The debate of whether a certain amount of alcohol is good or bad for you has been a long-standing one. Some of us enjoy the glass of wine with dinner. Others have a few beers on the weekend. But do you need to quit it altogether to change your body or your health?
If you’re thinking that alcoholic beverages tend to show up a lot in life you’re not alone. Alcohol has become a huge part of the culture in New Zealand and in other countries around the world. Whether it’s a nice cold beer at the end of a workday or a bubbly champagne on New Year’s, it tends to add up. But how does that affect your health goals? Well, it’s kind of complicated.
You may have heard that drinking can be good for you as research has shown that moderate alcohol intake is associated with a lower risk of diabetes, gallstones and coronary heart disease. There have even been studies indicating that drinkers live longer than people who don’t drink.
However, it’s important to know that experts recommend that if you don’t already drink, don’t start. Why? Because no one actually knows if ANY amount of alcohol is good for you.
I’m not going to tell you not to drink. But it’s important to know that most of the research on the potential benefits of drinking alcohol doesn’t actually prove anything due to how the studies are designed. The research tends to be large, long-term population-based studies that can’t say that it CAUSES anything, but rather that it CORRELATES with something.
So what is a “moderate alcohol intake”?
- Women: 7 drinks/week, no more than 3 in a single day
- Men: 14 drinks/week, no more than 4 in a single day
In my opinion, this type of moderation will land you in a host of health problems. Let’s take it down to 1-2 times per week with only 1 drink per setting. That’s better 🙂
A single drink can be a 330 ml can of 4% alcohol beer or a 100 ml glass of 12.5% alcohol wine.
Chances are, if you’re a human, you’re most likely underestimating your alcohol consumption. The occasional happy hour or birthday dinner can quickly take you from moderate to heavy drinker without you even realizing. The health risks for heavy drinking are much higher for major health problems, such as liver cancer, alcoholism, osteoporosis and a host of other diseases.
So how do you find a nice balance? What amount of alcohol gives you enjoyment while giving your body a chance to respond and recover from processing it? MY moderate alcohol intake guideline is a good start along with the following tips:
- Keep track of your drinking habits. Do this for a week or two and ask yourself:
- Am I drinking more than I thought? (Did you forget to count those couple of beers you like to have on Sunday afternoons?)
- Are there patterns in my drinking? (Does your stressful job trigger your end-of-week binge drink?)
- Is it helping me enjoy life or stressing me out? (Are you not sleeping well or feeling worried about drinking?)
- Tune in to your body’s signals:
- Do I feel good?
- Am I recovering?
- How do I feel afterwards?
- Switch it up and experiment to break your routine:
- Delay your next drink for 10 minutes and see if you still want it after.
- Savour your drink. Look, sniff, and taste it.
- Quality over quantity. Drink less, but have the good stuff.
Evaluate how drinking fits in with your goals. If you want six-pack abs, then that might mean skipping out on a few drinks at the bar. Taking part in Friday night “Happy Hour” means pushing back your Saturday morning workout. If you’re aiming for a more moderate alcohol intake then you’ll have to find a way to say “no” to certain stress/social triggers that make you want to drink more.