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Would I be healthier if I quit drinking? My quest to understand the real tradeoffs of alcohol consumption.

Whether or not you’re a teetotaler, you’ve probably heard that alcohol is a drug that causes same the health issues you wish to avoid. The problem is, this isn’t entirely true. Some substances that are legal (or at least not banned) are just as bad for your health as alcohol. Take marijuana for example. If you’re a smoker, you know that marijuana smoke is harmful, but what about the alcohol equivalent? If you’re a drinker, you’ve certainly heard that alcohol will kill you. But does that mean it’s safe for everyone?

Here’s a question that’s been on my mind for some time now: Would I be healthier if I stopped consuming alcohol? And if so, how much healthier would I be?

I was sitting in a line-up at the DMV and felt a tap on my shoulder from the woman behind me. She explained that the person behind me had just had a stroke and had been taken to the hospital. I was shocked and had no idea what to say. The woman behind me was kind enough to offer to let me know what happened to her. She explained that she had been drinking. She described the incident in great detail. I was shocked. I was thinking that this sounds more like a horror story than a life changing event.. Read more about nutrition of alcohol and let us know what you think.

The gin and tonic for after work. Over dinner, there was a bottle of wine. On the weekend, a few beers. The alcohol quickly accumulates.

Is that an issue? Is it possible for drinking to jeopardize your health and fitness? Is it necessary to stop drinking in order to change your body? Is it possible that it is genuinely beneficial to your health?

In this post, we take a firsthand look at the question.

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“Should I abstain from alcohol?”

Have you ever thought to yourself, “What if I asked myself this question?”

Many of our Coaching clients, including myself, have inquired about it.

Nonetheless, unlike many of our clients, I’ve never been compelled to stop drinking. By most accounts, my intake, like theirs, is normal. It’s described as “moderate.”

But alcoholic beverages seem to crop up frequently in my life, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

Perhaps we enjoy a beer at the conclusion of the workday. Maybe we’ll treat ourselves to a cocktail on Friday.

Is there a reason to rejoice? Pour a glass of champagne into the glass. Have you had a bad day? The Chardonnay or Cabernet will help to soften the edges.

It’s easy to get carried away with the cocktails.

Alcohol is easier to justify if we consider ourselves to be healthy people. We work out. We make an effort to eat healthy foods. We know we’re working on our stuff if we’re getting coaching.

Nonetheless. Some of us have wondered…

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Are we all right?

Is it possible that we’re justifying something we shouldn’t be?

Is the elephant in the room, who is currently dancing with a lampshade on its head and laughing a little too loudly while cracking off-color jokes, being overlooked?

Are we pretending that craft beer or red wine is healthy because it’s artisanal or packed with antioxidants?

What role does alcohol play in being healthy, fit, and functional?

The answer, as I realized, is not simple. (This isn’t always the case.)

For starters:

You may have heard that drinking is beneficial to your health.

Moderate alcohol use is linked to a reduced incidence of diabetes, gallstones, and heart disease.

Drinking in moderation appears to be beneficial to the heart and circulatory system, lowering your risk of cardiac arrest and clot-caused stroke by 25 to 40%.

And other studies have found that drinkers, especially heavy drinkers, outlive non-drinkers.

We read headlines like these every time a new study is published, which seems to be very frequently based on my newsfeed.

A crucial element that appears to be overlooked:

Health professionals advise against starting to drink if you haven’t already.

What’s going on here? Why not put that antioxidant-rich red wine to MyPlate — a lovely goblet right where the milk used to be — if drinking is so beneficial for you?

Would-I-be-healthier-if-I-quit-drinking-My-quest

Because no one knows if any amount of alcohol is safe for everyone.

I’m not going to warn you not to drink, so don’t worry.

That isn’t the point of this article.

Despite the headlines and pro-drinking studies, however:

The majority of studies on the potential health advantages of alcohol are big, long-term epidemiological studies.

This type of research is seldom conclusive.

Rather of demonstrating that X causes Y, it just states that X appears to be linked to Y.

So, just though light to moderate drinkers have lower incidence of the above-mentioned health problems than non-drinkers, doesn’t entail that drinking causes those benefits.

It’s possible that drinking alcohol raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. It’s also possible that moderate drinking relieves stress.

It’s also possible that drinking has no health benefits.

Rather, it’s possible that people who drink a light to moderate amount of alcohol also have something else going on in their lives that keeps them healthy, such as:

  • Genes that are both robust and resilient
  • a person with a low-stress personality
  • a particular way of life
  • support and solid social relationships

We simply don’t know for certain.

Any physiological impacts would be different from one person to the next.

The same amount of alcohol that is good for your heart can be bad for your friend’s, especially if they have a history of high blood pressure.

