alcoholic drink

Effects of alcohol on weight loss & muscle recovery

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What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a compound made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, produced from yeast ferment sugars. The amount of alcoholic content in a drink is determined by the amount of yeast and length of fermentation. Department of health advises that safe drinking levels for both men and women are 14 units per week. Effects of alcohol on weight loss and muscle recovery lye in the amount of units and calories within that drink. We will discuss this further in this article.

How to calculate alcohol units?

Well you can check this against the bottle of your drink. But if you do need to calculate this, you can do by multiplying the total volume of your drink (ml) by its ABV (%) and dividing that by 1,000.

So for example, lets work out number of units in a pint (568ml) of strong lager (ABV 5.2%) – 5.2 (%) x 568 (ml) / 1,000= 2.95 units (NHS, 2018).

If you hate maths, you can also use Alcohol Concern’s unit calculator that can be found on

Why do I need to know how many units I drink?

Well apart from alcohol being one of the causes for cancer, strokes, liver disease, hypertension, coronary heart disease, reduced bone density, stomach ulcers, dementia and mental health problems, it also has some major effects on weight gain. So whilst understanding that weight loss occurs when you are in a caloric deficit (eating less calories than your body requires), alcohol could take you over your calories as it is high in calories 

How can alcohol cause weight gain?

Weight gain is driven by excess calories. So, 1 unit of alcohol is 10ml/8g of pure alcohol, 1g of alcohol is 7 calories. Therefore, 1 unit of alcohol is 56 calories (8g per unit x 7 calories per gram). This is pure alcohol only, not including your juice or mixer. Bear in mind that this is just 1 unit, normally a drink will contain more than that depending on what you drink, you will probably have more than 1 drink as well. To minimise weight gain after alcohol, you’d need to calculate how many calories you can eat per day and ensure you do not exceed those calories. To calculate your calories, check out our macronutrient calculator.

How to calculate calories in alcohol?

In order to calculate how many calories you are consuming from pure alcohol, calculate the amount of units that are in your drink using the equation provided, multiply it by 8 (grams per unit) and then multiply that figure by 7 (calories per gram).

For example, let’s take our hypothetical pint of strong lager which we calculated had 2.95 units of pure alcohol. So we would multiply 2.95 by 8 = 23.6g. Then, multiply 23.6 by 7 = 165.2 calories of pure alcohol.

This is just calculating the alcohol, not including your juice, double shots, glass size (could include more juice), and anything else that could be included in a drink. I’m sure you can see what I am getting at now?  With one drink you could potentially consume 200-300 calories, sometimes more, per 1 drink! 

Solutions to cut down on alcohol

Solutions to cut down on alcohol may include:

  • setting yourself a limit on how much you’ll drink on that night 
  • Spend a fixed amount of money on alcohol 
  • Let others know you are trying to cut down so they can support you 
  • Try smaller glasses to limit excess calories from juice 
  • Have a lower strength drink 
  • Stay hydrated and most importantly cut back gradually. Let’s be realistic, not all of us have strong wills to give up on our habits or things we simply enjoy from day-to-day.  

Effects of alcohol of muscle building and recovery

Large quantities of alcohol, 4-5 drinks, inhibit a gene called mTOR. MTOR is a gene that provides instructions for making a protein called mTOR. This protein is one responsible for cell growth and recovery. In other words, mTOR gene supports muscle growth and recovery.  

Another way that alcohol affects muscle building and recovery is by inhibiting muscle protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis is a method by which our body uses the consumed protein to help our muscles recover and build stronger.  

References (2018). Alcohol Units [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 April 2019] 

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