Alcohol is bad for us. Well, drinking too much alcohol is bad for us. In small amounts, drinking some alcohol won’t do us that much harm. There are even studies that show drinking a moderate amount of alcohol on a weekly basis is better for us than not drinking anything at all.
But just how much is moderate? And how do we enjoy alcohol without sacrificing our health—both mentally and physically? Is it really possible?
And does it mean that if you make a mistake on a night out that the whole plan is ruined? Some people fear that they’ve ruined their health because they didn’t stick to a plan that they had. Don’t worry, we will cover all of that and more throughout this article to help you enjoy alcohol without sacrificing your health.
Here’s a guide to enjoying that drink every now and then. Here’s how you can look after your mental and physical health, while not feeling like you’re missing out socially.
How Much Is Too Much Alcohol?
Let’s start by looking at levels of drinking. Just how much is too much for us?
Look at your current intake. How much would you say you currently have? Now be honest with yourself. Most of us will underestimate the amount that we have. We forget that a unit of spirits is one unit, but we never have that one unit if we’re pouring our own. That one small glass of wine is a unit, but we always end up drinking a medium or large glass instead.
The units soon quickly add up. That glass of wine a night, while we’re cooking dinner, is quickly forgotten about and can we really remember just how many we had last weekend with the girls—do we know just how much was even put in those cocktails?
Chances are you’re having too much without even thinking about it. We should only have a unit or two a day. And that doesn’t have to be every single day of the week. Oh but we shouldn’t drink a full week’s worth of alcohol in one night.
There are all these stipulations and rules when it comes to drinking. We hear all the time about how it’s bad for us. It’s making us gain weight, damaging out hearts and liver, and affecting our mental states.
More young people are actually choosing not to drink alcohol anymore. But are they actually doing themselves any good? Well, actually the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that drinking moderate amounts of wine helped women absorb more calcium, which meant they had 12-16% better bone densities than those who didn’t drink anything at all. So, really that means that drinking a little is better than nothing at all.
Alcohol Isn’t the Only Thing Bad for Us
Let’s look at this one simple fact. As much as we want to say that alcohol is killing us, there are lots of other things that we’ll do in our lives that will kill us too. We drive or walk by cars. Some of us smoke, and we don’t always get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night. Who can even honestly say that they drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day? And then there are our diets to consider.
Drinking some alcohol every now and then isn’t going to kill us instantly. It’s not going to be overly bad for us. But we hear all these horror stories that we can’t help but wonder. We can’t help but feel like we’re risking our lives all the time.
It’s time to get out of that mindset.The more you stay in it, the more your mental health will be negatively affected. If you continue to think this way, you’ll just start to spiral into depression and not be able to enjoy your life in the way that you should.
Trying to force yourself to quit drinking completely can actually have a more detrimental effect. You start to want the alcohol more, and you’re likely to crave it. You may even give into those cravings and binge one evening. All that good you’ve done to your body has been wiped out by the binge drinking because of the strain that you’ve put your liver under.
What Exactly Does Alcohol Do to the Body?
Before we even consider how to drink without sacrificing our health, we need to know more about the actual component. What does it do to our bodies? How does it have a negative effect?
Whenever we drink, around 20% of the alcohol is absorbed straight into the blood stream. The rest starts to be digested and then gets into the blood stream. It runs through our bodies and into our livers, where it is then metabolised and burned off. The liver has to work to get the toxin out of the system.
The body can only burn a unit every 60-90 minutes. The rest has to wait in line. So the more you drink, the longer it will take to burn it all off. If you’re planning on driving the next day, you definitely don’t want to drink that much because your body won’t be able to burn it all off in time. There have been plenty of people caught out by that when they’ve been driving the morning after!
The actual time that it takes for our bodies to burn off all the alcohol will depend on other factors, including our weight, metabolic rate, and body fat percentage. The more body fat we have, the harder it is for our bodies to get rid of the alcohol quickly.
So how do we drink less and should we focus on certain types of alcohol that will work out better for us? Let’s take a look, shall we?
