We all know the inherent health risks with alcohol consumption and how these increase the more we drink (both frequency and quantity). Does this mean we have to cut out alcohol if we want to live a healthy lifestyle?
In an ideal world, perhaps. However, most people enjoy a drink from time to time so it comes down to minimising the harm caused and being mindful of your consumption.
The not so great stuff
Setting aside the long term impacts of alcohol consumption on your body, there are three main consequences to drinking alcohol.
Alcohol consumption impacts your sleep quality, leaving you feeling lethargic. Although alcohol is a depressant, it actually disrupts your restorative sleep. So that nightcap (or two) you’re having before bed, may actually be harming your sleep instead of helping it. Additionally, staying out late and consuming alcohol creates a sleep debt that can take four days for every hour of lost sleep to repay.
- Nutritional choices
When you drink alcohol, your appetite is stimulated and your inhibitions are lowered, meaning you’re hungrier and your ability to make the best nutritional choices is decreased. This is why people tend to snack on calorically dense foods that they might not normally eat when they’re drinking. These foods also tend to be low in protein and fiber so you’re not getting sustained energy from them.Your body also prioritises processing the alcohol in your body and will use this as energy first. This inhibits fat burning and digestion, so all that food sits, which can feel not-so-great the following day.
- Reduced activity
Hangovers are generally not conducive to an active day and most people will skip their training session after a night out. Or if they do make it to the gym, it’s usually at a reduced intensity.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom.
You can reduce the impact of alcohol consumption by following these guidelines:
- Have a glass of water after every alcoholic drink;
- Prioritise protein and veggies during the day so you get plenty of nutritious food before you start drinking;
- Have at least two alcohol free days per week; and
- Drink lots of water, eat nutrient dense foods, and get some activity the day after you drink.
You can enjoy a drink here and there without it impacting your lifestyle. Just be mindful of the reason why your drinking, your nutrition before, during, and after, and keep it in moderation.