“It’s all about moderation…”
They’ve been saying it for generations and yet here we are, consuming enough drinks to tranquilize a large mammal.
Those days of taking down too many tallboys or sipping a savage amount of vodka tonics should be left in the past.
Just like everything else, alcohol is good in moderation. But what exactly does that moderation look like when you’re on a health and wellness journey?
Let’s get one thing straight now—it definitely doesn’t mean the most exciting thing that can pass your lips is water with lemon.
It’s time to let restrictive diets die and long-term lifestyle changes live. Today, we’ll dive in deep and talk drinks—the effects of alcohol on our bodies, the solution, and a few tasty recipes I always keep up my sleeve to sip on later.
How does alcohol affect our bodies and waistline?
We could make excuses all day about how red wine is actually healthy, but the truth is, alcohol is not the best thing in the world. Rather than turning our heads away from the facts and toward the tap-handles, let’s take a close look at how alcohol interacts with our bodies.
- Booze boosts belly fat. Alcohol and its mixers are full of empty calories and loads of sugar. Most drinks have little to no nutritional value. So while your body will use the calories as fuel, you’re adding little to no other nutrition in the way of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, or essential fatty acids. Alcohol calories are so easy to overdo.
A typical beer has 150 calories—if you sip on several in one sitting, you’re signing yourself up for a serious calorie surplus. These empty calories can end up stored as fat in the body. On top of this, several studies have found that excess sugar leads to fat buildup around the abdomen and liver. Essentially, too many drinks will eventually turn that trim waistline into a billowing beer belly.
- That Jameson might affect your judgment. Alcohol reduces the function of our prefrontal cortex—the part of our brains we use when reasoning or making judgment calls. But that’s just the left hook of this one-two punch to our healthy diets.
Alcohol also switches our brain into starvation mode, increasing hunger and appetite. So, when we drink, our brains want us to act more impulsively and eat more! It’s a bad combo when there’s a touring tray of taco bites at the party.
- Spirits won’t support your night’s sleep. We all know how a drink can help us relax and even allow us to fall asleep quicker. But it also reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep—that important and beneficial sleep cycle that increases brain activity and promotes learning. Plus, because alcohol is a diuretic, those pre-sleep drinks will have you running to the restroom several times throughout the night.
- Your liver does not like liquor. Our liver is the organ that clears toxins out of our bodies. But too much alcohol destroys liver cells and scars the liver, sometimes leading to serious results like liver cancer.
And your liver isn’t alone. Long-term alcohol overuse will end up also damaging your brain, nervous system, heart, and pancreas. Heavy drinking can also increase your blood pressure and cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Am I starting to sound like a drink-banning Debby downer?
Do I need to go cold-turkey sober?
The short answer could be yes. If you really want to see the results, kicking alcohol completely will help massively. But that’s not for everyone, so here are some practices I recommend:
- Save it for the weekend. These are the days we’re most likely going to be spending time with family and friends or going out. So enjoy a refreshing bubbly on the weekends, but swap it out your six pack for some sparkling water or kombucha on weeknights.
- Get honest with yourself. Each of us has different goals, concerns, particularities, and preferences when it comes to our health and lifestyles. The schedule that works for me might not be the best fit for you. So allocate 1 day a week, 2 days a week—whatever feels reasonable, healthy, and sustainable for you regarding your alcohol intake.
- Limit your drink count. You won’t be doing your health any favors by drinking only a few days a week, if, on those days, the whiskey pours like water. If you want to dodge the not-so-flattering ramifications of drinking alcohol we talked about earlier, limit your drink count to 2 (or 3, max).
- Swap the hangover for hydration. Of course, you know by now that skipping out on water during boozy festivities can lead to a not-so-enjoyable morning after. But even when you have just one serving of alcohol, your body can end up dehydrated. Our bodies function best when they’re hydrated, so keep the fluids flowing and have at least one glass of water after each serving of alcohol.
- Skip the nightcap. If you really want to drink in the healthiest way, cut yourself off before you start to creep into the late-night hours. While alcohol is sedating at first and can help you fall asleep, it can also interfere with staying asleep. A good rule of thumb is to swap out your tequila for some tea about three hours before you’re planning on hitting the sack.
- Scratch the excess sugar. Chasers and mixers are not our friends. They’re almost always loaded with sugar, artificial flavors, food color, and—of course—tons of empty calories. Simply saying no to all the excess ingredients often paired with a drink can make those booze days much healthier for you.
But what if you’re a lover of mixed drinks? We’ve got you covered.
Below we’ll share a little mixology magic that’ll turn high-calorie drinks into your new weekend treats.
5 low-calorie drinks to sip on the weekend:
- Moscow Mule with a Twist: This lighter and refreshing mule is made with ginger beer, vodka, lime juice, and lots of ice. By skipping the simple syrup, you’ll end up netting out at just around 80 calories per drink.
- Silver Tequila with Lime on Rocks: Swap out your brown tequila for silver and enjoy a drink with less sugar. Pair this slimmer silver sipper with some club soda, a squeeze of lime, or an orange slice for a little extra flavor.
- The Simple Mojito: If I had to skip out on mojitos to be healthy, I’d be fudging on my food log every week. Thankfully, this drink is a light one. But if you want to cut back on the calories even more, try swapping the sugar with Monk Fruit Sweetener and a splash of coconut water.
- Market Berry Cocktail: You can make a drink that’s equally lovely to look at and to sip by adding muddled fresh berries. Mix in some vodka, a bit of honey for sweetness, some club soda, and a splash of lemon juice. Garnish with a fresh mint leaf.
- The Low-Cal Cosmo: Try out this fruity and fresh drink by mixing raspberry-infused vodka, club soda, a splash of lime, and cranberry juice. This naturally sweet drink has a bit of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals as an added bonus.
Health is about more than your BMI. A vibrantly healthy life is full of nourishing food and sweat-breaking workouts—but it’s also full of happy memories and good relationships.
Don’t skip your next Friday outing with your friends for the sake of your waistline. Instead, next time you crave a cocktail, stick to our few healthy guidelines and give these five low-cal recipes a try.
If you want to learn how to drop weight, get fit, and feel great, join us over on the LEAN program. We cut through the confusion around dieting, health, and nutrition and help you design a vibrant and health-brimming life.