You Need to Set Some Drinking and Health Goals
Before you go out and enjoy your odd glass of wine, you’ll want to set up some goals. This will give you an idea of when you need to stop and the type of alcohol that you really want to opt for.
Are you doing this as a way to improve your heart health? Would you like to lose weight or are you trying to help your mental health?
While you consider this, think about who you are as a person. Are you one of those who can only drink one and then stop for the rest of the night? Will that one turn into 5, 10 or even 15?
The goals that you have will determine the amount of alcohol that is okay for you in a week. If you’re trying to build muscle, drinking as little as possible will be better. If you just want to lose a bit of weight and feel better with yourself, try having that glass of wine at the end of the night. Stick to a small glass and see how you are after a month. Cut down rather than completely cut out.
Those who do struggle to stop at one may want to cut it out completely. You know it’s the alcohol that is making it harder for you to say no to the second and more drinks. Or you could buy those small bottles for the house—just one for the night after work. This will make sure you only have the exact amount that you know you’re allowed to drink.
Wine is Better than Beer
As much as there are sugars in wine, it tends to be the better option when it comes to drinking. This is especially the case when compared to beer and when you choose to drink red wine.
There have been studies that have shown that red wine can help to protect the heart. Having one glass every now and then can reduce your risk of dying young by 33%.
What’s moderate? Well, just a glass every now and then. You don’t need to have one every night, but you can choose to have one every other night. And to avoid sacrificing your health, opt for a small glass of wine instead of a large one. You can also use it in your cooking, as this burns off a lot of the bad stuff and helps to keep the good stuff.
White wine can offer some of the benefits, but not as many. The problem with white and rose wines is that they are full of sugars. They are full of empty carbs that can lead to you gaining weight. The good that you’re doing to your body is negated by the sugars. Red wine doesn’t have as many.
So, the first thing to do is focus on drinking more wine than beer.
And what about spirits? They’re certainly better than beer and may be better than white or rose wine. They’ve not been as positive as red wine in studies, but more research is needed. But it’s worth pointing out that spirits tend to have far more alcohol in a unit than the likes of beer and wine. While you may consume fewer calories, you could end up doing more damage quicker than you would if you opted for the small glass of wine.
If you’re going to opt for the liquors, look at the likes of scotch, whiskey, or brandy. They all have more antioxidants than other types of spirits, so they can actually help your body in small amounts. Bacardi and vodka aren’t quite as good, but they are better than some of the other options out there.
Stay Away From the Cocktails
While cocktails are fun and tend to be involved in a girls’ night out, they aren’t the best option for our health. If you want to enjoy drinking without sacrificing your health, it’s time to make a change away from the cocktails. Opt for the likes of spirits and tonic or soda—and diet versions in some cases. You could also opt for a glass of wine instead.
The issue with cocktails isn’t just the amount of alcohol put in them—although the alcohol is certainly an issue. It’s with the amount of fruit juice also put in them. Not only will you end up drinking far too many units, but you’ll also take in far too many calories and sugars. The fruit juices are full of them, but we pretend that the cocktails are better for us because of the fruit juices.
Just think about drinking fruit juice when not mixed with alcohol. You’d watch the amount that you had because you know it isn’t the best thing for your overall health. Why then are we willing to add them in large amounts when it comes to alcohol to make up for the bad stuff?
In fact, the alcohol and fruit juices have negative conjoined effects. By drinking alcohol, you boost the level of insulin production. The fruit juice then sugars in the body, so you produce even more insulin. You’re more likely to crash and suffer from diabetes at the same time.
White wine is better than fruit cocktails. Red wine is one of the best options. Straight spirits or mixed with some tonic water would be better than the fruit cocktails. Consider these the options the next time you’re out with the girls and don’t want to ruin your social life completely.
Make Your Drinking Plan
So, you know what you should drink, and you have your goals in life. Now it’s time to create that drinking plan to be able to enjoy it without doing excess damage to your body. This doesn’t need to take too long to figure out.
Let’s start this by working out when you will be going out drinking. What days will you be meeting with your friends for a few in the pub? For most people, it’s Friday and Saturday nights, but you may also choose Sunday afternoons and the evenings after work. There’s no right or wrong answer to this. We’re not saying right now that you need to stop going out with your friends.
