How Alcohol Affects Strength Training

If your fitness and health goals include building muscle, having a toned body, and getting the maximum benefits from your strength training, you should reconsider consuming excesses of alcohol. Although moderate drinking may have some positive effects such as stress reduction, problematic drinking effects your hormones, muscles, liver, brain, and moods in ways that are counterproductive to your exercise objectives. Moderate drinking is considered no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women. So, let’s look at some ways alcohol affects strength training…

Fat storage

Alcohol contains about seven calories per gram, but, compared to carbohydrates and protein at four calories per gram, it does not convert to glucose. Instead, it becomes a fatty acid, which is more likely to be stored as fat. Also, it interrupts the body’s fat burning process by reducing the amount of fat your body burns for energy, thereby defeating an important aspect of resistance training. The “empty calories” from alcohol have no nutritional value and only strains the body’s metabolism as it cannot store alcohol and must metabolize it right away as a priority above all other metabolic processes. Not only does alcohol not contain any useful vitamins and minerals, but it can also impair your body’s ability to absorb it from other sources.

The health benefits of weight training

Alcohol contains seven calories per gram compared to the four of carbohydrates and protein, but it is considered “empty calories” as it must be broken down immediately into fatty acids and does not contain vitamins or minerals

Lowered testosterone

Drinking lowers testosterone and increases estrogen in the body. Testosterone, which is naturally more prevalent in men, is the most important substance determining muscle building. According to, lower testosterone levels have an effect on muscle mass, definition, strength, and recovery rate, while increased estrogen levels cause more fat depositing and fluid retention. Excessive alcohol consumption affects the endocrine system and interferes with the production of testosterone. Furthermore, alcohol increases the prevalence of sleep deprivation, which is also linked to lower testosterone levels.


Muscles are composed of 75% water, which it needs to maintain strength. The kidneys use a lot of water to break down alcohol, which results in dehydration after drinking. The disruption of the natural water balance in your body causes feelings of fatigue, low physical performance, disturbs healthy eating patterns, and interferes with the ability of the muscles to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the primary source of muscular energy necessary for muscle contractions.

Sleep deprivation

Sleep is important as it is an opportunity for your body to undergo restoration. Consuming excessive amount of alcohol can have a significant negative effect on your sleep quality and quantity. Also, it increases the prevalence of pre-existing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Sleep disturbances are known to play an important role in psychological distress and poor physical and mental performance, which will work against achieving your fitness and life goals.

The bottom line is, keep your alcohol consumption to moderation if you are serious about your training and health. Being conscientious about your strength training will also make it easier to resist those extra few drinks and maintaining your best performance.

About Joan Swart, PsyD, Forensic Psychologist and lecturer

Joan Swart is a forensic psychologist, lecturer, and business developer at Open Forest LLC. She authored two books titled “Treating Adolescents with Family-Based Mindfulness” (Springer, 2015) and “Homicide: A Forensic Psychology Casebook” (CRC, 2016). She is a contributor to Hubpages and HuffPost.

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More on: Alcohol, Drinking
Latest update: January 29, 2017
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