Beer And Bodybuilding: Is Beer Bad for Bodybuilding? 2024 Answers

Is beer bad for fitness? The answer to this question will depend a lot on your end-game. Alcohol intake is, while a lot of fun, not necessarily a habit that brings a ton of potential benefits to the table, especially if weight loss is your goal. Will it completely negate the benefits of the exercises that you do, though?

Sure, certain beers will contain fewer calories and more moderate alcohol content than others. Suppose the beverage is alcoholic beyond a kombucha drink. In that case, however, even moderate alcohol consumption of things like light beer will end up taking its toll on your body and your progress.

Is Beer Good For Muscle Building Process? The Answer Is No.

Drinking beer – an alcoholic beverage, even lower alcohol-by-volume (ABV) brands, is terrible for body composition, sports performance, and your otherwise balanced diet. Heavy drinking also significantly increases[1] the likelihood of cardiovascular disease in the future, which may further spoil your fitness goals and make it much more difficult to lose weight.

Alcohol is known for its impact on neural function, the body’s metabolism, one’s risk of heart disease, thermoregulation, and skeletal muscle myopathy. Even when supplemented with physical activity in excess, it goes without saying: the daily consumption of alcoholic beverages brings with it a greatly decreased risk of being happy, healthy, and in balance at any given time.

Beer And Bodybuilding: Five Reasons Why Beer Is Bad For Fitness

Let’s take a closer look at some of these related factors. How bad can beer really be?

Beer Won’t Support Muscle Gains

Beer Won’t Support Muscle Gains
Muscle protein synthesis is inhibited even after only the moderate consumption of alcohol. Photo: Alexander Lukatskiy/Shutterstock

The scientific evidence shows that muscle protein synthesis is inhibited[2] even after only the moderate consumption of alcohol. This study found that muscle protein synthesis was suppressed for around twelve hours after drinking alcohol.

This will probably be the biggest case for non-alcoholic beer amongst the serious athletes out there. Moderate alcohol use will undermine even an incredibly intense workout, leaving you with more body fat and smaller muscle mass despite your time and effort.  

Alcohol Is Dehydrating

Fluid balance and beverage intake are two important parts of any hard workout session. Drinking beer, ironically enough, will actually make it much more difficult for your body to maintain its hydration levels both during and after the fact.

Alcohol saps the body of water[3]—if you’ve ever woken up chapped and thirsty after a night of drinking with friends, you can probably attest to this reality first-hand. Non-alcoholic beer and drinks with less than 4% ABV may be less dehydrating in this way, but it’s definitely something to consider, even if you’re only ingesting a low dose of alcohol.

Alcohol also makes it more difficult for the body to replenish itself[4] after it’s already dehydrated. This will be more of a factor if you’re drinking during exercise or after a workout; if you find yourself in either scenario, you’ll be feeling much more parched than you would normally. Who would ever want that?

It Negatively Impacts Muscle Performance

Alcohol impairs[5] the central nervous system, which means you have less control and are subject to a less finely-attuned reaction time when participating in physical exercise. The degree to which this fact impacts your workout program will, of course, vary with the amount that you’ve had to drink. Drinking before or during exercise makes your risk of sustaining an injury much higher statistically,[6] as well.

This is to say nothing of the behavioral changes that excessive drinking in the long term tends to compel. These include[7] difficulty making long-term connections between one’s own actions and future consequences, memory-related issues, cognitive regression, and problems with motor coordination. 

All of these may present their fair share of challenges to the aspiring athlete with their heart set on the finish line—if continuous fitness is your priority, perhaps you should reconsider the six-pack and choose to lift weights or go on a walk instead.

Beer Contains A Lot Of Calories

Beer Contains A Lot of Calories
The calorie content in beer exceeds the need for bodybuilding. Photo: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Many healthy adults struggle with a beer belly that won’t budge, no matter how much bodyweight they lose or what food they eat. Heavy drinkers may attribute up to one-quarter of their daily caloric intake[8] to their drinking habits. This, clearly, is not ideal in terms of the drinker’s health and overall well-being, even with exercise on a regular basis.

The foods you choose play just as much of a role in your fitness journey as the workout ideas you try at home or at the gym. Your nutrition is an integral part of your health, and beer brings far fewer benefits with it than other options, even those higher in calories. Our opinion: why drink alcohol when you could eat something better instead?

While more research is needed, “drunkorexia” describes the tendency for those who drink excessively to later compensate with more exercise[9] in order to counteract any potential weight gain. This effort, however, is largely made in vain—they would be much better off dialing back the drinking for the sake of their health, which would lead them to gain even more value from the hard workout regimen that they’re already committing to.

