You’re powering through your sets at the gym when you get a text from your best buddy saying “Yo, drinks at 8 with the girls”.
Should you still take that daily blood-pumping dose of creatine?
This question has been bothering me lately. I’ve dug up 30 years of research from the world’s finest to give you the raw scoop!
I will explain the consequences of taking creatine and alcohol together in a minute.
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First, we must learn how both of these compounds affect our bodies individually.
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What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a chemical naturally synthesized by the kidney and liver. It’s abundant in meat, eggs, and fish.
It consists of multiple amino acids like L-arginine, Glycine, and L-methionine.
What Does Creatine Do?
Creatine accelerates your muscle growth by providing the following benefits:
- Extra power and stamina in your workouts (1)
Since you’re able to lift more weight with more reps, your muscles tear down more than before as well.
- Better muscle recovery means better muscle growth (2)
Your body will recover faster after a workout and you will perform like a beast in the next session.
- Creatine pumps up your muscles (3)
Dozens of research papers show that creatine allows your muscle cells to absorb more water and hold it.
Not only does this make you look bigger, but it also improves nitrogen balance and the expression of certain genes related to hypertrophy.
- Creatine is a great anti-catabolic (4)
Controlled studies have proven conclusively that creatine diminishes protein degradation rates. This slows down the rate at which your muscles get bigger.
How Does Creatine Work?
You probably understand the primary goal of creatine supplementation. In case you don’t, it is primarily used to increase the number of anaerobic fibers present in our muscles.
These muscle fibers can produce contractile force without using any oxygen. In fact, they are fast-twitch muscle fibers that enable impulsive and explosive bursts of movement.
It’s found in most cells of the body and acts as a catalyst for ATP (energy source of every cell). This helps to boost your energy production levels and enhance your peak power output.
The bulk of creatine is stored in the muscle cells. So, using it is extremely effective for increasing strength, power output, and anaerobic stamina.
Another thing to note is that all muscles are not the same. Some muscles are “anaerobic muscles”. These muscles allow fast movements but cannot be exerted for a long period of time.
The other major group of muscles is the “aerobic muscles” which can be exerted for a long period of time. Contrary to anaerobic muscles, these only support slow movements.
Exercising causes the breakdown of our muscles. These muscles regenerate during the recovery process. This results in larger muscles to compensate for the additional stress imposed on them.
How Does Alcohol Affect You?
You probably know that most of our organs contain a lot of water. Our brain, heart, and lungs are arguably the important organs in our bodies. In fact, 73% of our brain consists of water.
Drinking alcohol leads to detrimental effects on our bodies. It enters the body directly via our bloodstream reaching important organs.
Booze, wine, beer, whiskey, rum, vodka, or gin, it doesn’t matter what your poison of choice is.
Scientists know this as the age-old miracle molecule by the name of “ethyl alcohol”. It has a rather small size but a huge effect on our bodies!
Here’s how alcohol sends your whole system crashing (5, 6, 7):
- It impairs rational decision-making ability
- Your inhibition is lowered resulting in risk-prone activities
- Lowered neuromuscular coordination decreases your strength
- Impaired balance
- Disrupts REM sleep, which in turn reduces muscular regeneration
- Impaired balance and motor skills
- Degrades cellular repair process
- Interfere with thermoregulation
- It depletes minerals and vitamins which impacts many processes in the body as a whole
- Impairs aerobic performance
- Severe dehydration
As you can see clearly, every dose of liquid happiness totally wrecks the normal functioning of your body.
As demonstrated clearly by scientific studies, these effects have an adverse impact on your performance even after 24-48 hours (8). On top of that, other ill effects could potentially haunt you for an even longer period of time.
Sounds like an anti-health shake now, doesn’t it?
The Negative Effects of Consuming Alcohol and Creatine Together
One of the most profound effects of creatine consumption is the absorption of water by your muscles, from your blood. On the other hand, alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it dehydrates your body and forces you to urinate more often.
These compounded effects might dehydrate your body to dangerous levels which may even make you end up in the emergency room!
Alcohol essentially neutralizes the innumerable benefits of creatine. It converts your hard work into negligible results.
Alcohol is also the culprit behind other devastating effects on muscle regeneration processes such as :
- Protein synthesis (9)
- Testosterone synthesis (Main Anabolic Hormone) (10, 11)
- Human Growth Hormone regulation (12)
- Insulin regulation (13)
Ways to Counteract the Negative Effects of Alcohol
Chug a few liters of water while before, during, and after consuming alcohol. This vastly reduces the negative impacts of alcohol.
Eating fatty, protein-rich snacks such as BBQ chicken, beef, and steaks delays alcohol absorption. It also aids the nullification of alcohol’s muscle degrading effects.
People who drink more water and eat fatty, protein-rich food rarely, if ever, experience a hangover the next day.
How Often Can You Drink Alcohol?
Although scientists suggest that drinking a glass of wine every day can have significant health benefits, anything over that will bring you back to square one.
The best evergreen option is to avoid alcohol altogether. If you can’t do that, I would strongly advise you to limit yourself to very special occasions where you can’t avoid it.
Creatine and Alcohol: The Bottom Line
If you’re aiming for jaw-dropping muscle gains, with or without creatine, you must bid adieu to alcohol for the most part.
As research and anecdotal evidence have conclusively demonstrated time and again, alcohol wipes out all your gains and the benefits of creatine.
You might be disappointed now but hear me out, you CAN drink occasionally if you keep it light.
Some of you might not be convinced by my warnings. I can only suggest you drink boatloads of water to somewhat offset the dehydration alcohol and creatine might cause in tandem.
Please ask me any questions you might have and share your interesting experiences with me.
What is your secret strategy to offset the effects of alcohol on your bodybuilding routine? Let me know in the comment section below.