Do you love beer, wine, or mixed drinks—or all of the above? Many people like to have an occasional alcoholic beverage or two when relaxing at home or socializing with friends. And there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your drink of choice, as long as you do it safely and in moderation. But what, exactly, does moderation mean for you, and how can you make sure you’re drinking in a healthy way? Here, I’ll tell you more about the effects of alcohol on your overall wellness and fitness level. When you have all the relevant information, you may realize you’re doing just fine—or you might feel motivated to cut back on your consumption. If the latter is true for you, I can share some ways to help you get there. It’s all about setting healthy limits and sticking to them. You’ll thank me in the morning!
- The Effects of Alcohol: Immediate and Long-Term
- How Much is Too Much Alcohol?
- How to Drink Responsibly
- Take Good Care of You
The Effects of Alcohol: Immediate and Long-Term
If you’ve ever had a drink, you’re probably familiar with the short-term effects of alcohol. You feel much more relaxed and uninhibited. You might find yourself walking unsteadily and slurring your words, and your vision could be unclear or even blurry. Your reflexes may be slower, and your decision-making may be impaired. You can see why it’s so important to have a designated driver who can help you to get home safely at the end of the night.
When it comes to alcohol, it’s easy to overdo it, and you’ll almost definitely suffer the consequences. If you’ve overindulged even a little, it’s practically guaranteed that you’ll wake the next day to a terrible hangover. (Ugh!) And, if you’re extremely intoxicated, you could develop a headache, nausea, and/or vomiting before then. Drinking to excess can even result in alcohol poisoning, which can cause seizures, intense vomiting, slowed breathing, an irregular heartbeat, and loss of consciousness. This is a serious and dangerous situation. If you or someone you’re with displays the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, you should call 911 immediately.
You may have had first-hand experience with a nasty hangover, but did you know that drinking too much alcohol can have serious long-term effects, as well? It can cause life-threatening damage to your liver, like cirrhosis, and do additional harm to your pancreas and gastrointestinal tract. You’re also at risk for cardiovascular disease, sleep problems, neurological damage, and chronic inflammation. There’s even some evidence that excessive drinking can cause low immune system function (particularly relevant these days!) and interfere with your hormonal balance.
What’s more, if you’re trying to get into better physical shape, you’ll note that alcohol and workouts really don’t mix, since booze is full of calories. As you can see, it’s incredibly important to enjoy in moderation if you choose to imbibe.
How Much is Too Much Alcohol?
For you to make good choices, it’s important for you to know your own alcohol tolerance—i.e., how much you can safely consume without getting drunk and potentially causing damage. Your individual alcohol tolerance depends on a number of factors like your sex, weight, and genetics, as well as how often you drink, how much, and what kind of alcohol. Check out these smart alcohol intake recommendations and see how you measure up. If you’re consuming more than the recommended amount for a moderate drinker (two drinks per day for men, one for women), it may be time to cut back.
How to Drink Responsibly
Don’t worry—I’m not here to tell you that you can never drink again (unless you’ve been advised not to by a medical professional, of course). Like many of life’s pleasures, alcohol is best enjoyed within reasonable limits. If you aren’t binge-drinking, making bad decisions while under the influence, or feeling the urge to use alcohol on a constant basis, you’re probably doing just fine. (Check out these signs of an alcohol use disorder if you think you may be struggling. There is help available to you!)
Here’s a great way to avoid getting drunk: when you’re planning to indulge, make sure you never do it on an empty stomach. Check out these smart foods to eat before drinking, like avocados, eggs, and salmon, and be sure to have a meal or big, hearty snack before raising your glass. If you’re ordering drinks while dining at a restaurant, try not to start sipping your cocktail until your appetizer or meal has arrived. Also, sipping a full glass of plain water in between each beverage will help to dilute the amount of alcohol in your blood so that you don’t become intoxicated.
When you’re studying the drink menu, look for options that don’t contain sugary soda or syrup or whipped cream. These ingredients can add hundreds of calories to your cocktails—just imagine the setback to your healthy eating goals if you slurp down two or three servings! For lighter options, check out these healthy cocktails or put yourself on a “beer diet.” Light beer (or red wine) is a much better choice than a mixed drink made with regular soda and fruity syrup. If sweet is what you’re craving, ask the bartender to use diet soda or just a splash of fruit juice. You can enjoy something refreshing and satisfying without becoming drunk or tanking your commitment to eating well.
Take Good Care of You
When you’re in a situation where people are drinking, pay close attention to how your body feels, and let your common sense be your guide. Sipping a glass of wine over an hour won’t haunt you at work tomorrow morning, but binging on cosmos at the bar might. Be smart and don’t overindulge, and you won’t give yourself a hangover or any serious long-term side effects. And if you start to feel poorly, trust your intuition and put the bottle down. Knowing and sticking to your limits is one of the most important ways you can take care of yourself.