It’s currently rainy and 45 degrees in Boston.
BUT- it’s post memorial day weekend so in my mind it’s officially summer. You have to have some optimism living in New England.
This past memorial day weekend I had an amazing couple days on Nantucket which included tons of burgers, fries, lobster rolls; pretty much anything I could get my hands was devoured. Comes with the summer season, amiright?
Alcohol also goes hand and hand with summer time. The nicer the weather, the more apt you are to meet up with friends, host BBQs, and eat outdoors – all of which come with alcohol consumption.
I’m a firm believer in having a couple drinks. Whether its beers with the boys, a glass a wine at dinner, or a stiff(ish) drink after a long week of work I never discourage my clients from (mindfully) drinking. I did plenty of it this weekend.
As always, this brings up the age old question, would I be healthier if I didn’t drink?
Spoiler alert: contrary to popular belief you’re actually healthier if you drink. YUP. I said it. I’m the hero you’ve been looking for.
I know you really don’t care about what alcohol actually does to your body, as long as it gets you drunk and makes you feel good. But bear with me for a second; it’s important to know what booze actually is and how it affects the body in order to keep it from ruining your night (and possibly next couple days.)
Alcohol gets a super bad rep in the health community and, with a positive relationship, can actually make you healthier in the long run.
WHAT IS ALCOHOL
As you know, alcohol is something you ingest to get you drunk. BUT, what’s actually happening when you drink that beautiful blend of happiness is the alcohol quickly ripping through your stomach and directly into your bloodstream (1). The alcohol is then broken down into carbon dioxide and water which needs to be excreted ASAP- making this the top priority for the body. Consequently, bodily mechanisms like blood sugar regulation or any type of homeostatic functions takes a back seat; aka a hangover.
Knowing this, and that alcohol is digested at roughly a drink an hour, you can put two and two together on why you get drunk (2). This ratio can be changed with the addition of slow absorbing foods and alternating water with your alcoholic drinks. A good rule of thumb is to grab a healthy meal within an hour of drinking, and continue to eat throughout the night.
Alcoholic drinks are super calorically dense. When you indulge it’s easy for the calories to add up to a significant portion of your daily intake, or put you past it. Something to keep in mind.
At a quick glance:
1, 12 ounce beer = 140-220 (depending on lite or heavy) / 10-30g carbohydrate
1, 5 ounce glass of wine = 80-120 calories / 5-11g carbohydrate
1, 1 ounce of liquor = 90-100 calories / 0g carbohydrate
The more drinks you crush, the faster the calories add up. Easy math there.
WHAT SHOULD I DRINK
Generally the best choices when drinking are vodka, gins, or tequila. I’ll reach for any of these when I’m not having a beer. Aside from the bottom shelf choices of these, most good brands are cleanly made, have no adverse additives, and are usually gluten free for the allergen people out there. Mix any of these with a soda water and a lemon and you’ve got yourself a low calorie, easily digestible mixy that won’t set you back. Anytime you start adding in simple syrup, sugary juice mixes, fruit juices, concentrates, etc., you’re setting yourself waaaay back. I’d even go as far to say I’d RATHER you have a Tito’s soda than a cup of juice that has over 35 grams of sugar. Hot takes only.
Side note: just because the clear alcohol sources are the better options, never hesitate to have a beer especially from higher end breweries. Most microbrewery production is over the top with how precise and clean each one of their batches are, so more than likely you have a brew that is as close to natural as a beer can get.
HOW SHOULD I DRINK
Mindful drinking is one of my favorite sayings. Yes, I’m sorry, but crushing a 30 rack or taking 3 bottles of wine to the face isn’t good. BUT, it’s proven that alcohol drank in moderation can help you unwind and reduce any angst from one’s life.
According to the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism, moderate drinkers actually live a healthier life (3).
YUP, drink and live longer. Sign me up.
The graph shows the J shape curve representing how moderate drinkers have a lower risk of mortality than heavy and even abstinent drinking. This is replicated in hundreds of studies and always show the greatest health benefits occur with small amounts of alcohol consumption SEVERAL times per week. Music to my ears.
But here in lies the real question: what’s moderate drinking?
The answer to this will totally depend on who you ask. College me would have said something waaay different than what I think now; but a good rule of thumb is:
For women — up to seven drinks per week, with no more than three drinks in a single day
For men — up to 14 drinks per week, with no more than four drinks on any single day
*with binge drinking considered more than 5 drinks in one day, buy that 6 pack and put one in the fridge