Can You Mix Whey Protein With Alcohol? (What Science Says)

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As a Nutrition Coach, many of my clients ask whether they can mix alcohol and whey protein. I’ve studied the science, and below I’ll share with you what you can expect if you plan on drinking alcohol and whey protein together.

Key Takeaways

  • Since alcohol inhibits the body’s ability to break down protein into amino acids, you will not get the same benefit from your protein shake as you would without the alcohol.
  • There can be some benefit to drinking certain types of protein close to drinking alcohol. Drinking a casein protein shake (not whey) 1.5-2 hours BEFORE an alcoholic drink can help to slow the effects of the alcohol.
  • If you are going to drink alcohol, it is best to wait at least 1-2 hours to consume your protein shake to help your body digest and absorb the protein better (as the alcohol leaves your system).

Benefits of Mixing Whey Protein with Alcohol 

Pros vs Cons of mixing whey protein with alcohol

1. You Won’t Feel the Effect of the Alcohol As Quickly

Protein slows down your digestion process, so by consuming a protein shake before or with alcohol, you will decrease the rate of alcohol absorption keeping you from feeling the effect of the alcohol as quickly.

If you’ve ever had a drink on an empty stomach, you’ll be familiar with how quickly the effect of the alcohol can be felt. 

If you can consume protein before or with your alcohol, this will help slow down your digestive system, and the alcohol will be absorbed slower. 

2. Consuming Protein With Alcohol Might Prevent Overeating

Protein is highly satiating, which can be beneficial when paired with alcohol. 

Since alcohol consumption has been linked to excessive hunger and food cravings, eating protein that will keep you fuller for longer could help to reduce the risk of a late-night, post-alcohol junk food binge.

This can save you tons of calories that would otherwise negatively impact your body composition. 

Related: What Can You Mix With Whey Protein (13 Examples)

Drawbacks of Mixing Whey Protein with Alcohol

1. It Interferes With Your Body’s Ability To Use Protein for Muscle Growth

Consuming alcohol will limit your body’s ability to digest and break down protein to be used for muscle growth. 

One of the key bodily functions that protein assists with is muscle repair and recovery

However, to do so, your body has to break down protein into amino acids, which are then transported to your muscles. 

Consuming alcohol interferes with this process, meaning the protein you are consuming with your alcohol is not giving you the same benefits that it would if you were to take it on its own. 

“Consuming alcohol can negatively affect your body’s ability to absorb and utilize protein. Alcohol can decrease the secretion of pancreatic enzymes that break proteins down into amino acids, thereby resulting in the inability to effectively absorb protein. Additionally, alcohol can reduce absorption by damaging the cells that line your stomach and small intestine. These cells are responsible for the absorption of protein.”

-Arielle Kemps, MD, RD

Instead, it’s best to focus on consuming most of your protein before consuming alcohol so that your body can use that protein optimally to repair your muscles. 

2. Alcohol Contains Empty Calories

If you are eating a high-protein diet with a fat-loss goal in mind, alcohol is not the most optimal liquid to mix with your whey protein since it is higher in calories that are essentially void of nutrition.

“An “empty calorie” has the same energy content as any other calorie, but lacks many accompanying nutrients such as vitamins, dietary minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, or dietary fiber. In a sense, they are on the opposite spectrum of superfoods.”

-Jennifer Iserloh, IIN Health Coach

While alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, which is void of any nutrients, what you mix with your alcohol will also pack a calorie punch. 

For example, most sodas and juices contain at least 100 calories per 8 oz serving.

Does Alcohol Impact Protein Absorption?

Yes, alcohol interferes with your body’s ability to break down protein into amino acids, making it difficult to absorb and reducing the muscle-building benefits protein provides. 

Research shows that alcohol interferes with nutrient absorption and utilization by altering your body’s ability to break down, transport, metabolize, and store these nutrients. This includes micronutrients, like vitamins and minerals, as well as macronutrients like protein. 

What does this mean? 

When we are considering protein, one of the biggest benefits protein provides is helping repair and grow our muscles. Alcohol interferes with this process so any protein we consume with alcohol, or shortly after consuming alcohol, will not provide the same benefits. 

Key Takeaway: While it doesn’t completely cancel out the benefits of protein, it does reduce them, so it’s best to focus on consuming protein 1.5 – 2 hours before drinking alcohol. This gives your body sufficient time to absorb the protein consumed without alcohol interference.

Should You Leave A Gap Between Drinking Alcohol & Whey Protein 

If your goal is muscle growth, leaving a gap of at least two hours after drinking alcohol before whey protein is beneficial to help your body better digest and absorb the protein consumed.

The negative impact that alcohol has on protein absorption is not an on-off switch, rather it’s a sliding scale that is reduced as the alcohol is leaving your system. 

This means that the longer you wait after drinking alcohol to consume protein, the better your body will be able to absorb and utilize the protein. 

If you’ve only had 1-2 drinks, waiting 2 hours should be sufficient. However, if you’ve had quite a few drinks in the evening, it’s best to wait until the next morning to have a protein shake. 

This means that the whey protein shake you consume after coming home from a night out is likely not the best idea, save it until the next morning for the best results. 

If you are not concerned about muscle growth and recovery, but instead want to reduce the quick effects of alcohol, then there is no need for a gap between the alcohol and your protein shake.

My Recommendation As A Nutrition Coach 

Mixing whey protein with alcohol is not recommended when you have very high protein needs as the alcohol will interfere too significantly with your protein absorption.

Consuming alcohol and protein together will reduce the amount of protein that your body can effectively absorb and use. For someone who has a high protein need, this interference will be too much. 