We’re actually trying to tell you the opposite. You don’t need to give up your social life for your health. You can enjoy a few within the week while protecting your health. Most people actually feel better by knowing that they can still socialise without feeling worse for wear the next day.
It’s completely up to you how many nights you will be out with friends. If you know that going out with certain people is a problem for you, then you can choose to cut down on the time you spend with them if you want. If you find that certain people make it easy only to have a few drinks and then switch to non-alcoholic options, there’s nothing wrong with spending your time with them—of course, that’s if you like spending your time with them.
One thing that you don’t want is to change your plans so much that you feel like you’re missing out. You don’t want your mind to drift towards drinking for other reasons.
Just make sure you know how many nights are drinking you will have in the week to work out just how much you’ll be drinking. Or at least to work out how to spread your alcohol allowance across the week. For those who find it hard to have just the one but don’t want to miss out completely, spread your nights out further apart so your body has time to recover.
Part of your plan needs to be what you’ll drink in between the nights that you’re out drinking. Stick to soft drinks and water throughout the week where possible. Have water with your meals or opt for soft drinks to make it look like you’re enjoying an alcoholic tipple.
And before you go anywhere to drink, make sure you have food in your system. If you don’t have time after work, arrange to meet for food somewhere first. The food will help you later. You’ll have something to be able to soak up some of the alcohol so it won’t have as much of an effect on you. Without the food, you will just end up succumbing to the after-effects much easier, and your head and body will pay for it the next day.
Watch out what type of food you choose to eat. You don’t want to opt for fatty hamburgers or quick snack type meals. You’ll need to sit down and have something substantial to gain all the benefits.
There’s nothing wrong with deciding not to drink at all on some of the nights out. You can do this a couple of ways.
The first is by saying that you will be designated, driver. Just think of how much your friends will owe you when they don’t need to spend money on the cab! You can get that favour paid back to you in other ways, such as them taking on extra work for you or them paying for a couple of your soft drinks to keep you sober.
The second is by faking that you’re drinking alcoholic drinks. We’ve already mentioned this, and we’ll mention it again. Some people feel embarrassed that they’re not drinking, especially if they’re with friends who they’ve been drinking with for a long time. You may not want to tell them right now that you’re putting your health first, so have clear liquids throughout the night.
If you’re out with friends from work and you’re embarrassed for not drinking—although you really shouldn’t feel that way—ask if you can be left out of round buying so they don’t realise that you’re not ordering any alcohol. You can then pretend you have alcohol in your drink.
Stop Switching Between the Different Alcohols
Beer, wine, and spirits definitely do not mix. Many people start on beer or wine and then move onto spirits, cocktails, and more. They switch to shots and then onto margaritas and even jagerbombs. Do you know just how much damage you are doing to yourself?
You run the risk of doing far more damage to your body than if you drink extra beers throughout the night. You will end up drunk—very drunk—and won’t know just how much you’ve consumed throughout the night. How many times have you woken up the next morning with a furry feeling in your mouth, wondering just how much you had?
You inhibitions go out of the window, and you put yourself at a lot of risks by getting yourself into a state. We don’t want to victim blame, but you can help to lower the chances of getting into trouble by limiting your drinking.
Pick a drink to have throughout the night and stick to it. Sure, everyone else may be getting shots, but that doesn’t mean you have to join in. Or you could try doing what Lily did on How I Met Your Mother and found someone else to have your share of the drinks—they’ll love you for it until the next morning!
The only drinks that you can mix are alcohol and soft drinks. For each alcoholic drink you have, follow it up with a soft drink or two—water is better for you, but you may want something a little sweeter when it comes to a night out.
You’ll feel so much better for it the next morning, and your body will definitely thank you for all the hard work you did. By alternating your drinks, you’re not putting as much alcohol into your system. Rather than having two or three units within the space of an hour, you can stick to one every two hours or so. By the time you’re ready for another drink, your body will have metabolised your alcohol.
