Many fitness enthusiasts are also social drinkers (guilty as charged). However, if you like to drink on occasion, have you stopped to think if it's interacting with any of your supplements?

One of the most popular muscle-building supplements is creatine, so is it safe to mix creatine and alcohol? Combining the two might seem harmless, but there could be significant consequences.

This guide will explore the effects of mixing creatine and alcohol and why you really shouldn’t do it. So before you mix a cocktail after an intense workout, take a look at what that could mean for your athletic performance and overall well-being.  

There’s no need to really worry about the negative side effects of mixing alcohol and creatine. Creatine is found naturally in red meat, and alcohol, in moderation, typically isn’t harmful.

However, while it is technically safe to mix creatine and alcohol, the combination can negatively impact your hard work and efforts in the gym.

Creatine and alcohol have opposite effects. Creatine stimulates protein synthesis, but alcohol hinders it. This interplay can limit or even cancel out the advantages of taking creatine. However, the occasional night out or beer after work won't cause severe harm.

Regular or excessive drinking, though, can significantly undermine the positive effects of creatine and hinder your progress toward your fitness goals. Excessive alcohol could:

  • Increase your risk of injury
  • Reduce your lean tissue mass
  • Slow down recovery time

How Does Alcohol Offset The Benefits Of Creatine? (5 Ways)

1. Alcohol Steals Water From Muscles

Alcohol has a diuretic effect, which means it takes water from your muscles. Too much of this can result in pain, cramping, and dehydration.

This has an obvious negative impact on muscle function and the effectiveness of your creatine supplement.

Creatine supplements need adequate hydration to aid in building muscle and maintaining it. If you're dehydrated, you won't get the maximum benefit of creatine supplementation. Excessive drinking may also lead to muscle breakdown or deterioration.

Alcohol can also harm the liver and kidneys, the organs responsible for producing and utilizing creatine. Excessive drinking can lead to liver and kidney disease and impair their function.

That’s why it’s crucial to be mindful of your drinking, especially when taking creatine supplements.

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2. Alcohol Hinders Protein Synthesis

The period immediately following resistance training or rest is critical for muscle development in athletes. And unfortunately, this is when alcohol interferes with progress.

Drinking has been shown to interfere with protein synthesis, growth hormone, GH, and insulin release. Insulin and GH are necessary for protein synthesis.

Protein synthesis is how your body builds new muscle and repairs muscle tissue, and it's a key component of muscle growth and recovery.

3. Alcohol Has A Negative Effect On Muscle Movements

According to animal studies, alcohol consumption has a negative impact on muscle movements. This is because alcohol slows down the movement of calcium, which affects muscle contraction.

That means consuming alcohol can negatively impact athletic performance and overall muscle function.

Pouring Alcohol Into Glass

4. Alcohol Can Slow Nutrient Absorption

Hopefully you eat healthy, nutritious meals every day. Your body needs those sweet nutrients to stay fueled up during exercise.

However, one of the most significant consequences of drinking alcohol is its interference with the body's ability to absorb nutrients.

When your body can’t absorb nutrients like protein and amino acids, your muscles:

  • Will be more injury-prone
  • Could react negatively to exercise
  • Will require a longer recovery period

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Alcohol's effect on nutrient metabolism can also slow your post-workout recovery, potentially hindering progress and results. This can also lead to weight gain.

5. Alcohol Makes Creatine Supplementation Less Effective

Along with the advantages for athletes, creatine may also prevent muscle degeneration in the elderly.

However, consuming alcohol negates the muscle-building and endurance-enhancing effects of creatine. This is due to several reasons:

  • Alcohol leads to dehydration - Alcohol acts as a diuretic and removes water from your tissues, resulting in dehydration, cramping, and pain.
  • Creatine needs hydration to be effective- Creatine helps build muscle by pulling water into your cells, but it can't perform properly if you don't drink enough water.
  • Alcohol affects the organs that produce and use creatine- Excessive and even long-term moderate alcohol consumption can harm your muscles, liver, and kidneys, which are the organs responsible for producing and using creatine. Regular heavy drinking can weaken your body over time.

In light of these facts, it's crucial to understand the impact of mixing these substances and to avoid doing so whenever possible. This is because the alcohol will cancel out the added nutrition of creatine.

How To Minimize The Negative Effects of Mixing Alcohol & Creatine?

Remember that alcohol isn’t a villain in this story, and it’s all about how much you drink. Sure, if you get wasted 3-4 times a week, you will most definitely see a negative impact on your fitness and overall health.

