Cindi, what’s your opinion on alcohol? … said one person to me ever. I had never voiced my thoughts and opinions on alcohol consumption before and it goes beyond the worn out “everything is fine in moderation.” The negative and positive side effects of drinking alcohol are well-studied and documented all over the internet, so I won’t go over them here. What follows is my personal approach to alcohol.
I like to drink. I like the social aspect of it. I like the taste of a nice glass of wine. Do you know what I don’t like? The hangovers that get increasingly more punishing as I get older. Do you know what I REALLY, REALLY don’t like? Being hungover and having to take care of children who wake up before 7 am (Paw Patrol only buys me so much time).
When do I choose to drink?
Sleep is a high priority for me. A well-rested wife makes a happy life…for everybody. Alcohol may make you pass out, but it can suppress REM sleep in the first two sleep cycles and mess with the length of time in the various length of time in each sleep stage in subsequent cycles. In laymen’s terms, you’ll sleep like shit.
If you are interested alcohol and your sleep cycle, check out the article from the Sleep Foundation. If you want to understand more about the sleep cycle, Why We Sleep is a great read.
All of that to say that I believe day drinking is seriously underrated. It takes about an hour to metabolize one standard drink (defined as 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 ounces of most distilled spirits). Without breaking out the calculator, two or three drinks in the early afternoon should be fully metabolized by the time you go to sleep around 9pm. I like to have a couple of drinks on a Sunday while my kids are napping and football is on. There is minimal effect on my sleep because those drinks should clear my system well before my head hits the pillow.
For those of us who work Monday through Friday, it’s probably frowned upon to crack a beer or pour yourself a glass of wine at 2 in the afternoon. Most weekdays, I don’t drink after work because it will affect my sleep, but sometimes Taco Tuesday isn’t complete without a margarita. Other times I need some time to decompress from a day of 5632 snack requests from my kids. Sometimes I just want to enjoy the taste of a bold Malbec.
Personal note: I’ve found that alcohol is not the best way to relieve stress. I get outside and do something moderately physical (walk, bike ride, park trip, etc.). I always feel better afterward.
I take extended breaks from drinking, like a Dry January, in any month of the year. It’s the middle of February right now and my husband and I are having a dry month as we prepare for a 72-hour water fast. I went HARD over the holidays. My Christmas was pretty lit which steamrolled straight into a very wet January. I was feeling yucky with chronic headaches and my skin looked like garbage, so I decided to take a break. Sure, there are events and holidays this month that will have alcohol, but I don’t need to drink to have fun (and Valentine’s Day is a marketing scam).
What do I like to drink?
The quality of my alcohol is more important than the quantity. Long gone are the days where what we partied with was determined by what was cheapest at the time.
I like anything that is “dry” and flat. Red, white or rosé…doesn’t matter as long it’s not sweet or bubbly. I gravitate toward chilled wines in the summer and reds in the winter. I like wines that have fruity or floral notes and avoid ones that are described as smoky or woody. My biggest concerns with wine are that the ingredients do not have to be declared, so they can add sugar, artificial flavors or colors without you knowing. Choosing an organic wine is a good workaround, but it can be expensive and severely limits your options.
Tequila, Vodka, and Gin
I like a good cocktail. Love a southside. LOVE a margarita. I like to use unflavored alcohols because “natural flavors” is a black box. There is no way to know what’s actually in it and they don’t have to tell you. Be mindful of your mixers! Cheap tonic water is made with corn syrup, not regular sugar. Cheap margarita mix has coloring added (there is no alcohol in it, so they have to disclose ingredients…always check labels!), so I like Tres Agaves margarita mix or something similar. I don’t drink soda (I don’t like the carbonation or the sweetness), but I make an exception for a quality ginger beer if I’m feeling a mule. I don’t like whiskey, but I would follow these same general guidelines if I did.
Hard Seltzers, Kombuchas, etc.
Truly’s and Whiteclaws are DANGEROUS. They are refreshing as heck during the hot Arizona summers and it’s easy to drink too many while floating in the pool. What’s good about seltzers is that a lot of them flaunt that they are gluten free and low carb, so they provide their ingredients and nutrition information. Most are flavored “naturally”…whatever that means…so tread carefully. I recently tried JuneShine’s hard kombucha and it will probably be my drink of choice this summer. It’s made with real, organic ingredients and is a touch stronger than a regular seltzer or beer at 6% ABV.
I don’t love beer. I used to love Dos Equis, especially with a lime, but I swear they’ve changed the recipe and it tastes skunky to me now. If we are at a brewery, I’ll have a pint of something on the lighter side. I keep some on hand for boiling bratwurst and the occasional guest who prefers beer to wine or seltzers, but I rarely drink it myself.
How do I avoid hangovers?
If I do chose to drink more than one or two drinks at a time, here are my tricks for not hating life the next day.
TIMING. Drink earlier in the day if you can so you can get the best quality sleep possible. Sleep is recovery.
NAC. I like to take NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine), at least 600mg before I start drinking and again before going to bed. NAC is used in hospitals to combat acetaminophen overdoses. As a supplement, it can be used to support liver function and detoxification – two very important things when consuming alcohol. PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH ON THIS!
EAT. Don’t drink on an empty stomach and have something ready to eat for dinner or a late night snack. I like to prep something that can sit in the crockpot until dinnertime or be easily warmed so I don’t fall prey to a pizza and wing delivery (unless that was the original plan). What you eat doesn’t have to be “healthy.” A salad probably won’t cut it, but having fast food delivered will probably make you feel just as yucky. However, eating something is better than nothing, so if your friend is trying to Postmate late night McDonald’s, just say thank you and maybe request some protein and skip the fries.
QUALITY/QUANTITY. Drink quality over quantity. Play games that don’t involve chugging light beer or taking rounds of shots in quick succession.
CHECK IN. Before a party, Sunday fun-day, or anytime I’m drinking, I think about the duration and how many drinks I anticipate drinking. During the event, I check in with myself. How many drinks have I had? What time is it? How much longer are we here? Am I driving? How am I feeling? It’s so easy to lose track of time and what you’ve consumed. I like to set a goal and stick to it. Sober me is a planner and not as subject to impulse decisions.
HYDRATE. Drink water before. Drink water during. Drink water after.
WASH YOUR FACE. Trust me. Your skin will thank you. Take off your makeup and plug in your phone before you get in bed.
Wait…a healthy lifestyle blogger regularly drinks alcohol?
Yes. I am. There is so much talk in the health and fitness world about dieting and restrictive eating habits. At some point we have to ease up on the vice grip we have over counting calories and macros and just LIVE. I am mindful about what I consume and how it makes me feel so I can improve in the future. It’s not all about eat less and move more to lose weight and be healthy. I approach it as eat well, move your body when you can, and remember to enjoy our short time on Earth. I hope you find some joy in your glass of wine this week.
What is your approach to drinking? Did you find this helpful? Let me know in the comments or DM me @joyandotherthingsblog on Instagram!