And your friends won’t really notice. In fact, most of them probably won’t care, and you can always just say that you were thirsty and will move back onto the alcohol in a bit. By the time they notice the second time, they’ll be so drunk that they won’t remember. Meanwhile, you can know that you’re enjoying your night, will remember it all, and will be able to keep you and everyone else safer until you all get home.
This is a trick that many people on diets follow. They alternate with water so that they keep a drink in their hands but don’t have all the extra calories. If you’re working on losing weight, you could even use that as an excuse not to have the next alcoholic drink right away.
Don’t Forget Your Water Before You Turn In for the Night
Too many people forget this trick, but it is one of the best. Whether you’ve alternated your drinks throughout the night or completely mixed them up, make sure you do this to at least help improve your sleep.
In the last hour before you go to bed, stop drinking anything but water. By this point, most of your friends won’t even notice. You could even encourage them to have a glass of water or two in the last hour.
Remember that alcohol dehydrates the body. This is part of the reason why you can’t sleep. Your body wakes you up wanting more water from you. So, if you drink it before you go to bed, you give your body time to take it in and use it up before it wakes you up for more.
Drink as much water as you can before you turn in for the night. You’ll probably need to urinate some point during the night, but it will be worth it. Your body won’t feel as heavy or drained as it would without the water.
Be sensible about how you feel. There’s nothing wrong with switching to water earlier. All you’re saying is that you know your limits and you don’t want to make a complete fool of yourself in front of others. You want to be able to enjoy your night and get up the next morning feeling productive and ready to start.
Work on Overhauling the Rest of Your Life
As we’ve seen, it’s not just the drinking that is having a bad effect on your health. That lack of sleep and the poor eating habits are also causing problems. It’s time to make some changes everywhere. You need to start overhauling the rest of your life.
Let’s start one step at a time. Work with your diet first.
How often do you skip a meal during the day—usually breakfast or lunch? You have all the excuses of having too much to do or not realising what the time was, but in reality, you think that skipping a meal will help you lose weight. Or you think that skipping one meal every day or so won’t actually do you that much harm.
Skipping a meal every once in a while isn’t going to do too much harm, but skipping a meal every day will have a detrimental effect. Your body doesn’t get the energy it needs. You start to feel hungry at points, so you’re more likely to snack throughout the day. And we all know that those snacks are never that healthy for you!
Even if you don’t skip and snack, take a look at the foods you’re eating. Make sure you get plenty of fruit and vegetables and limit the amount of saturated fats that you eat. Focus on getting more protein and fibre, while getting good carbs that won’t sugar quickly. Cut out refined or processed products and enjoy your meals from scratch.
Your body will thank you when you get more of the nutrients it needs. Your immune system will be supported, and your organs will work better. The alcohol that you are drinking will be countered by the healthy food that you consume.
While doing that, make a switch to having more water throughout the day. It’s time to get the 8 glasses that you’re recommended because you will feel better for it. Your skin will glow, and your body will feel refreshed. Drinking more is important if it’s hot or you’ve been exercise.
Switch your soft drinks for water as much as possible. Limit the amount of coffee or tea that you drink and switchto plain water. You’re not boring; you’re just health conscious.
And of course, it’s time to improve your activity levels. You need to get out and do more, but that doesn’t mean you have to join a gym. There are so many ways that you can get more activity on a daily basis.
Let’s start with the likes of walking. Try to walk more throughout the day. Just 30 minutes of walking a day can help to improve your cardiovascular and joint health. You’ll get the blood pumping around the body to help your organs function the way they should. If you’ve overdone it on a night out, consider getting out for a walk because the fresh air and exercise will do your body the world of good.
If you want to join a gym, by all means, do it. But don’t feel like you have just to be able to get more activity. You could take up a sporting hobby instead or find an aerobics class in your area that sounds like fun.
There are plenty of options available. We tend to get stuck on ideas that we absolutely hate to find a reason not to exercise, but it’s time to stop doing that. By exercising more, your body will be in a better shape to handle the alcohol that you drink.
Another way to change your lifestyle is to get more sleep. I know that this is sometimes easier said than done, but you need to find a way. Sleep is one of the most important parts of the day because it really does help your body recover and get ready for the next day.
