The Effects of Alcohol on Muscle Growth

What happens when you hit the bar after hitting the weights? Surprisingly, the effects are different for men verses women.

The Effects of Post-Workout Booze

It’s Friday and after a tough workout you’re heading out to hang with some friends. Before you start shot-gunning beers you may want to reconsider getting blitzed. This study explains why.

The Study

Ten male and 9 female lifters were recruited for the study. Each subject participated in both an alcohol and placebo trial. Each trial consisted of six sets of 10 Smith machine squats at 80% of their 1RM with 2 minutes rest between sets.

Ten minutes post workout, subjects consumed either an alcohol or a placebo drink. Muscle biopsies of the vastus lateralis (quad) were taken pre-exercise, 3 hours post exercise, and 5 hours post exercise. Phosphorylation of mTOR, S6K1, and 4E-BP1 was recorded. These are pathways that trigger muscle anabolism and protein synthesis following training. Basically, they tell the body to pack on more muscle after a workout.

The Results

Without throwing around too much jargon, here’s a simple breakdown:


The signaling of your body to produce more protein and build muscle while consuming large amounts of alcohol following a workout doesn’t seem to be affected much. While this shouldn’t encourage you to drink, it does offer some relief knowing that your protein synthesis and hypertrophy shouldn’t be significantly affected, at least via the pathways tested.


Sorry, guys, we aren’t as lucky as the lady lifters. Training before heavy drinking does alter these signaling pathways. So all that effort in the gym may lead to less hypertrophy if followed by heavy drinking.

Well, that sucks. But if you do lift weights before drinking, the workout may at least act as a form of damage control. The authors note that while there won’t be an increase in amplification of the signal to tell muscles to grow above baseline while consuming alcohol, the resistance training done before may keep it from dropping below baseline. So working out and drinking afterwards is better than skipping the workout and just drinking.

The authors also acknowledged that, in a different study, consumption of whey protein limited the detrimental effects of alcohol consumption in these pathways too.

So while abstaining from alcohol is your best bet for muscle growth, if you’re going to drink, then at least have a workout and a protein shake to counteract as much of the negative effects of alcohol as you can.

Note: The amount of alcohol consumed in the study was quite substantial. The dose was 1.09 grams per kg of fat-free mass. For someone about 175 pounds and 15% body fat that equates to about five shots of Vodka (the alcohol they used in the study).




  1. Duplanty AA et al. Effect of acute alcohol ingestion on resistance exercise–induced mTORC1 signaling in human muscle. J Strength Cond Res. 2017 Jan;31(1):54-61.