To say that alcohol has become an integral part of society is an understatement. A recent report on consumption levels states that “Americans are drinking more now than just before Prohibition.” Consider that those answers are based on self-reporting which is widely underestimated since not everyone is forthcoming about unhealthy habits. It’s more likely that our alcohol consumption is much higher than what we will tell our friends about, not to mention a stranger.  

The typical drinker no longer looks like Al Bundy or Homer Simpson but is instead a youthful active type who is health conscious and exercises to earn their right to imbibe.  Alcohol brands market low carb beers and low sugar wines so you can do 12 oz and 25 pound repetitions.  Heck, if a “runner’s high” is not enough, you can plan to run a marathon or half marathon through the vineyard of your choice. 

While not everyone is an athlete, everyone experiences stress. Parents in particular are navigating schedules, care issues, and now, often managing a homeschool. Cue the marketing that plays up “Mommy Juice” or how “Daddy needs a Beer.” Even healthcare professionals are not immune. Search “wine glasses” and you’ll find pages full of “Because Patients” etched glasses for nurses. 

This begs the question:

Can You Raise a Toast to a Healthful Life?

We turned to our Nutritional Therapist on staff, Erica Haag for answers. 

Her view is that, unless it’s done infrequently, alcohol can be counterproductive to a healthful life. 

The Reasons to Think Before You Drink

  1. Alcohol is empty calories. 

You are not fueling your body with vitamins or minerals when you drink. Your body can’t use the alcohol and must immediately get busy working it out of your system. If you are drinking 200 calories worth of alcohol and you don’t cut out this amount elsewhere, you will quickly put on weight. You do not become satiated from drinking like you would if you ate 100-200 calories of vegetables. 

  1. Alcohol taxes your digestive system, interfering with other things you eat. 

Alcohol must be dealt with first so other foods will end up as fat. Your body can’t store alcohol for later like it does with food so your metabolic system has to stop what it’s doing (maybe burning off something you ate before) and get to work. The result is that everything else the liver can’t get to gets stored as fat. When you drink alcohol, your body works against you. 

  1. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions so you end up eating foods you wouldn’t normally eat. 

The fruit forward drinks especially, can spike your blood sugar, tricking you into feeling even hungrier than you actually are. Knowing that food can absorb alcohol some people will eat before they go to bed to lessen the effects they’ll feel the next day. If that doesn’t work, they may search for comfort foods high in fat to take the edge off their hangover. 

  1. Exercising is even more difficult when you’re dehydrated and have a splitting headache.

Alcohol consumption can throw off your healthy habit of exercising since it is so much more likely that your body will crave more sleep and a date with Netflix the day after you have too much to drink. 

What is too much to drink?

This depends on your weight and gender but typically your body can only process one alcoholic drink per hour. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) defines binge drinking as four or more drinks for women or five or more drinks for men on the same occasion, meaning at the same time or within a couple of hours. 

It is important to mention that men and women metabolize alcohol differently. Women produce less Alcohol Dehydrogenase (ADH) than men. ADH is the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol in the liver, therefore more unmetabolized alcohol flows from their stomach into their bloodstream. 

While it is possible to enjoy an occasional drink, drinking to excess only creates a stumbling block in your quest for a more healthful life. Let’s discover new ways to relieve stress and celebrate wins that are less reliant on alcohol and more reliant on the new habits we’ll create together.