To observe a heart advantage, you’d have to be a light to moderate drinker with no strong drinking episodes (even isolated ones), according to the majority of the data.

Given that…

What exactly is “moderation”?

The term “moderate drinking” is defined differently around the world, but according to the United States Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, it means:

  • Women can have up to seven drinks per week, but no more than three on any given day.
  • For men, up to 14 drinks per week are allowed, with no more than four drinks per day.

Here’s a list of “drinks” categorised by health agencies:

1625999265_71_Would-I-be-healthier-if-I-quit-drinking-My-quest

Sure, you know you’re not a binge drinker (five or more drinks in less than two hours for men, and upwards of four for women).

But when was the last time you poured wine into a measuring cup, totaled your total number of drinks at the end of the week, computed your weekly average in a given month, or modified your total to allow for that 9.9% ABV Strong Ale you enjoy?

People frequently, and often dramatically, underestimate their alcohol use, according to studies.

It’s all too easy to fall into the “heavy” category without ever recognizing it.

If you’re a lady, for example:1625999266_418_Would-I-be-healthier-if-I-quit-drinking-My-quest

That’s a big issue, because binge drinking puts you at a far increased risk of serious health problems.

The dangers of moderate and high alcohol intake

  Moderate Heavy
Heart   Arrhythmias Blood pressure that is too high Kidney disease is a condition that affects the kidneys Coronary artery disease Stroke
Brain Disinhibition Observational bias Coordination issues Disruption of sleep Alcoholism* Dependence on chemicals Depression Alcoholism Damage to the nervous system Epilepsy Dementia Brain damage in children and teenagers
Immunity   Infection, sickness, or a weakened immune system Cancer is a disease that affects people (mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, breast) Intestinal barrier breakdown autoimmune illness flare-ups/increased inflammation
Hormones Breast cancer is a type of cancer that affects Disruption of hormones Sexual function is impaired. Reproductive function is impaired. Thyroid illness is a condition that affects the thyroid gland
Liver Existing conditions, such as hepatitis, are deteriorating. Alcoholic hepatitis Fatty liver Cirrhosis/fibrosis Hepatocellular carcinoma of the liver is a type of cancer that affects the liver cells.
Metabolism Weight increase or a halt in weight loss** Medication interactions Bone density decline Fractures of the bones Osteoporosis Anemia Pancreatitis alterations in fat metabolism Damage to the muscles
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*Especially if you have a family history of drinking. ** If you find yourself eating more food or choosing energy-dense meals as a result of drinking,

Due to the “Hey y’all, hold my beer and watch this!” effect, or simply the dangerous equation of youthful exuberance combined with less impulse control, combined with more peer pressure, combined with things like motor vehicles and machinery, even moderate drinking increases the risk of accidental injury or death in young males.

All drinking has the potential to be harmful to one’s health.

After all, alcohol is a poison that our bodies must convert to less damaging compounds in order for us to get a good buzz in a relatively safe manner.

We convert ethanol to acetaldehyde, then to acetate, through a series of chemical processes including the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). Acetate is broken down in the body into carbon dioxide and water.

The microsomal ethanol oxidizing system (MEOS), a second system for digesting alcohol, uses cytochrome P450 (CYP), an enzyme group that chemically alters potentially harmful compounds (such as pharmaceuticals) so they can be safely excreted.

Only around 10% of ethanol processing is done by the MEOS in light to moderate drinkers. This mechanism, however, is activated more powerfully in heavy drinkers. As a result, the MEOS may be less available to deal with additional poisons. The risk of oxidative cell damage and alcohol-related injury increases as a result.

The biochemistry isn’t as important as the fundamental concepts:

1. In order to tolerate alcohol, we must change it.

2. Our ability to absorb alcohol is influenced by a variety of circumstances, including:

  • our genetic tolerance as individuals
  • our ancestors’ ancestors’ ancestors’ ances (for instance, many people of East Asian ancestry have a genetically-linked aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme deficiency, which affects their ability to properly metabolize alcohol)
  • our age
  • our physical stature
  • our sex biologically
  • our unique combinations of enzymes for conversion
  • etc.

3. Dose is important. However, all alcohol must be processed by the body in some way.

So, where exactly is the “sweet spot”?

What level of alcohol allows you to enjoy yourself (and make your jokes even funnier) while still allowing your body to respond to and recover from ingesting something slightly poisonous?

The moderate-vs.-heavy guidelines are specialists’ best guesses about the amount of alcohol that can be drunk with statistically minimum harm while still accounting for what many individuals would do anyway: drink.

This isn’t to say that moderate drinking is without risk.

However, drinking is enjoyable. (I went ahead and said it.)

