol was consumed after training.

However, it has been observed that this decreased by 37% if there was only post-workout alcohol consumption while if alcohol was cut to a protein intake, the drop was only 23%. Proteins therefore seem to help limit the decline in protein synthesis.

It remains important to stress that 23% remains a slight decrease, especially over a period that does not exceed 8 hours . This will probably have very little impact on this period, as well as on the following days (Attention, it depends on the quantity)

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Conclusion

Yes, it is possible to consume alcohol and gain muscle and / or lose fat . You don’t have to cut yourself off from all social life to achieve your goal. Just like sugar or fat, anything eaten in excess is bad for your health. My advice is therefore simple:

  • Learn to be reasonable, set limits for yourself so that it doesn’t impact your training too much

  • The next day, if you opt for a workout, favor a light training, without heavy load and on 1 or 2 small muscle groups (or a cardio session at low intensity: incline walking for example).

  • Rest the next day, this is in my opinion the best thing to do.

  • Drink! Alcohol dehydrates, so be sure to hydrate yourself well

  • Recover! Indeed, you rest will allow you to better recover, to hydrate you. You don’t need to train if you know your training won’t be productive. This training would only add recovery difficulties and could even negatively impact the rest of your week.

how to handle if you have to drink alcohol?

Option 1 : You track (Tracker = It is the fact of counting its macros / calories) your macros:

  • Track your calories as usual

  • Cut calories from your day especially on your carbohydrates and fats (especially fats!)

  • Accept that you probably have a higher calorie intake , and increase your protein intake. (While lowering the other 2 macros)

Option 2 : You don’t track your macros

  • Throughout the rest of the day, try to reduce your calorie consumption by focusing on a large volume of food. that is, as many vegetables as possible (lots of fiber) and lean sources of protein.

  • Choose light “softs drink” : Soda 0, water, or even shots. Thus, you will be in the capacity to do not add calories “unnecessarily” and you will have less to worry about whether you will gain fat or not.

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