Alcohol is probably the most commonly consumed luxury food worldwide. The legal and mostly cheap availability make the drug a socially acceptable drug. Even with a low consumption of alcohol, a consciousness-changing effect on the central and peripheral nervous system can be observed, which quickly goes beyond pleasant “talkativeness” and “relaxation”.

Unfortunately, the often positive effect of alcohol leads to careless alcohol consumption. Regular alcohol consumption not only damages the liver or the cardiovascular system but also has significant effects on muscle building, fat burning and the entire metabolism. Bodybuilders and strength athletes in particular underestimate the far-reaching consensus due to excessive alcohol consumption, which often lasts for several days can.

What is alcohol actually?

Ethanol (C 2 H 6 O) is a monohydric, aliphatic (non-aromatic, organic compound of carbon and water) alcohol, belongs to the linear alkanols and is formed mainly through the fermentation of carbohydrates under anaerobic conditions. We refrain from exact derivation and nomenclature at this point. This is about more important things.

Ethanol is the only drinkable alcohol, but alcoholic fermentation also produces accompanying alcohols such as butanol, methanol or propanol (also known as “fusel oils”). The fusel oils can sometimes cause severe poisoning, but are particularly desirable as flavor carriers in beer and whiskey. In low-quality alcohols, the proportion of accompanying alcohols is usually higher. Contrary to popular belief, the fusel oils are not responsible for the “hangover” the morning after.

How does alcohol affect fat burning?

In contrast to other drugs, alcohol is a very high-energy nutrient. With around 7kcal per gram , pure ethanol has a physiological calorific value that is almost twice as high as that of carbohydrates or proteins. However, the body does not feel full when consuming ethanol becomes. The calories from alcohol add up to the calories from natural foods. Everyone can imagine for themselves how serious the consequences of careless alcohol consumption are for burning fat.

Does a strength athlete tip over during a long party night e.g. 10 alcoholic drinks in his body, each of which contains an average of 10-15g of pure ethanol, he consumes between 700-1000 kcal through ethanol . If you add the additional calories from mixed drinks rich in carbohydrates (lemonade, juices, etc.), you quickly reach the daily energy requirement that an average man needs – and this is around 2000 kcal!

Alcohol consumption can be fatal in many ways. Especially if you are training for a defined six pack or want to achieve effective fat burning. If the body fat percentage is to be reduced, a constant energy deficit is necessary. Only then does the body use the unsightly fat deposits to generate energy and burn the body fat. 3-4 beers a day are enough to destroy the energy deficit. Effective fat burning then only takes place on the grillage. Do you want to lose weight? Just give up alcohol!

How quickly is alcohol broken down?

Ethanol is absorbed throughout the digestive system. This includes not only the gastrointestinal tract and liver, but also the oral cavity, throat and esophagus. Small amounts of the ethanol even get directly into the blood. The liver takes on the main role in breaking down alcohol. Here, ethanol is enzymatically catalyzed to ethanal (acetaldehyde), which is mainly used for the “hangover symptoms”, reduced and later oxidized to acetic acid. Women break down about 8g of ethanol per hour, men about 10-14g. Although this ensures that small amounts of alcohol are metabolized relatively quickly, the organism pays a very high price for it.

You shouldn’t mix: muscle building training and alcohol consumption

Even when losing body fat, alcohol can be a real success killer. But even with muscle building training, the far-reaching consequences of excessive alcohol consumption become clear. Anyone who has trained with “hangover” (and that doesn’t mean sore muscles!) Often regrets the evening before. Manageable motivation, fatigue and significant drops in performance during training are natural side effects that come with alcohol consumption. But it can be much worse.

The body recognizes the toxic effects of ethanol and the metabolism primarily breaks down the alcohol in order to prevent poisoning. However, metabolic processes that are important for building muscle, such as protein biosynthesis, ATP synthesis or the oxidation of fatty acids, are neglected and hindered. A beer after fitness training can therefore have serious consequences for muscle building – especially if the body is in a catabolic anyway (muscle-reducing) metabolic state, which is brought about by intensive muscle training. If the workout lasts too long, the metabolism no longer has enough free amino acids and carbohydrates to regulate the metabolic processes. Taking whey protein before and after exercise can reduce this effect.

By the way: Countless studies have shown that the production of growth hormones such as testosterone is inhibited by alcohol . This has a destructive effect on muscle gain and is bad for sexual libido!

Alcohol prolongs the regeneration phases and at the same time prevents efficient muscle growth . If you take into account all the effects of alcohol on the body, you quickly find that an intense workout is completely useless if followed by excessive alcohol consumption.

What alcohol means for our sleep

Muscles do not grow during training, but rather in the resting phases . Every strength athlete should have internalized this principle by now! It is all the more logical that muscle building cannot function properly if there is too little sleep. But that’s exactly what alcohol does.

Anyone who believes that copious consumption of alcohol contributes to a good night’s sleep is wrong. Small amounts of beer or wine lead to a brief relaxation of the central nervous system, but that is where the benefits end. The result is often a alcohol-related sleep disorder. The effects on our sleep phases are particularly drastic. Alcohol has a negative effect on the frequency and duration of REM (rapid eye movement, a light sleep phase with high brain activity) and non-REM phases. The NREM phases (also called “deep sleep phases”) are particularly important for regeneration and make up about 70% of the total sleep duration. In this phase, brain activity, breathing and body temperature are regulated so that the muscles and the nervous system can recover. Alcohol hinders regeneration. If the body has to break down alcohol at night, this shortens the NREM phases, because the metabolism is concerned with breaking down ethanol. The result is a restless, short sleep and an almost complete lack of muscle regeneration.

Alcohol also leads to hangovers

Alcohol intoxication , colloquially called “hangover”, is the unpleasant consequence of mild alcohol intoxication . Typical symptoms are headache, nausea and general malaise. Scientifically, the exact cause of a hangover is not clear, but many factors are likely to be related to alcohol intoxication. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to dehydration of the body, which explains the headache. Furthermore, the body’s own proteins (cytokines) are denatured by the intermediate product acetaldehyde, which is produced during the breakdown of alcohol, and their function is thus restricted. The cytokines regulate cell division and cell growth and are therefore largely responsible for building muscle.

By the way, the most effective preventive measure that prevents alcohol intoxication is to abstain from alcohol, follow a training-goal-oriented diet and an effective training method for building muscle.


Excessive alcohol consumption hinders muscle building, blocks fat burning and does not exactly have a positive effect on your six pack abs. Despite the far-reaching consequences for our health, alcohol consumption is often the focus of social encounters.

Nobody has to completely forego the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but some rules should be followed when consuming alcohol, at least if “fitness” plays a role in lifestyle. Occasional barbecues with a few beers or a cocktail-to-go are not beneficial for the body, but they also do not destroy any significant training success. Those who can do without alcohol at all not only deserve recognition, but also benefit significantly more from fitness training.

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