In North America, we have a tendency to separate physical health from mental well-being. In reality, health includes aspects such as quality of life, happiness, and social ties.

So here’s what I’m going to say:

Drinking is something I enjoy doing.

A lot of other folks feel the same way.

In the United States, for example, 65 percent of people claim to drink alcohol. At least three quarters of individuals who drink consume alcohol on a weekly basis.

In continental Europe, wine flows at noon (for Scandinavians, it’s the light beer lättöl). In the United Kingdom and Japan, going to a pub after work is customary procedure. Brennivin, glögg, or akvavit is the drink of choice in Northern Europe (not to mention vodka). Red wines from both South America and South Africa are well-known.

As a result, alcohol — whether beer, wine, or spirits — is a daily necessity for a large portion of the world’s population.

And there are certain indisputable benefits to be achieved if you’re doing it right — meaning classy New Year’s Eve champagne toasts are more regular in your life than shot-fueled bar dances to “Hotline Bling” —

  • Pleasure: Once you’ve progressed beyond wine coolers and cheap tequila shots, alcoholic beverages are usually quite tasty.
  • Leisure: Having a small amount of alcohol in your bloodstream can make you feel more relaxed. And, like a good dinner, a decent glass of wine should allow you to take a moment to relax.
  • Creativity: There’s evidence that when you’re buzzed, you’re more likely to solve problems creatively due to enhanced out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Drinking may contribute to social bonding through what psychologists refer to as “golden moments” – when everyone smiles and laughs at the same joke. This sense of belonging, joy, and community can all help with your health and lifespan.

If you’re going to drink, be sure it’s because you enjoy it.

If it actually adds worth and joy to your life, then you should drink.

Not for the following reasons:

  • You’re under duress.
  • It has become a habit.
  • You don’t want to drink alone because the people around you don’t want you to; or
  • It’s “healthy” for you.

Many people give up attempting to figure out if drinking is healthy or not because of the complicated alcohol consumption categories and contradictory news stories.

Alcohol may be detrimental, according to a recent study? Whatever.

Or:

Do alcoholics live longer? I’m getting on that horse and heading straight for the bar!

So forget about alcohol’s putative health benefits.

There are several (probably better) strategies to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, such as adopting a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and not smoking.

A genuine — and certainly the greatest — reason to drink is to appreciate a perfect Old Fashioned or a rare sake.

What you drink, like what you eat, should be intentional and aware. Also, it’s delicious.

It’s not a matter of “healthy vs. not healthy” when it comes to drinking or not drinking. It’s all about making compromises.

Alcohol is simply one of several factors that influence physical performance, fitness, and health.

It depends on how much you drink, what your goals are, and how you want to prioritize those things whether you keep drinking or cut back.

Only you know what you’re willing to trade and what you’re not.

It could be as basic as a “yes” or “no.”

  • If you say “yes” to Friday happy hour, you may have to say “no” to your Saturday morning workout.
  • If you say yes to marathon training, you might as well say no to alcoholic Sunday breakfasts.
  • Saying “yes” to improved sleep (and focus, and mood) could mean saying “no” to your evening glass of wine.
  • Saying “yes” to moderate alcohol intake could imply saying “no” to stressors (or human triggers) that make you want to drink more.

It could also be a point on the continuum where you’re willing to move.

  • Perhaps you’re willing to try drinking more slowly and carefully, but not to reduce your overall alcohol consumption.
  • If you’re attempting to lose weight, you might want to cut back on your alcohol consumption. It’s like having two drinks instead of three, but not zero.
  • Or, maybe you’re willing to stay sober during most social situations, but you’re not willing to endure your partner’s office party without a G&T on hand.

Perhaps there is a “best” answer to the question of how much alcohol is safe for everyone. But we haven’t figured out what it is yet.

At the very least, there’s no guarantee.

That’s OK.

As a unique individual, you can write your own “Owner’s Manual.”

Drinking guidelines don’t tell us who you are or how alcohol affects you.

So, let’s put “professional” advise aside for a while.

Instead, try following your body’s guidance.

Pay attention to its signals. Observe yourself closely, collect statistics, and figure out how alcohol is — or isn’t — helping you.

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Here’s how to do it.

What to Do Next: Some Suggestions from the Experts

1. Keep track of your drinking habits.

For a week or two, keep track of all the alcohol you consume (here’s a spreadsheet to assist you).

You don’t have to share it with anyone or feel obligated to make any changes. Simply gather the data.

Review the data after that. Ask:

  • Is it possible that I’m drinking more than I thought? Perhaps you hadn’t factored in a couple of casual beers while watching Sunday NFL.
  • Is it urgent, unthinking, or hasty that I’m drinking? Drinking habitually rather than purposefully can be shown by slamming drinks back without pausing to taste them.
  • Is booze making me happier or making me more stressed? If you’re having trouble sleeping or are concerned about your drinking, the cost may exceed the benefit.
  • Are there any unwelcome guests at the party because of the alcohol? Binge eating, drug use, and texting your ex all come to mind.

