Day 27 of our Bitesize Nutrition challenge is how much it too much? Alcohol that is, we’re all different so how much is too much for you?

In one study a group of 800 people did dry January:

  • 88% saved money
  • 71% had better quality of sleep
  • 67% had more energy
  • 58% improved weight
  • Other factors also improved (lowered blood pressure, reduced risk of type 2 Diabetes, and reduced LDL cholesterol)

A tip from Tom Kerridge

When you go out for drinks think of it like scoring a game – this was a great analogy I heard during an interview with Tom Kerridge. When everyone is ordering drinks and you’re either nominated driver or you’re trying to reduce your alcohol intake you may feel like you’re at a bit of a disadvantage – you may feel like you’re 0-1 down. As the evening progresses and friends start to have a few more drinks they may “relax” just a little too much – say things they don’t mean etc.. so the score starts to level up 1-1. Now here comes the bit where you win. The next morning they wake feeling a bit groggy, not great night sleep, perhaps a bit nauseous or a headache and not ready for the day ahead. You on the other hand are now 2-1 up – you’ve had a restorative night sleep, eaten well for breakfast, have a clearer head and you’ve more energy.

Whether you’re considering giving up alcohol for a month or you’d like to cut down, it’s natural to lose some motivation along the way so I hope the above idea helps to motivate you if you start to lose heart a bit.

Effect on physical performance

Is the healthier lifestyle you’d like counteracted by alcohol? Alcohol is a diuretic which may lead to dehydration. The liver isn’t as efficient at making glucose if it’s busy breaking down alcohol so you may experience a drop in blood sugar and energy. Sleep quality is reduced so recovery from sports or exercise is impeded.

Effect on skin

Alcohol dehydrates the skin leading to a more tired and dry looking complexion. Acne rosacea (reddening of skin around the nose becoming red and bumpy) is exacerbated by alcohol too.

Effect on fertility

There’s no recommended safe amount to drink during pregnancy. Alcohol can affect baby brain development, and increase risk of miscarriage. Baby’s features are formed in weeks 6-9 of pregnancy and alcohol during this time may cause malformations. Women who drink more than 6 units per week are 18% less likely to conceive, and men 14% less likely (lowered testosterone).

Effect on the brain

Alcohol promotes the release of GABA (relaxing neurotransmitter) hence you may feel more relaxed from the first drink, however for many people more than one drink reduces serotonin (feel good hormone) and can lead to feeling depressed. In excess alcohol affects part of the sleep cycle involved in memory so memory function won’t be as great either.

Love your liver

The liver is an amazing organ which is involved in so many biological processes – one of which is detoxification. Alcohol put extra strain on the liver preventing it from doing all its other jobs so well. Reducing alcohol consumption, unnecessary caffeine, and excessive saturated fats can all help to reduce the load on the liver. A drink of hot water and lemon before food in the morning can help to flush out toxins with a trip to the bathroom at the start of the day. Adding some more vegetables or fruit in your diet to increase fibre – whether this be eating the vegetable/fruit itself or adding it to a smoothie you make (Day 13 Nutrition challenge). A B-vitamin complex supplement may also help to boost your energy and liver function.

Helpful general tips

  • Mydrinkaware app
  • Alternate alcoholic with soft drinks
  • Drink only with food
  • Set non-alcohol days (e.g. Mon-Thu)
  • Avoid drinking in rounds

Alcohol alternatives

We’re a bit spoilt for choice now, there’s many great non-alcoholic drinks available:

Spirit Beer Wine Cider
Seedlip Big Easy (pale ale) Fre Merlot (red) Sheppy’s Classic Low Alcohol
Gordons Ultra Low G&T Infinite Session (pale ale) Rawsons Retreat (red) Stowford Press
Tesco Low Alcohol G&T Old Speckled Hen Low Alcohol Moscato (white) Kopparberg Alcohol-free Mixed Fruit
Teetotal GnT Guinness Malts Fre Chardonnay Celtic Marches Holly GoLightly
Three Spirit Jupiler (lager) Benjamin Truffer’s Sparkling Muscato Smashed Apple
Ginish Free Damm (lager) Echo Falls Infusion Hogan’s High Sobriety
Rumish Zest Zero Lemon (fruit beer) Bees Knees Rose Waitrose Low-alcohol Cider

Here’s some links to other helpful resources to get you started or keep you motivated:

If you’d like to find out more tips to improve your health, check out our Alcohol Awareness webinar and our Bitesize Nutrition podcasts. If you’re new to podcasts you can listen free without registration on your phone or PC by clicking on the podcast link in this paragraph. Or you can listen to Bitesize Nutrition on iTunes & Spotify.

Don’t forget to let us know what you think using #nutritionchallenge30

A reminder:

  • The information in this article is for educational purposes and should not replace medical advice.
  • The information is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.
  • If you have a diagnosed medical condition, you should consult a doctor before making any major changes to your diet, and;
  • Some supplements may interact with medications and you should check with your GP before commencing any supplement programme.
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Day 28 – What’s the best diet?
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