Drinking Takes Time Away From An Otherwise Healthy Lifestyle

The food that you eat and the exercise that you do aren’t the only habits that determine your quality of life. Aside from food and exercise, things like your quality of sleep.[10] your performance and reputation at school and work, and your relationships with your friends and family all add great value to your life. Too much beer regularly will often drive a wedge between the drinker and the things and people around them[11] that make life worth living.

Beers, of course, are far from low-calorie beverages. Again, we want to emphasize that it’s not necessarily the calories that you’re putting into your body that matter—instead, consider the other side effects of drinking that may come into play, including the poor decisions that may result after one or two beers.

Is Beer A Good Post-Workout Drink? A Systematic Summary

The unfortunate truth is that drinking beer, even in moderation, is a terrible way to conclude your workout. There are no health benefits aside from the calories that the alcohol is imbibed with.

While there is a positive association between exercise and recovery from alcohol addiction,[12] serious athletes should rethink even beer in moderation for the sake of their health and fitness goals. The rest of us may be able to get away with a drink here or there but use your best judgment whenever you find yourself in doubt.

If a refreshing beer is a luxury you would rather not do away with entirely, however, moderate beer consumption won’t totally throw you off course. Whether you choose to fill the void with an alcohol-free beer or occasional craft beers with friends, we recommend at least some recovery time before your next workout. A little rest will sometimes do a body good.

Resources

  1. Piano, M.R. (2017). Alcohol’s Effects on the Cardiovascular System. Alcohol research : current reviews, [online] 38(2), pp.219–241. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513687/.
  2. ‌Steiner, J.L. and Lang, C.H. (2014). Alcohol impairs skeletal muscle protein synthesis and mTOR signaling in a time-dependent manner following electrically stimulated muscle contraction. Journal of Applied Physiology, [online] 117(10), pp.1170–1179. doi:https://doi.org/10.1152/japplphysiol.00180.2014.
  3. ‌Vella, L. and Cameron‐Smith, D. (2010). Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery. Nutrients, [online] 2(8), pp.781–789. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/nu2080781.
  4. ‌Shirreffs, S.M. and Maughan, R.J. (1997). Restoration of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration: effects of alcohol consumption. Journal of Applied Physiology, [online] 83(4), pp.1152–1158. doi:https://doi.org/10.1152/jappl.1997.83.4.1152.
  5. ‌Shirreffs, S.M. and Maughan, R.J. (2006). The Effect of Alcohol on Athletic Performance. Current Sports Medicine Reports, [online] 5(4), pp.192–196. doi:https://doi.org/10.1097/01.csmr.0000306506.55858.e5.
  6. ‌Elsayed, M., Ali, N.S. and Zeinab El-Sayed Ali (2005). Interaction Between Alcohol and Exercise. Sports Medicine, [online] 35(3), pp.257–269. doi:https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200535030-00005.
  7. ‌Sullivan, E.V., Harris, R.A. and Pfefferbaum, A. (2010). Alcohol’s effects on brain and behavior. Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, [online] 33(1-2), pp.127–43. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3625995/.
  8. ‌Shelton, N. and Knott, C. (2014). Association Between Alcohol Calorie Intake and Overweight and Obesity in English Adults. American Journal of Public Health, [online] 104(4), pp.629–631. doi:https://doi.org/10.2105/ajph.2013.301643.
  9. ‌Barry, A.E. and Piazza-Gardner, A.K. (2012). Drunkorexia: Understanding the Co-occurrence of Alcohol Consumption and Eating/Exercise Weight Management Behaviors. Journal of American College Health, [online] 60(3), pp.236–243. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2011.587487.
  10. ‌Soon Yeob Park, Mi Kyeong Oh, Bum Soon Lee, Haa Gyoung Kim, Won Joon Lee, Ji Ho Lee, Jae Min Lim and Jin Young Kim (2015). The Effects of Alcohol on Quality of Sleep. Korean Journal of Family Medicine, [online] 36(6), pp.294–294. doi:https://doi.org/10.4082/kjfm.2015.36.6.294.
  11. ‌Mushtaq, R., Sheikh Shoib, Shah, T. and Mushtaq, S. (2014). Relationship Between Loneliness, Psychiatric Disorders and Physical Health ? A Review on the Psychological Aspects of Loneliness. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. [online] doi:https://doi.org/10.7860/jcdr/2014/10077.4828.
  12. ‌Hallgren, M., Davy Vancampfort, Felipe Barreto Schuch, Lundin, A. and Stubbs, B. (2017). More Reasons to Move: Exercise in the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorders. Frontiers in Psychiatry, [online] 8. doi:https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00160.