Consider cutting back and observing how you feel if any of the answers to these questions raise red flags for you.

2. Observe the effects of alcohol on your body.

Use the phrase “how’s that working out for you?” the litmus test Ask:

  • Do I have a nice feeling about myself? Simple, yet effective.
  • Am I on the mend? What’s my physical performance like now that I’ve had a few drinks? How would I feel and perform if I went to the gym on Saturday morning after a Friday night social?
  • So, what happens next? Do I experience a hangover, an upset stomach, a lack of sleep, puffiness/bloating, and/or other symptoms?
  • How can the higher energy intake help me achieve my objectives? Is alcohol going to add calories to my diet that I don’t want? Is it true that I’m trying to reduce weight, for example?
  • What are the results of my other physiological indicators? What did my most recent medical testing reveal? What’s the status of my blood work? What’s the state of my blood pressure? Are there any additional physiological markers that I’m keeping an eye on?

If you’re not sure whether your alcohol consumption is benefiting or harming you, consult your doctor and receive an assessment of your overall health.

3. Pay attention to how alcohol influences your thoughts, emotions, assumptions, and overall outlook on life.

How’s that working out for you?

  • Do you believe you have control over your drinking? Are you consciously and purposely choosing… or are you “finding yourself” while drinking?
  • When you’ve had a few drinks, what kind of person are you? Are you a bon vivant who enjoys a craft brew with friends and is slightly wittier and more relaxed? Or, as you pound down the liquid emotional anesthesia through clenched teeth, are you thinking, Let’s make that crap circus of a workweek go away?
  • What would it be like if you had to go a week without drinking? What’s the big deal? Or did reading that question make you feel a little nervous?

4. Play the game “Let’s Make a Deal.”

To figure out which goals and activities in your life are most important to you, consider the following questions:

  • What am I currently accepting as a “yes”?
  • What am I now declining?
  • What am I willing to accept as a “yes”?
  • What am I willing to turn down?
  • What am I willing to say “yes” to and “no” to? Why?

There are no correct or incorrect replies.

Choices and compromises are all there is to it.

You’re an adult who can consider the big picture and analyze alternatives objectively. It is entirely up to you whether or not to use alcohol.

5. Turn off the autopilot.

Moving from unconscious, automatic reflexes to conscious, deliberate judgments is one of the cornerstones to behavior transformation.

Try these tactics to see if you can cut down on your alcohol consumption:

  • Your next drink should be postponed. It’ll only be for 10 minutes to check if you’re still interested.
  • Look for ways to get around your habits. If you regularly go to the pub after work, try scheduling an alcohol-free activity with a friend (such as a movie date or a yoga class). If you’re going to the grocery store, skip the beer aisle and instead buy some high-quality teas or sparkling water.
  • Enjoy your beverage. Pay attention to the sensations that arise in front of you. Here’s an idea: imitate a sommelier by tasting wine. Take a look at it, swirl it about, sniff it, and taste it.
  • Substitute quality for quantity. Drink less often, but when you do, make sure it’s the good stuff.

6. Enlist the help of professionals.

Change almost always works better when it is accompanied by support. It’s difficult to change on your own.

  • Consult your physician about your drinking habits and overall health.
  • Think about genetic testing. Many commercial genetic testing services can tell you about your alcohol tolerance or your chance of developing other chronic diseases linked to alcohol consumption (such as breast cancer).

7. If you prefer to drink, take pleasure in it.

Enjoy it. Enjoy it slowly and deliberately, ideally with excellent company.

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It’s common to hear people say that quitting drinking is healthy for your body or mind, but what does this actually mean? Does it mean that drinking is bad for your health? Does it mean that you will die if you quit drinking? Or does it mean that you will be healthier if you quit drinking?. Read more about how to stop binge eating on weekends and let us know what you think.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How long after quitting drinking Do you look better?

It takes about a year for your body to fully recover from the effects of alcoholism.

Does your metabolism change when you quit drinking?

My metabolism changes when I quit drinking.

Will I be healthier if I stop drinking?

It is difficult to say whether or not you will be healthier if you stop drinking. There are many factors that go into determining your health, and it is hard to say what would happen without knowing all of the details about you.

Related Tags

This article broadly covered the following related topics:

  • nutrition of alcohol
  • precision nutrition what should i drink
  • what should i be drinking
  • all about alcoholic beverages
  • how to stop binge eating on weekends

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Written by Vaibhav Sharda