Does alcohol make you fat?

Does it reduce your ability to grow muscle?

How can you drink and stay on track?


Alcohol is a big part of society (because it’s excellent) and being exempt from drinking, if it’s something you do enjoy, perhaps won’t work in the long term for you.

However, if you want to keep progressing, but you also want to enjoy a drink.

You can do both.

It’s not one or the other.

You can have a pint and have abs.

I mean I am not talking you can get leathered every week and end up like an adonis.



  • A calorie is a calorie, so thermodynamics still counts, if you consume alcohol within a deficit, you will not store fat.
  • There are 7kcal per 1g alcohol.
  • Alcohol cannot actually be stored as fat.
  • It’s processed in the liver and brain but has no storage capacity within the body.
  • Its preferentially used first as it’s handled like a poison.
  • Which in turn slows down or halts fat oxidation, this is in fact, where fat gain can occurs, as you have to expend the amount of alcohol calories consumed before you can begin using food as fuel and hence more likely to store it, as a surplus will no doubt be apparent.
  • Pre and post drinking alcohol it is wise to not go too excessive on fat consumption as its most likely that this fat will be stored, again if a surplus is achieved. A good reason to avoid the donor kebab or pizza at 3am.
  • As we know that de novo lipogenesis (storage of carbs as fat) is less common, as is shown in several overfeeding studies (see my last few articles), it would be wiser to reduce mainly from fats for this reason. With any extra calories, then being made up by carb reduction.
  • But AGAIN, thermodynamics still counts, so in a deficit no need really to worry.
  • Recovery status in a single low/moderate consumption has no effect on the muscle damage recovery markers.
  • High consumption has shown to have elevated cortisol levels, slowed reaction time and impaired cognitive recovery, this was 1g per kg, which isn’t very high when you think about it.
  • In terms of muscle building, we have several studies on alcohol’s effect on testosterone production. With the most detrimental of them being a 23% acute reduction in testosterone, however, several other studies have found no reduction. I would say that even at its worst, a 23% acute reduction is unlikely to interfere with your progress too much.
  • MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis) however was said to be lowered during the post workout window after alcohol consumption. With a 37% inhibition being seen.
  • This can be offset somewhat with the consumption of protein, which reduces this inhibition to around 24%. But again, if these occasions aren’t regular, acute reductions like this on the whole aren’t really going to affect progress too much.
  • Cost benefit ratio of being on a plan which involves alcohol for long-term adherence purposes.




  • Firstly, we know that the succeeding days training is likely going to be compromised so planning in a rest day for this day is probably most sensible.
  • Note that with alcohol consumption, decision making is somewhat compromised, so essentially your food selections on the evening and also the next day may potentially not be optimal for the period of dieting you may potentially be in.
  • We generally go by the rule of allowing up to 10% of calories from alcohol in prep. For all factors involving training, recovery, food choices and also potentially low calorie you want to be providing yourself with nutrients as opposed to “empty calories”.
  • 20% in off-season.


Working out the calories

(% x ml) x 7kcal plus any additional calories from any macro contained within them, wines, beers, cocktails.



(0.12% x 125ml) x 7 = 105kcal

3g carbs also = 12kcal




(0.375 x 25ml) x 7 = 65kcal lists all drinks.


Fitting it in

  • If tracking, lowering your calorie intake from the day or surrounding days, mainly from fats and carbs.
  • Let’s say you want 4 vodkas.


65kcal x 4 = 260 kcal

20g fat = 180 kcal

20g carbs = 80kcal

180+80= 260kcal.


And you are accounted for!

If not tracking, it’s wise to go low-calorie during the day, high protein, high fibre, then low calorie drinks when you consume them, as you aren’t tracking them and higher calorie drinks like cocktails will be easier to over consume calorie wise.


Alcohol, a scientific approach to getting drunk and making progress.


Coach Mike