Is the craze over a new high-protein beer unfounded?

The internet has gone wild over a beer that contains the same quantity of protein as the average protein-shake (21.8g). That’s unusually high for a beer. What’s more unusual is the fact that the beer was created by a sports nutrition brand in the UK.

So, is this a miracle for all of you fitness ninja? Or is this just a gimmick?

This beer – Barbell Brew – may have loads of protein. But are you sure that your body can synthesize it with alcohol present?

And is it really better to drink the protein-enriched Barbell Brew over regular beers?

Facts – Barbell Brew from Muscle Food

Barbell Brew High-protein Beer

Barbell Brew is a beer by Muscle Food that contains 21.8 grams of protein. Unless you have the sick habit of adding whiskey shots into your protein-shake, no other alcoholic beverage has even close to this much protein.

Protein Beer Nutrition

IngredientPer serving (330ml)
Energy92.4 kcal
Alcohol content3.6%

The above nutrition information was taken from Muscle Food’s website, and is claimed to be tested by a UKAS-accredited lab.

Can your body synthesize protein when drinking beer (alcohol)?

There is no doubt that drinking alcohol suppresses your body’s ability to process protein and recover your muscles. But to what extent?

Flexing muscles

Based on this study, you can drink up to two beers (28 grams of alcohol) before alcohol interferes with protein-synthesis. At 71 grams of alcohol (or roughly 5 to 7 beers), your body’s ability to process protein is impeded by 24%. That means even at 5 to 7 beers your protein synthesis is not fully affected. If you were wondering, the second study was done on athletes, who happen to binge-drink.

Therefore, it is fair to say that protein from Barbell Brew beer can still be partially synthesised if you binge-drink. But please don’t.

Is it better to drink Barbell Brew over other beers?

Barbell Brew claims to haves one-third fewer calories than the average beer. And its carbohydrate content is again significantly lower.

But here’s a brief explanation why I believe a comparison of calories and carbs is unnecessary.

There is a debate on whether calories in alcohol is absorbed by the body. Long story short. Alcohol calories is prioritised and used to a certain limit, and then gets dumped when you use the toilet. Calories do not tell the full story.

Whatever is eaten right before, after or during drinks is not immediately digested. Instead, once the alcohol is processed, the food nutrients you consume is subjected to your body’s suppressed protein synthesis and impaired fat oxidation (by up to 73% with 24 grams of alcohol consumed). With an impaired ability to burn fat, factors like (1) how physically active you are and (2) how much you eat, matters a lot more.

For the moderate – 1 to 2 beers drinker – there really is no significant impact on fat-gain. And assuming you are physically active, a comparison on beer carbohydrate and caloric content is immaterial.

But for the calorie-and-macros-obsessive (or the binge-drinkers), here’s a brief comparison.

Barbell Brew contains comparable calories (92.4 kcal) to the average light beer that ranges from 60 to 120kcal. So, it certainly fares better than regular beers in terms of calories.

As for carbs, it beats every beer in the market at 1.7 grams, except Thin Ice.

When you factor in the high-protein content, Barbell Brew emerges as the clear victor – even against other protein beer competitors (i.e. Mighty Squirrel – 4g protein). Its regular price tag of £15.95 (US$23) for 6 bottles is comparable to other beers in the UK. And the same can be said of its alcohol volume of 3.6%.

Verdict: Keeping it real about Barbell Brew, beer and workout

beer at sports bar

Drinking beer (or any alcohol) impairs your body’s ability to synthesize protein, oxidize fat, consolidate muscle-memory from training, and recover and grow muscles. If you are truly obsessive over muscle gains and burning fat, avoid drinking. The same goes for people on a strict fat-loss diet or cutting-phase.

Nonetheless, don’t take this as a green light to attack people on either side of the alcohol and fitness argument. There are pros and cons either way. Your life, your choices and your consequences.

If you like the occasional cold beer, Barbell Brew gives you the added benefit of protein – assuming that the lab-certified nutrition label is reliable. It probably won’t be in your local bars soon but you can get it here (available only in the UK).

Protein beer or not, drink in moderation (1 to 2 beers) to minimise interfering with protein-synthesis and post-workout recovery.

But let’s keep it damn real though. How many of you stop at 2 beers on a night out?

I know I don’t…

Barbell Brew from Muscle Food

Get your 21.8g high-protein beer today… only if you live in the UK
(and if you are at the legal drinking age)


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Lang, Charles H., Robert A. Frost, Vinayshree Kumar, Duanqing Wu, and Thomas C. Vary. “Impaired Protein Synthesis Induced by Acute Alcohol Intoxication Is Associated With Changes in EIF4E in Muscle and EIF2B in Liver.” Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 24, no. 3 (2000): 322-31.

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