Why Your Six Pack Looks Like A Keg: Busting Myths on Alcohol and Training

Feb 15, 2019

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Is alcohol a big hindrance, or can we continue to enjoy a few drinks throughout the week and continue to lose fat, build muscle, and maintain a good fitness regime? In this episode of Sheer Strength Labs, Josh talks about controversial topic of alcohol and training and whether you can continue to achieve your fitness goals or need to stop drinking. Get ready to bust some myths!


Alcohol is one of the most controversial topics when it comes to fitness and training, as it blurs the line between food and drugs. Unlike other macronutrients, alcohol has no efficient use as fuel in the body. It contains a caloric value of 7 calories per gram, which is actually more like 5.5 calories per gram due to the thermic effect of food. Alcohol doesn’t contain any carbohydrates, fats, or protein, which is why it is not usable in the body.

Alcohol Is Healthy In Moderation 

Moderate alcohol consumption is acceptable for healthy people and also has massive benefits for those with type 2 diabetes. Alcohol can actually improve your health when used in moderation; for example, two glasses of dry wine per day (or one beer) has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and you become better at handling carbohydrates. It lowers triglyceride concentration and improves glycemic control. Studies have consistently shown that moderate drinkers live longer than non-drinkers. This can mainly be attributes to lower risk of cardio vascular disease; however, alcohol also contributes to a healthier and disease free life by protecting against Alzheimer’s, metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and depression.

Alcohol and Testosterone

There has been a lot of media hype that drinking alcohol depletes testosterone levels and that you won’t be able to build muscle. However, it actually takes a serious amount of alcohol to impact your testosterone level. For example, it would take more than 120 grams of alcohol (10 beers) to reduce your testosterone levels by 23% for up to 16 hours post binge. Studies looking at alcohol consumption during your post workout window with 60-90 grams of alcohol (6-7 beers) show a moderate impact on cortisol levels. A few beers post training will not hinder your recovery results or your strength.

However, if you get really drunk then, yes, you will have hindered results. An extreme amount of alcohol post workout means decreased recovery. If you are a CrossFit person or train at a high intensity and have 4-5 beers post workout, then you too will hinder your recovery, but if you are a moderate trainer then you shouldn’t worry. Excess is the common denominator in impairment. It is either excessive training followed by alcohol or moderate training followed by excessive alcohol. There is an opportunity for alcohol to cause a negative effect on recovery when either training or drinking is of an extreme intensity.

Alcohol and Fat Storage

1) Carbohydrates and proteins suppress fat oxidization via an elevation in insulin; however, these macros do not contribute to fat synthesis in any meaningful way by themselves.

2) Since fat oxidization is suppressed, dietary fat is stored in fat cells.

3) As the hours go by and insulin drops, fat is released from fat cells. Fat storage is an ongoing process, and fatty acids are constantly entering and exiting fat cells throughout the day. Net gain or loss is dictated by your caloric balance at the end of the day.

When alcohol gets thrown into the mix, it takes immediate priority. It suppresses fat, carbohydrate, and protein oxidization. Your body cannot oxidize anything until it has taken care of the alcohol byproduct first. Acetate is an extremely poor precursor for fat synthesis. Alcohol does not turn to fat and does not get stored as fat easily; however, what alcohol does is make your body extremely efficient at storing dietary fat as fat.

Minimize Fat Gain While Drinking

On The Day: Keep your dietary fat considerably lower. So, 15-20% of your body weight in pounds would be the grams of fat you consume that day. E.g. Josh weighs 190lbs and suggests consuming 30g of fat. He also suggests having 0.8 carbs per pound of body weight, which would be 160 grams of carbs for him, and recommends sticking with your usual amount of protein.

Drinking highly sugared drinks will give you a lot of excess calories. Good choices are tequila, vodka, scotch, rum, and white and dark spirits that aren’t sweetened, and either drink on the rocks or with a low calorie drink such as diet coke.

The Evening After: Avoid any form of fast food post drinking, and don’t go near any high fat foods. Josh’s tactic is to fill the fridge with low GI berries and zero fat yogurt and eat that.

The Next Day: Your body will still be processing alcohol, so Josh suggests having a lean source of protein, such as whey, along with unsweetened almond milk to make a lean zero fat smoothie. Remember that you will have low testosterone levels when you wake up so look at taking zinc and magnesium on board and vitamin D3.


Testosterone (Previous Podcast)

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