Consumed in excess, both alcohol and creatine pose potential health risks. However, being responsible can actually have some benefits.[1]

Here’s what a few drinks here and there can do for you:

  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Help remove the toxins from the body
  • Help flush excess water
  • Lower fatty acids
  • Give you better blood sugar levels control

Studies have even shown that people who have moderate amounts of alcohol live longer and have fewer health problems than people who avoid it altogether.[2]

Since alcohol can interact negatively with creatine, though, you want to do all you can to offset those negative effects. To be sure your alcohol and creatine combination doesn’t have side effects, you should:

  • Drink Water Regularly: Start your day by drinking water and continue to do so throughout the day. If you plan to drink later, have some water every 2-3 shots to renew the body water supply and avoid any issues. It’s essential to stay hydrated when you’re training and consuming creatine.
  • Choose the Right Food: To mitigate the adverse effects of alcohol, opt for fatty protein-rich foods like chicken, steak, or beef.
  • Time Your Creatine: To maximize the advantages of creatine, it's best to take it in the morning or within 30 minutes of your workout.
  • Practice Moderation: Excessive alcohol consumption can not only undo any health benefits but also lead to dehydration when creatine levels are elevated. Moderate consumption is needed to reach your fitness goals.

What Are The Main Benefits Of Creatine?

Creatine monohydrate is a dietary supplement very popular in the fitness community.[3]

Potential advantages are:

  • Improve brain function, including memory and reaction time
  • Improve recovery after high-intensity exercise or bodybuilding
  • It helps you exercise harder
  • Give you an extra energy boost after your muscles use their stored energy
  • Increased muscular strength and lean muscle mass (creatine builds muscle by drawing water into muscles and growing muscle fibers)
  • Improved exercise performance, especially in high-intensity training and short-duration activities
  • Enhanced recovery after exercising
  • Improved athletic performance in activities such as lifting weights and sprinting
  • Potential to reduce muscle damage and inflammation
  • Prevent muscle loss associated with aging
  • It may help to delay fatigue during exercise and provide extra fuel to push you through
  • Slow cognitive decline in older adults due to neurodegenerative diseases
  • Potential to enhance the advantages of resistance exercise
Mixing Transparent Labs Creatine HMB With Water

Common Questions About Mixing Creatine & Alcohol

How often can you drink alcohol when supplementing creatine?

When supplementing creatine, alcohol in moderation is okay. People in the fitness industry believe it's best to avoid drinking alcohol entirely if you're on creatine supplements or any other dietary supplements. Drinking alcohol in excess can undo the progress made in muscle tissue development. However, a glass of dry red wine or an occasional drink is okay.

How long should I wait to drink alcohol after taking creatine?

You should wait as long as possible to drink after taking creatine. Creatine supplements are safe to use, even if you have some alcohol while taking them. Waiting as long as possible to drink will help avoid having the positive things creatine does for the muscle cells canceled out by the alcohol.

Should you drink creatine when you're hungover?

It's not recommended to take creatine when you're hungover. When hungover, your body is dehydrated and depleted, which will affect the effectiveness of creatine supplementation. Mixing these two substances while you're hungover can lead to further dehydration and digestive discomfort.

What else should you not do while taking creatine?

While taking creatine, you need to avoid substances that can negatively interact with the supplement. This includes caffeine and other stimulants that can lead to dehydration and reduce the effectiveness of creatine. High amounts of sugar and simple carbohydrates can inhibit creatine uptake in the muscles, and processed foods and high-fat meals can decrease creatine absorption and reduce its effectiveness.

Conclusion

Creatine is a powerful amino acid compound that enhances muscle function and boosts energy. However, an alcoholic drink has the opposite effect and can counteract the positive impact of creatine.

To ensure you get the max benefit from your creatine supplement, you must stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoid consuming alcohol immediately after a workout.

You should avoid overindulgence if you choose to drink while taking a creatine supplement. Your best bet is never to mix alcohol and creatine.

References: 

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15301124/
  2. https://academic.oup.com/ageing/article/49/3/395/5730334?login=false
  3. https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/Fulltext/2021/07000/Creatine_Supplementation__An_Update.3.aspx
Miloš Lepotic

Miloš Lepotic

Meet Miloš, a certified sports nutritionist and self-taught supplement expert whose pharmacological background and nearly a decade of gym experience make him the perfect guide for optimizing your health and athletic performance through supplement reviews and practical advice rooted in factual, science-backed information.