You should get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep on a night. Some people will find they can function on the minimum 6, while others feel they need 9 hours or so. We’re all different, but 6 to 8 is the recommended amount.
If you’re struggling to get to sleep, it’s time to make a few changes to your routine. Find a way to wind down on a night and get your body into a relaxed state to be able to fall asleep. You could need a warm bath to settle your mind, or you may find that you need that hot cup of cocoa. Some people find that they need to switch off all electronic equipment for an hour before they go to bed to help settle their brain.
Those who have high-stress levels may find that sleep is a lot harder to come by. You’ll need to find a way to deal with your stress—and not through your drinking! As you ease the stress you feel, you’ll find that your body is able to relax better. This can help other areas of your life, too. Less stress means that your brain is able to release the good hormones around your body, so you don’t suffer from chronic pain or fatigue as much.
Take Care of the Hangover
After a night of drinking, you may end up with a hangover. This is your body’s way of telling you that the drinking the night before was a very bad idea. The problem is how many of us listen to ourselves?
Okay, so you want to know how you can enjoy your alcohol without sacrificing your health, but sometimes you will go over the top. We all make mistakes. It’s okay!
The trick is to change what you do after your night out. It’s time to start tackling the hangover and give your body a reason not to hate you right now.
Start with water. That is the one thing your body needs right now. It’s dehydrated, and you’ve lost all your electrolytes from the alcohol the night before. A sports drink can also be beneficial since it will help to replace the lost electrolytes. This is why you will find a lot of people turning to drinks like Gatorade or Lucozade the day after a night out.
If you don’t want a sports drink, opt for some fruit juice. It will at least get some of the lost sugars back into your system. You won’t need a lot. Just a glass or two and then you can move onto the water.
And if you’re still not interested in the sports drinks, turn to the right type of food. Your body is struggling to get potassium after your night out, so you’ll want to eat something that replaces this mineral. Bananas are one of the best sources of potassium, so eat one.
Now it’s time to wake yourself up. A long hot shower will be your best friend. It can help your muscles relax and clear your head. You’ll also stop feeling like you’re sweating alcohol and smell of last night.
Those who find the hot shower not working, make a switch to a cold one! This will help you instantly wake up. Don’t stay in for too long!
You could also try the sauna or a steam room. The benefit of these two is that they’ll encourage more sweating, which means you get the alcohol out through your pores. Just make sure you don’t fall asleep on them and take a drink in with you because you’ll also get more dehydrated from the heat.
Try some light exercise, such as a morning stroll or some jumping jacks. The benefit is that you get the blood flowing around your body to help your liver keep working while it gets out all the alcohol from your system. Of course, being dehydrated is a problem so don’t do anything too strenuous.
Avoid taking any Tylenol for your headache or any other bodily aches. Your liver is too busy working on the alcohol. Any painkiller will mean that the liver needs to work in a different way and you end up with toxicity problems within your body. Your liver can become inflamed, causing some permanent damage.
If you really can’t stand the pain, opt for ibuprofen instead. This isn’t processed in the same way as other painkillers so you won’t do the extra damage.
You Can Enjoy Your Night Out
There’s no need to sacrifice your health by drinking. But that doesn’t mean you can’t drink anything at all. With a few simple tips, you could have the best of both worlds.
It’s time now for you to think about your goals. What do you want to achieve by cutting down on drinking? What is a realistic goal for you when it comes to your nights out? Are you one of those people who can drink very little while all their friends are enjoying a night out? Maybe you’re one of those who has one drink and then feels the need to have much more.
Once you know who you are and what your goals are, you can create your plan. This doesn’t have to be a plan set in stone, but the more final for the week, the better. Think about the nights out that you have planned and the amount you will be drinking. Limit or avoid the drinking on the rest of the days to help protect your health.
When you are drinking, think of ways that you can look after yourself. It’s not just the drinking that is affecting your health. Your whole lifestyle could be a problem. Take a look at everything about yourself to see how you can improve your life.
You may not want to sacrifice your health, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up alcohol completely. It doesn’t mean you have to become tee-total. Take the steps above, and you can have the best of both worlds.