Going out with your friends is completely banned by those who are ripped!… Right? They wouldn’t dare ever drink anything other than a Protein Shake?
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Since the overarching road to ripped-ness is paved with a Calorie deficit, you could have a drink now and then and still get ripped.
Let me explain how that works.
What does “ripped” even mean?
Pivot your memory back to the oh-so-distant past of the 90s and conjure images of Rocky in your mind. Now, that is one ripped man. We all have a general idea of what it means, but for a more detailed explanation, the following will suffice:
- Having a decent amount of lean muscle mass evenly distributed over your body
- Extremely low body fat levels (<12% for men, <18% for women)
- A booming social media presence
Okay so maybe that last one isn’t needed but it is almost a given at this point. Getting ripped is really that simple, you only need to do two things.
That being said, each of those respectively will take a lot of time and effort, especially if you’re trying to get ripped from skinny fat.
This is why getting ripped vs toned isn’t really for everyone. Depending on your genetics, it might take a tremendous amount of effort in both the gym and the kitchen for you to lose fat consistently and build a muscular body type.
The biggest limiting factor is going to be time. Most people simply don’t have the time to train for an hour and do another hour of cardio every day.
And contrary to what most people might think, the transformation won’t be quick. This might be a wake-up call since most people assume you can build a lean physique in just 30 days.
Thus, before you make the decision to become ripped – make sure you are aware of the sacrifices:
- Dietary Sacrifices: As you might expect, you will have to make some sacrifices in the kitchen. While this isn’t that bad, at the latter end of your diet you might be dreaming of foods – “What did you dream about baby?” “That BLT the guy had in the cafe yesterday…” “You jerk!!” – trust me it can happen
- Training Sacrifices: You will have to spend a good amount of time in the gym. Not only will you be slamming weights around like you’re paid to do it, but you’re bound to shed a few pounds of sweat on the treadmill
- Social Sacrifices: Because of the time spent spotting that super-strong guy in the gym and Googling chicken breast recipes, you’ll have less time for friends – and even then you won’t be able to drink. Or can’t you?…
See, alcohol is actually a hot topic in the fitness world as there are quite a few studies looking into its effects. Let’s take a look…
Beer makes me a jacked man!
Alcohol (C2H5OH or C2H6O) is fermented sugar, which is done by certain metabolites in the absence of oxygen. This is found in most alcoholic beverages and is the actual compound that will lead to you getting drunk. Like the other macros, alcohol actually contains calories:
|Macros||Calories per Gram|
|Protein||4 Calories per Gram|
|Carbohydrates||4 Calories per Gram|
|Fats||9 Calories per Gram|
|Alcohol||7 Calories per Gram|
This means that one gram of alcohol nearly contains as many calories as a gram of fat. And, as any reader of Noob Gains should know, not all macros act the same when consumed…
Let’s look at some studies where they studied alcohol with muscle mass:
- A study published in 2002 suggests that alcohol can limit muscle growth by lowering the effectiveness of IGF-1 in the body
- A 2003 study suggests that alcohol can drive down both muscle protein synthesis and amino acid plasma concentration
- A 2014 study strongly suggests that alcohol can lower mTOR, which will lower the anabolic response to training
Frankly, there are a lot of studies showing how bad alcohol is for you when your overarching goal is to build lean muscle. They do contain a lot of calories, yes, but there’s more to building muscle than just slamming beer-based protein shakes.
Are there any studies about the fat loss though?
- This 2016 study found that lowering alcohol intake has been linked to weight loss due to improved actions overall
- A survey found that the intensity of drinking was correlated with weight gain, meaning the more severe your drinking is, the more likely it is to negatively affect your fat loss
There are very few studies that show a direct link between alcohol and fat gain. That being said, there are a few studies that suggest a significant amount of alcohol can not only lead to fat gain, but it can change your life in a manner that will lead to fat gains – like poor sleep.
Okay, so it ain’t great for building muscle, but can you still have it every now and then and still achieve your goals?
Can I have like, one drink?
So, the overarching goal of this article is to see if alcohol would be a limiting factor in a fat loss diet. The reality is, it might be, but it depends on you. See, the biggest drawbacks behind alcohol in a fat loss phase are:
- Calories: Drinks contain calories, liquid calories that serve no ‘purpose’ other than just enjoying yourself
- Recovery: Depending on how much you actually drink, you might have a really hard time recovering the next day. If this happens consistently, over time, you might be seeing some lackluster results with your fat loss endeavors
- MPS: As mentioned in the previous section, you can actually be limiting your ability to build muscle by drinking alcohol
- Sleep loss: You might be out a bit more now, and since that’s the case, your sleep will be less, which can impact your fat loss
When it comes to pure fat loss, the biggest challenge you’re going to be facing is the fact that drinks contain calories. Here is a quick cheat sheet:
|Drink||Calories per [unit]|
|Beer||154 calories in 1 can|
|Light Beer||104 calories in 1 can|
|Vodka||64 calories per fl oz|
|Gin||73 calories per fl oz|
|Tequila||69 calories per fl oz|
|Whiskey||70 calories per fl oz|
With this sheet, you could technically construct certain lower-calorie drink options. This way you can theoretically go out with friends and have a fun yet responsible time. Here are some tips when going out when you’re dieting:
- Go out before a rest day: This way if you get absolutely hammered and need to sleep in, it’s okay because well, you won’t be missing a training session
- Opt for lower calories options: As the list above shows, spirits tend to be a little better in regards to getting your drink on without destroying your calorie deficit
- Use sugar-free mixers: If you’re having a cola with brandy, opt for the sugar-free options to save yourself a few calories
- Dance: With all things accounted for, dancing still counts as a form of cardio – right?
- Make sure breakfast is settled: It’s very easy to wake up broken after the night out and want to grab the easiest, greasiest, and most calorific meal you can get. Try prepping your breakfast before going out to avoid this
- Alter: Many will alter alcoholic beverages with alcohol-free ones, as this could create the sensation of drinking something without drinking alcohol
So, yes, you can absolutely go out for a few drinks, but you will still have to be mindful of calories. You’re old enough to drink, so you’re old enough to realize that calories matter.
Can You Drink Alcohol and Still Get Ripped?
I’m not about to lie to you. Bodybuilders don’t drink while preparing for a show, in fact, they rarely ever drink. The most ripped people on the planet do not mess with alcohol because it can absolutely affect the process of getting ripped:
- Alcohol will drive down your ability to build muscle
- Alcohol does contain calories, and overconsumption of calories could stop fat loss
- Drunk individuals are more likely to mess up their diet
- A hangover can keep you from training and recovering effectively
- Alcohol could impair your sleep time and quality
So if your questions are if athletes consume alcohol regularly, or have somewhat of a normal social life, the answer is a big no.
Many of them will completely avoid such social events because you lose sleep. That being said, these people are very ripped.
If your goal is something more obtainable, something a bit more low-key, and something you might see on the cover of a health magazine, maybe it could be okay for you to have a few drinks every now and then. It comes down 5 things:
- Do not overconsume calories to ruin your deficit
- Do not drink too often as it will limit muscle growth
- Do not get sloshed and miss out on training sessions
- Do not drink so often that your recovery is impeded
- And don’t cheat on your diet when you’re drunk
Can you have a drink and still lose weight? Absolutely, just know that too much ain’t great.
Having one or two drinks per week might not be the absolute worst thing for you to do, however, you should take great care to not let things get out of hand.
After all, you are an adult, and you should act accordingly. Unless you want to be a child and inhale calorie-free alcohol – gets you drunk and sober in 10 minutes – yup, it exists – sort of.