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Most bodybuilders avoid alcohol like the plague both off season and pre contest. But is it really that bad? Will the odd drink here and there really impact your progress, or can you drink sensibly and still make gains?

The Premise

Bodybuilders fear alcohol above all else. The very notion of a drink can make a bodybuilder turn and run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. But what’s the deal with alcohol and bodybuilding?

The main reason why those looking to build maximum muscle mass while remaining lean and shredded stay away from alcohol is because

Alcohol is considered by many to be catabolic.

If something is catabolic, it means it breaks down muscle tissue – the opposite of anabolic, which refers to building muscle.

It is thought that alcohol can potentially blunt the production of the hormone and testosterone. If you’re familiar with hormones and bodybuilding, you’ll know that testosterone is a key player in all things to do with muscle. It’s the main muscle building hormone, and you need a relatively high amount of it for optimal gains. Men have much higher levels of testosterone than women, hence why male bodybuilders can build muscle a lot quicker than their female counterparts. Testosterone also has a positive impact on your metabolism and speeds up fat loss.

The other issue is that of calories and fat gains.

Bodybuilders are very concerned with calorie consumption, as calories are the number one factor in determining whether you lose weight (preferably through fat loss) or gain weight (muscle mass.) To build muscle, you need to eat more calories than your burn – this is known as a calorie surplus, and to burn fat you need to consume fewer than you burn – a calorie deficit.

All food has calories – one gram of protein has four calories, as does one gram of carbohydrate. One gram of fat has nine calories. Most people don’t think of alcohol when counting calories, but it has seven calories per gram. Obviously the calorie content will vary depending on the type of alcoholic drink you choose, but all will have some calories.

It’s easy to over consume alcohol calories too. Liquid calories are digested very quickly, and don’t fill you up. Therefore, it’s far easier to consume 100 calories from alcohol than it is to eat 100 calories of lean meat or vegetables.

Plus, alcohol can give you the munchies.

Have you ever found yourself sitting in a diner, wolfing down a greasy burger and fries at 3am, following some alcohol-fuelled partying, or ended the night sitting on your couch eating leftover pizza and ice cream?

We all have at some point, but you certainly wouldn’t do it if you were stone cold sober.

One the face of it, it definitely seems like alcohol is a complete no-no in the bodybuilding world. However, it’s not quite an open and shut case. As with many nutrition and health related topics, there are two sides to every story. Common beliefs suggest that you shouldn’t eat late at night, should eat a low fat diet and only eat wholegrain carbs, but we know that while there may be some evidence to support these. they aren’t entirely true. The same goes for alcohol and bodybuilding.

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