The very fact that you’re asking, “Will Drinking Once a Week Affect Muscle Gains?” tells me that you already know that alcohol has some impact on muscle growth.
But, in truth, this is more geared towards excessive drinking, which can kill your gains.
With that being said, is drinking once a week really that big of a deal?
Is muscle-building really going to be affected by the occasional drink?
Allow me to explain what you need to know about drinking once a week and muscle gains.
Will Drinking Once a Week Affect Muscle Gains?
If you drink sensibly and in moderation once a week then this won’t affect muscle gains. With that being said, excessive drinking can disrupt both muscle protein synthesis and your sleep. So, in effect, you are breaking your muscles down through training, but not allowing them to rebuild themselves with adequate recovery. Plus, alcohol contains a lot of empty calories, so frequent consumption can lead to weight gain.
1. Alcohol in Moderation Won’t Affect Muscle Gains
The famous saying about, “Everything in moderation” definitely rings true when it comes to alcohol consumption and building muscle.
And this includes how much you actually drink on your once-weekly jaunt.
By this I mean that you should really only stick to a few alcoholic drinks on a weekly basis.
How many constitutes “a few” will very much depend on you and your reaction to drinking alcohol.
However, I would personally say that 2-3 drinks falls into this category for the vast majority of us.
With that being said, I know for a fact that when you ask about “once a week” you potentially aren’t talking about “just a few”.
The easiest thing to say is that you should avoid alcohol altogether if you want to build muscle.
But, saying that would make me a hypocrite.
I have personally drunk throughout my adult life, while still training regularly and gaining muscle mass.
However, there have been times when I know my muscle growth and overall fitness has been impacted by my drinking.
In fact, I too eventually decided to stick to drinking just once a week so that it wouldn’t significantly affect my time in the gym.
But, I’ll also admit that this did lead to a weekly binge-drinking session, which unfortunately did have repercussions for my muscle growth.
So, I’ll repeat, drinking once a week is absolutely fine, and it won’t affect your muscle gains, as long as you drink in moderation.
2. The Dark Side of Alcohol & Building Muscle
There are actually a huge number of downsides to drinking alcohol while you’re trying to build muscle.
However, once more, this comes down to how much alcohol you’re drinking.
Muscle Protein Synthesis
With that being said, alcohol consumption does affect muscle protein synthesis.
Basically, whenever you exercise your muscle tissues are broken down.
Then through sensible nutrition, rest and recovery your body goes through muscle protein synthesis.
This is simply the process of building new proteins, which in turn will repair and rejuvenate the “broken down” muscle tissues from training.
As long as muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown you will build muscle.
In fact, building muscle comes down to this one thing (obviously there are many other factors that lead to this).
Now, the problem with alcohol consumption is that alcohol is metabolized by the body before any other nutrients.
So, in effect, your body is blocking helpful nutrients from being absorbed until it has dealt with the alcohol in your system.
This actually inhibits protein synthesis.
In essence, you’re training to break down your muscle tissues, but they then never repair because your body is too busy metabolizing alcohol.
So, muscle protein synthesis is being hindered, thus meaning it is much harder for your muscles to repair and grow back bigger.
Therefore, it should now be more obvious that metabolizing two drinks in your system is going to be much easier and quicker than 10 drinks.
Sleep & Growth Hormones
I’ve also mentioned rest and recovery, which not only means good nutrition and allowing your muscles a break between workouts, but also how much sleep you’re getting.
Most muscle building hormones are released during the stage of deep sleep, e.g. Human Growth Hormone.
However, if your sleep is disrupted you may never enter this stage of deep sleep, thus meaning that growth hormones are not being released into your system.
No growth hormones means no muscle growth.
So, the simple fact that you fall asleep within 30 seconds of a heavy night out doesn’t actually mean that you’re getting a good night’s sleep.
In fact, the reason that you feel so rough the next day after a drinking session is actually a combination of the alcohol and the lack of deep sleep.
Drinking, Eating & Calories
Finally, I don’t know about you, but my eating is out of control after a night’s drinking.
You have to remember that each alcoholic drink is approximately 100-200 calories.
Plus, more often than not, you’ll eat food on a night out that you possibly wouldn’t normally, and in portions that would typically feed at least 5 people.
And for me, the following day after a particularly heavy session would involve an excess of calories, mainly “bad” carbs that made me feel better (or so I thought).
This is why it is important to drink in moderation once a week if building muscle is your main goal.
3. Choose Your Alcohol Wisely
Something else to consider is the actual alcoholic drinks that you’re consuming.
I’ve already mentioned that most alcoholic drinks contain approximately 100-200 calories.
Basically, alcohol provides completely empty calories that don’t actually nourish your body in any way whatsoever.
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram.
However, more often than not, your alcohol consumption impacts muscle growth even more because of things like low quality alcohol and additional calories through mixers.
In essence, drinking beers and adding a carbonated, calorie-ladened mixer to your spirits is leading to more calorie consumption.
Why Do You Need to Be in a Calorie Surplus to Build Muscle?
Now, once more I feel ever so slightly hypocritical, as my favoured consumption is beers and spirits with mixers.
With that being said, if muscle-building is your ultimate goal, but you still want to enjoy a weekly drink, then stick to high-quality alcohol.
Not only will the actual quality of alcohol be better, it’s likely to be more expensive, so you perhaps won’t drink as much.
Plus, the fact that your alcohol is of high-quality means that you’re less likely to “spoil” it by adding a low-quality cola or soda.
However, I still state that drinking once a week in moderation won’t cause any issues in terms of building muscle.
Lowest Calorie Alcoholic Drinks
So, as you can see, drinking once a week won’t affect muscle gains.
However, this does involve drinking in moderation, perhaps no more than 2-3 drinks a week.
Unfortunately, once you get into the realms of drinking a much higher amount of alcohol on a weekly basis, you can start to impact muscle growth.
Basically, you are hindering muscle protein synthesis, as well as taking on many more “empty calories”.
Furthermore, it makes more sense to stick to high-quality alcoholic drinks, while avoiding the additional calories of mixers.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.