The influence of alcohol on training results

The influence of alcohol on training resultsThe influence of alcohol on training results

Although many people often train hard in their gym to lose weight, burn fat or build muscle mass and even use supplements many keep drinking alcoholic drinks. It is widely known that alcoholic drinks have a large negative impact on coordinated movement and reaction time, which is very apparent in driving. But how does regular alcohol consumption influence training results?

Hormonal Effects

The consumption of alcohol after strength training causes concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol to remain elevated longer than usual after training. This causes a longer period of muscle tissue breakdown and the body will take longer to recover from training. In addition, the concentration of free testosterone in men increases compared with not drinking any alcohol after training. This seems a positive effect, however the increase in free testosterone is not caused by an increased production, but by a reduced uptake by the muscles, which negates strength training effects.

Weight Loss and Burning Fat

Alcohol is seen by the body as a sort of poison that needs to be removed as quickly as possible. This process has priority over other metabolic processes in the body. This decreases or stops fat metabolism altogether for as long as there is alcohol in the body. Even a small amount of alcohol can decrease fat metabolism with more than 70%. In addition, the breakdown of muscle tissue as a result of increased cortisol levels, decreases resting metabolism in the long run. Both decreasing fat metabolism as a lower resting metabolism make it harder to lose weight and burn fat.

Hypertrophy and muscle strength

Because alcohol has a negative influence on the uptake of the muscle size increasing hormone testosterone, the muscles will grow less when alcohol is consumed after a resistance training workout than when one remains sober. Protein generation within the muscles decreases greatly and the increased cortisol levels will break down more muscle tissue than usual. In essence, alcohol hinders muscle recovery after training because the body needs to focus on removing the alcohol rather than letting the body adapt to training. For the same reason muscle strength does not increase as much in the long run when drinking alcohol.


Drinking alcohol affects training results greatly whatever your goal is. Burning fat, losing weight in a healthy manner become more difficult, increasing muscle mass is inhibited, muscle breakdown is increased and recovery after training is delayed. Even small amounts of alcohol can cause a decrease in fat metabolism or stop it completely. People who have difficulty losing weight or increasing muscle mass are advised to reduce their alcohol consumption or stop altogether.


-Baechle, T.R., Earle, W.R. (2008). Bioenergetics of Exercise and Training. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Third Edition. USA. Human Kinetics.

-Kraemer, W.J. et al. (2008). The Endocrinology of Resistance Exercise and Training. Essentials of Sports Nutrition and Supplements. Human Kinetics USA.

-Parr, E.B., Camera, D.M., Areta, J.L., et al. Alcohol ingestion impairs maximal post-exercise rates of myofibrillar protein synthesis following a single bout of concurrent training. PLoS One 2014, 9, 2.

-Suter, P.M., Schutz, Y., Jequier, E. The Effect of Ethanol on Fat Storage in Healthy Subjects. The New England Journal of Medicine 1992, 326, 15, 983-987.