Alcohol and Working Out

By Robin Murhutta (About the author)

Everyone knows that working out and alcohol do not go together at all, and it's really no secret that alcohol can affect a person's goals. But how true is that? I'm going to outline some of alcohol's effects on muscle and some tips to help you stay on track and still enjoy a night out.

1. Calorie Intake

So everyone's biggest concern is usually their weight. Alcohol is empty calories, meaning it has almost no nutrients. Also, alcohol is about 7 calories per gram. Next, alcohol also stops fat metabolism in the body. Furthermore it slows down the krebs cycle which is - in short- means your body focuses so much on breaking down the alcohol that it stops breaking down fat.. As previously mentioned, there is 7 calories per gram of alcohol meaning that in a shot of 80 proof vodka there's close to 100 calories. Think about it this way: If 6 shots, before the mixers/chasers (which can cause the calorie content to rise even higher), average 100 calories a shot you are at 600 calories, in comparison 1 Big Mac from Mcdonalds is 563 calories. Based on some of the information just presented, hard liquor beverages (Jack & Coke, tequila sunrise/sour, orange crush, margaritas, etc ) as well as common beers can boast a significant amount of calories and lead to weight gain.

Below is a list of  common alcoholic beverages so you can make better decisions about what to drink. Remember, this article is to educate you and help you make better decisions not stop you from drinking entirely.

Fit Tip:

When going out try to keep in mind which drinks provide the largest alcoholic content for the least caloric price. Good ones include Jack Daniel's No.7, Amsterdam Vodka, Miller Light, and Michelob ultra. Also try to eat healthier or cleaner on days where you know you will be drinking. This will help lower your calorie intake throughout the day to account for the intake of liquid calories later on. Make sure to eat filling, nutritionally dense foods that won’t leave you hungry and have you potentially cheat. Veggies like broccoli, squash, spinach, artichoke hearts, and peas are all good ones. Fruits also are calorie dense with apples being some of most nutritional. Carb sources like oats, potatoes (sweet and white), rice, whole grain bread, and beans are all nutritional and filling. Protein sources include fish, eggs, chicken breast, turkey, and lean beef that all provide adequate amounts of protein.

2. Recovery & Protein Synthesis

Alcohol has a negative effect on the way the body absorbs protein and lowers protein synthesis by up to 20%. This is important for men and women alike, as protein absorption effects you negatively no matter what your fitness goals are. Firstly it dehydrates your body. Everyone knows that a dehydrated muscle cannot function properly, leading to cramps, insufficient delivery of nutrients including making it harder to get blood to one's muscles. Alcohol also blocks the absorption of important chemicals and nutrients in the body, these include ones responsible for muscle contraction.

Fit Tip:

Alcohol blocks the muscle building amino acid leucine, which is responsible for synthesizing proteins in your body. So take your BCAAs next time you drink, they contain leucine. Try it in a glass of water before you go to bed after a night out, to give your body some extra leucine while you sleep and ensure protein synthesis, recovery, and hydration.

You need 3 things to build muscle, and add lean mass, male and females alike. You need protein, testosterone, but one of the lesser known chemicals needed is IGF-1 (insulin like growth factor-1). It's a stimulus chemical released whose job is to help cells divide and grow. It is specifically released when muscles are being worked out and receive microscopic tears. Alcohol has been shown to drop IGF-1 levels by 42%. Alcohol is shown to drop testosterone levels by 25%. Finally, alcohol also lowers protein synthesis by close to 20%. Meaning that all three important factors involved in building muscle and lean mass, are all lowered due to alcohol.

Fit Tip:

Try eating foods that boost testosterone as a cornerstone in your diet the day of and days following a night out.  Grapes, garlic, milk, strawberries, oysters, shrimp, and tuna are all great ideas that can help boost testosterone levels and therefore help get your body get regulated. Recovery is most important to your muscles the 24 hours after a workout. Meaning although you may feel fine on a saturday night after a tough workout friday, your muscles are still recovering. Most of  protein synthesis decrease has been shown to occur 24 hours after drinking but not sooner.  By slowing protein synthesis, alcohol slows down the process of muscle building and therefore also leads to longer recovery time and can in turn lead to, more soreness. To read more about recovery and soreness read our article on recovery here.

Also, make it a priority to eat something protein packed before and after your night out. It will help to stop the breakdown of muscle tissue as you sleep, as well as give your body all the nutrients that you didn’t take in before drinking to help begin the recovery process.


Macros Made Simple: Carbs

By John Krueger (About the Author)

Carbohydrates or the more commonly referred to term, ‘Carbs’, are one of the three major macronutrients within your body and dietary intake. The other two are Proteins and Fats (We will go over those in future articles). Very simply, carbs are your body’s source for energy.  This is why contrary to popular belief your body needs carbs no matter what your fitness goal is. Yes it is possible to survive and function without them, but it is not ideal and will leave you very zombie like. For those of you who have ever competed, or ever tried or talked to anyone on a low carb diet you can vouch. Also contrary to popular belief, carbs do not make you fat. Yes, certain types of carbs can increase your waistline but that is more due to the fact the carb content is mostly made up of sugars (cookies, cakes, white breads, etc.). There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are broken down in the body very quickly and in turn spike your insulin levels, which encourages the storage of body fat (What we all don’t want). Complex Carbohydrates are broken down at a significantly slower rate than simple carbs and do not have as much as an effect on insulin spikes, resulting in less body fat gain. Carbohydrates are also categorized by their insulin spiking abilities by what is called the “Glycemic Index”. Very simply, any food that is has a high score on the glycemic index is very fast digesting and will cause a significant spike on your insulin levels. On the reverse, foods with low to moderate scores will not spike your insulin or cause a very small spike. A simple google search for the glycemic index will list foods with high, low and moderate glycemic ratings; and you can also search foods directly for more help.


If your goal is to lose weight/body fat or to add size/muscle but minimizing fat gain, have no fear you can still eat your carbs. Just make sure that they come primarily from low glycemic index foods (IE complex carbs). Also, there is always a time and a place for high glycemic foods or simple carbs. Like I stated in the beginning your body breaks down carbs for fuel and energy, however if you are low on carbs (Example would be during a fasted morning workout or at any point where you consumed a low amount of carbs throughout the day) your body will start to break down fat and protein for energy instead. This becomes a problem when your body begins to catabolize (Eat away at itself), which usually results in your body breaking down muscle fibers and tissue for energy. If you want to consume, or are craving any type of simple carb; mid workout or immediately post work out is the best time for an insulin spike. The corresponding spike will result in a replenishing for your energy stores, which will help your body stop catabolizing if it got to that point, as well as provide the energy to power through the rest of your workout, and even refuel your body so that your post workout meal is primarily broken down and used to support the repairing of your body/muscles.