What is a high protein need you may be wondering? Well, there are generally two scenarios. 

The first is someone that is looking to put on a lot of muscle mass, in a controlled period. Think of a powerlifter preparing for a competition or a bodybuilder in a bulking cycle. 

The second is someone in a significant calorie deficit, think of a bodybuilder about to get on stage.

In both these cases, proper protein absorption is critical to achieving the muscle-building goals that are desired, and therefore it’s best to limit alcohol consumption generally. 

Does Arnold Schwarzenegger Mix Protein With Alcohol? 

It’s unclear whether Arnold is being serious or not in this 2019 video where he can be seen mixing whey protein with cherry juice, banana, and schnapps.  

To me, it looks like Arnold is being playful and is not actually recommending this to his followers.  

Throughout the history of Arnold’s bodybuilding career, there was no documentation that he actually believed in mixing alcohol with whey protein.  

On the contrary, he was extremely regimented with his nutrition, often making his own protein shakes from scratch using milk, yeast, skimmed milk powder, and honey.  

However, assuming he was serious in this video, the practice of mixing whey protein with alcohol doesn’t align with best practices according to current research in nutritional science.  

My advice: Don’t be like Arnold Schwarzenegger in this video. 

Best Types of Protein To Mix With Alcohol

Even though my recommendation is NOT to mix alcohol with a protein shake, there are going to be some readers who choose to do so anyway.  

If that’s you, casein protein powder (not whey) is best to mix with alcohol.  

It’s slower digesting, which will reduce the effects of alcohol and make you feel more full and satisfied throughout the evening of drinking.

Tips For Drinking Whey Protein With Alcohol

tips for drinking whey protein with alcohol

1. Drink Your Whey Protein Before Your Alcoholic Drink

Alcohol absorption is impacted significantly by what else you’ve eaten. 

Having a protein-rich food in your stomach will help to slow down the absorption of alcohol and how quickly you feel its effects.

2. Mix Your Whey Protein With Water

Mixing your protein shake with water will help keep you hydrated and reduce any hangover symptoms you experience the next day. 

One of the biggest causes of the dreaded hangover is dehydration. 

If you can consume plenty of water while drinking, this can help reduce those symptoms. Mixing your whey protein with water is a great way to get extra water and help keep you hydrated.

3. Add Some Electrolytes Into Your Protein Shake

Adding electrolytes into your protein shake, like gatorade, will help keep your salt and potassium levels high, which are depleted while drinking resulting in hangover symptoms. 

Consuming alcohol will also deplete your sodium and potassium levels, which cause some of the hangover symptoms you experience. 

Adding electrolytes to your protein shake will replenish these nutrients helping to reduce these symptoms.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Drink Beer After Drinking a Protein Shake?

Yes, you can, however, it’s best to wait 1.5 – 2 hours before starting to consume beer. 

This will give your body enough time to digest and absorb the protein, giving you all the benefits protein provides, before consuming alcohol which will interfere with this process. 

Can You Drink Wine After Having a Protein Shake?

Yes, you can, however, it’s best to wait 1.5 – 2 hours before drinking your wine. 

This will give your body enough time to digest and absorb the protein, giving you all the benefits protein provides, before consuming alcohol which will interfere with this process. 

Can You Mix Protein Powder With Vodka?

Yes, you can mix protein powder with vodka, it will help slow down the rate at which you feel the effects of alcohol. However, your body won’t fully absorb the protein it’s consuming. 

Therefore, for the most optimal results, consume additional protein before drinking alcohol to help offset this reduction.

If I Drink Whey Protein in the Morning, Can I Drink Alcohol in the Evening?

Yes, consuming whey protein more than 2 hours before drinking will not impact your body’s ability to utilize the protein. 

When drinking in the evening, consuming all your daily protein before beginning drinking is recommended so your body can best utilize the protein without alcohol interfering. 

Will Protein Powder Dissolve in Alcohol?

While protein powder will dissolve in alcohol, it takes 8 oz of liquid to dissolve a scoop of protein powder. 

Since 8 oz of straight alcohol would not be very pleasant to drink, it’s best to use an 8 oz mixed drink per 1 scoop of protein. 

Other Resources For Mixing Whey Protein


Dericioglu, D., Oldham, S., Methven, L., & Clegg, M. (2022). The effect of different macronutrients on appetite and satiety in older and younger adults. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 81(OCE5), E203. doi:10.1017/S0029665122002361

Yeomans MR, Caton S, Hetherington MM. Alcohol and food intake. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2003 Nov;6(6):639-44. doi: 10.1097/00075197-200311000-00006. PMID: 14557794.

Preedy VR, Reilly ME, Patel VB, Richardson PJ, Peters TJ. Protein metabolism in alcoholism: effects on specific tissues and the whole body. Nutrition. 1999 Jul-Aug;15(7-8):604-8. doi: 10.1016/s0899-9007(99)00096-9. PMID: 10422097.

Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A. & Krieger, J.W. The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 10, 53 (2013).

Baj J, Flieger W, Teresiński G, Buszewicz G, Sitarz R, Forma A, Karakuła K, Maciejewski R. Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, Sodium, Phosphorus, Selenium, Zinc, and Chromium Levels in Alcohol Use Disorder: A Review. J Clin Med. 2020 Jun 18;9(6):1901. doi: 10.3390/jcm9061901. PMID: 32570709; PMCID: PMC7357092.

About The Author

Laura Semotiuk

Laura Semotiuk is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She works with athletes and active individuals looking to improve performance and develop healthy nutritional habits and behaviors. She has a passion for cooking, meal prepping, and creating simple and healthy recipes.

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