Is alcohol bad for you?! I think the default answer that pops into our minds is yes but I don’t necessarily believe that’s the case. If we’re consuming a lot of anything then yes, it probably is bad for you. This stands true for not just alcohol but anything; croissants, smoothies, carrots! Obviously eating 10 croissants or having 10 cocktails a day is harder on our bodies than eating a ton of something deemed ‘healthier, like carrots for example, but you get what I’m saying.
Since summer’s almost over you might be having some thoughts about those poolside cocktails, positive or negative! This blog is going to touch on what a healthy limit looks like, alcohol from a caloric point of view, identifying dependency and strategies for cutting back.
The key when it comes to alcohol is finding your own unique balance! The balance between indulging in a drink or two at a summer pool party or a patio dinner vs. binge drinking every weekend. The balance between a glass of wine at the end of the evening and an unhealthy habit like dependance or reliance on alcohol.
It can be hard to know what a ‘healthy limit’ is. You might guess it’s based on weight and body size. Your own personal limits are based on the rate that your body metabolizes alcohol which is impossible to really measure other than through trial and error. Most people know how many drinks it takes them to feel ‘drunk’ or how many will push them over. This is influenced slightly by body size but also the liver size and the number of specific enzymes your body produces!
Let’s talk about enzymes for a hot minute. When someone is lactose intolerant they are not producing enough of an enzyme called lactase. Genetics play a similar role for alcohol and some people have different amounts of the ADH and ALDH enzyme (source) . So if you are low in these enzymes you won’t be able to metabolize alcohol as fast and your tolerance will be lower!
Know that everyone’s limits very! By definition, binge drinking is over the healthy limit for everyone. By definition binge drinking is:
“a pattern of drinking that brings a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks or women consume 4 or more drinks in about 2 hours.” -The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
This might seem vague. Is an unhealthy limit based on your enzymes or what the NIAAA says?! I keep coming back to the importance of knowing what your body can handle.
While social media glamorizes drinking with pretty cocktails, healthy/skinny alternatives, and elaborate bath time setups featuring a crisp Sauv Blanc, or a velvety rich Cabernet Sauvignon and a lit candle, drinking still has serious consequences. We’re all aware of what it can lead to so I don’t have to list it down, but I think it’s important to have a gentle reminder that alcohol can be an addictive substance and some very horrible things can come of intoxication.
From a Caloric Point of View
Unfortunately, alcohol does add calories and those calories add up. If you have body goals that revolve around a certain caloric intake then make sure you’re considering the fact that alcohol has 7 calories per gram! This might sound confusing but don’t worry about the science. Basically, 1 ounce of pure spirit is going to have 90-120 calories. Yes, even those ‘0 Carb’ drinks are still probably 90 calories minimum. And the biggest catch..alcohol molecules digest similar to carbohydrate! So even though it might not spike your blood sugar, alcohol still follows the same metabolic pathway as a carbohydrate. Stressful, I know! I’m only telling you ‘cause I love you and I think you deserve to be well informed!
If you’re looking to make healthy choices opt for something lighter or low calories. You can also make your own and choose soda water and fresh citrus like lemon, lime, orange or grapefruit as your mix. Alternatively, you can use a diet soda or a sweetener like Mio or Crystal Light sometimes I even mix my spirits with kombucha or a probiotic drink for a healthier cocktail. Give sparkling wine and kombucha a try for brunch option with the girls or even Gin and Kombucha.
One of my favorite spirits happens to be Mezcal which is an agave-based liquor. The flavor profile is very different than Tequila because it is typically smokier. There are also lots of rumors going around saying that Mezcal is healthier because it's viewed as an aperitif which stimulates the appetite. Using mezcal as an aperitif and digestif is nothing new. It helps with digestion, as well as the regulation of blood sugars. Mezcal is also naturally gluten-free.
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes a nice glass of wine at the end of the night is a perfect way to end a long day. For me, it doesn’t matter if I’m celebrating a super accomplished day or a long and stressful one. The drink isn’t a way to forget or hide, it’s an opportunity to slow down, reflect and enjoy. I could spend this same hour of my evening with a cup of tea, or a bit of CBD. It’s the act of slowing down not the drink that accompanies it.
When that drinking becomes a habit and that habit becomes a dependency, then the relationship is no longer healthy.
Ask yourself the following questions:
“Am I thinking about this drink all day?”
“Would I be upset if I was completely out of this alcohol and couldn’t have my nightly beverage?”
“Has weekend drinking become evening drinking?”
“Has an evening glass of wine become an evening bottle?”
If you’re feeling uneasy with your answers to any of these questions that’s okay. You are supported.
If you feel like your relationship with alcohol isn’t at a healthy stage it may be time to implement some boundaries to help you restabilize that relationship. You
Don’t keep any extra alcohol in the house
Buy only what you need when necessary
Gift/regift unwanted bottles
Talk with your spouse about your decision to not drink/drink less. Ask for support.
Visit your local AA meetings
Know yourself and your limits
At the end of the day, it’s all about moderation and self-awareness. Drinking a glass of wine is good for you, drinking an entire bottle could do some damage and can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. Find a healthy balance for yourself based on your body and lifestyle needs. Enjoy those end of the summer cocktails if it suits you and don’t forget to mix in some water and nourish and love up your body the next day!