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Drinking and Powerlifting

This might seem a little off-beat given that we mostly talk about training here, but I’m wondering what everyone’s experience has been with drinking during periods when you’re trying to get stronger. I love powerlifting, but I also love good wine and craft beers. I’m not talking about getting drunk, but having 2 or 3 in the evening. Has anyone had any experiences that led you to believe drinking moderately inhibited strength gains? To be clear, I’m not talking about difficulties that the calories in alcohol may pose if you’re trying to drop weight to make a weight class; I mean effects on strength itself.

Would you give up those drinks for 10% on all your lifts?

Not entirely sure. But I’m curious as to whether that (or something roughly like that) is really the choice that we face.

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Go read Jamie Lewis’ blog Chaos & Pain.

Last time I had tested my deadlift 1rm was that night after partying hard on New year’s Eve several years ago and hit a pretty nice PR. I had tested once or twice that year and was pretty surprised. Felt like complete shit and wanted to skip the session entirely, but did it anyways. I had quit drinking completely for 3 months shortly after. Didn’t notice any change in terms of strength gain/loss or performance really at all. I had been a pretty heavy drinker since about 18 years old (18-24pk once per week), so 3 months abstinence really isn’t that long compared.

Did actually gain about 10lbs, but waist measurement stayed the same. The biggest thing I noticed was mental clarity and discipline. I never miss a session anyways, but it’s much easier to drag my ass in the gym on Sunday. I did miss about 6 sessions a piece in '15 and '16 due to illness. I’ve yet to get ill or miss a session this year, about the time I cut back to much moderate consumption.

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I guess what I am trying to get at is folks get pretty wound up about their eating, drinking, rest, morals, whatever but they’re not chasing anything that requires it.

If you’re gonna place in states, then by all means do what it takes (not that all athletes have anything close to a good diet).

If you’re just trying to get strong and compete at some level - I wouldn’t worry about it.


I’d basically echo strongmangoals’ comment. If you’re “just a guy that lifts” and you enjoy the spirit, probably wouldn’t sweat this. If you’re intending to compete with an end goal of winning a title or qualifying for nationals or setting a record, maybe.

For what it’s worth, I am also a craft beer enthusiast with a little wine lover thrown in (usually just 1 beer with dinner, unless the wife and I decide to split a bottle of wine that night) or the occasional bourbon, and my answer to “would I give those up for an extra 10% on my lifts” is a hard pass. I enjoy my pursuit of strength, but whether I can pull 600 or 650 will have basically zero effect on my daily life.

I understand that’s not quite the question you asked - you want to know if that’s the reality of the choice - and I don’t really know. Since I “started drinking” (using that phrase lightly here…) I have made big gains; would they have been bigger if I totally abstained? IDK.


Read about the old time physical cultists diets. They were pretty strong. Their idea of a post workout meal really puts your average gym rat to shame. The Saxon brothers, Inch and Louis Cyr drank ALOT. A couple beers won’t kill all your gains.


Layne Norton says he drank 1-2 beers every day and won two national PL championships and was able to compete in bodybuilding:

The key is moderation. Aside from the calories, drinking too much will reduce muscle protein synthesis which will obviously have a negative effect on recovery. Plus it will mess up your sleep and cause additional fatigue. There is an article somewhere on this site that quotes a study which found no negative effects on MPS after 3 drinks for a 180lbs. man, but significant negative effects after 6 drinks.

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I would, and I tried, but it didn’t work. I’m not really into heavy drinking, I will have maybe 2-4 drinks a couple times a week. I weigh about 230 and I can handle my liquor so 4 drinks is no big thing for me. A few years ago when I started thinking I should compete in PL I completely stopped drinking for several months, expecting big gains as a result. I did make some gains, but not at a faster rate than when I had been drinking regularly. I started drinking again and it had no negative impact at all, except maybe in terms of extra calories.

2-3 drinks per night is extremely unlikely to have a measurable effect on your strength. Might be a slight positive if anything. That hasn’t only been my experience, but the experience of many others. People mentioned Jamie Lewis and Layne Norton. Besides those two, whose experiences are well documented, many strength athletes of yesteryear considered beer a post-workout recovery drink, and I believe some recent research has supported this practice. Go digging if you’re interested. Also, Art Devany, who was ripped and muscular and could dunk a basketball into his seventies routinely drank beer with his dinner. Anecdote =/= data, but you know, patterns emerge.

Getting smashed will probably have a deleterious effect though. Further, I think being lean is an advantage here, as it’s easier to recover from drinking, or pretty much any minor insult to the body, if you are lean. But in sum, worrying about the recovery hit from drinking is probably going to impair recovery more than light drinking itself, so I think you’ll be ok.

how many days a week?

How do you figure? Obviously obesity is unhealthy in itself and has all sorts of consequences, but why would your recovery be better at 10%bf vs. 20%? I’m genuinely curious since I have never heard anything of this sort before. I was a skinny-fat 160lbs. at 16-17 years old and I could drink more than most grown men, I once drank a 40oz. bottle of gin.

They have a couple of studys where 2 beers dramatically reduced your risk of heart disease, lowered inflammation markers, lower correlation with diabetes. Its pretty interesting. I drink around 16 ounces of beer pretty much every night after dinner and I have noticed zero negative effects from it. The one thing I worry about is hydration. Right after I drink by beer or two I have a couple of glasses of water with taurine. Problem solved.

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Body fat does not draw alcohol in the same way that muscle tissue does. Blood alcohol concentrations are therefore higher for longer in individuals with higher proportions of body fat.

Assuming that they are the same weight, yes. But all that means is that a fatter person of the same weight would get more drunk off less.

from my experience, alcohol generally has an effect on my training the next day, although not always. Probably not from 1 drink, but I would say… 3 or more maybe? So that’s my answer to the micro-version of the question. If you have more than a couple drinks in a night, you’re likely to have a less than ideal training session the next day. I mostly attribute this to dehydration, as hydration is so crucial to good lifting.

From a macro experience, I definitely notice a difference between training and not drinking at all vs drinking regularly, or even occasionally. I’m planning to cut off alcohol entirely at least 3 months prior to Strongman Nationals next year.

Was there a point of change for you in terms if this line of thinking? Only reason I ask is that I remember you posting something along the lines of you drinking a few days/a week out from a comp - although it certainly wasn’t nationals.

1-3 drinks I don’t feel a tremendous effect, but I’d be lying if I said I felt unaffected. I imagine the hydration like y’all are saying is the biggest issue

no change. I’m just human, lol.

For comps I’m not particularly invested in, I don’t really refrain from drinking. In general I don’t drink much these days anyway. But yea, that’s why I specified nationals. When I competed in PL, I didn’t drink at all before meets, nor did I prior to my first few strongman shows.

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I rarely drink, but when I do, I do it with my friends to have a good time. It usually ends up being around 6-8 drinks (depending on what time we start); my cutoff is usually around 10:30pm so I can start hydrating and go to bed around 1 (without the spins). I almost always wake up the next day and go lift around 2-3pm, and two of my biggest PRs have come after a night of moderate drinking. I think part of my luck in avoiding having a bad session the next day is the fact that I have a cutoff. Everyone knows those guys who keep drinking until 3am and go to bed at 6; basically, as long as that isn’t you, which it’s not, you should be fine.

So to answer your question, based on my experience, no, I don’t think a couple glasses of wine or a couple beers every couple nights would have any noticeable effect on your strength/strength gains.