Booze is a paradox. We all know that there are health benefits to giving up, or even cutting right down.
The paradox is that so few of us do it.
Socialising, relaxing after work or just enjoying a glass of fine red with a meal are all part of our weekly routines. When you read just how many health and fitness benefits there are to cutting out the booze, second thoughts are natural. It is not all about the liver – health benefits of not drinking cover sleep, obesity, heart disease and mental health too.
This page covers the main benefits you get from stopping drinking – they are laid out without preaching, inducing guilt or any tales of addiction.
If you drink a pint of lager, it has the same calorie intake as you’d get from a slice of pizza. While in itself that’s not a problem, the calories can quickly add up if that single pint turns into three or four (yep, most of the pizza has now been eaten).
In addition, alcoholic drinks contain many empty calories with no nutritional value. If you are overweight and regularly drink alcohol your weight can fall noticeably by reducing the amount of alcohol you drink.
This weight loss can be maintained by staying off the booze – or just cutting down.
Drinking alcohol can also make you more impulsive. In turn, this makes you more likely to snack or have that extra late-night meal. A heavy drinking session and thinking that a kebab (or curry!) on the way home is a good idea the perfect illustration of this. With delivery apps, drinking at home can lead to similar temptations.
If you are drinking over the recommended levels, it will have negative effects on your liver. While everyone knows about Cirrhosis, that is an extreme condition for heavy drinkers. Smaller amounts of booze will interfere with your liver’s ability to filter toxins. That alcohol is toxic to your cells and needs to be quickly metabolised by the liver.
The good news is that this damage is not always permanent, as the liver can heal itself. When you give you liver the best shot at removing toxins, your overall health will certainly benefit.
If you quit drinking, one of the immediate benefits you can enjoy is a boost to your energy levels. Much of this is because your sleep is improved.
Alcohol is known to disrupt your sleep cycle. This can particularly be the case if you have a drink last thing at night. Many see a drink before bedtime a great way to help to send them to sleep. While this might be true in some cases, you are likely to enjoy less deep sleep and more time in the Rapid Eye Movement stage of sleep. Reduced alcohol intake will aid in having a full night’s sleep and will make waking the next day easier (without that sluggish feeling).
A quirk here is that people used to the relaxation induced by booze will find it harder to sleep after quitting. Don’t worry, your body will reset after a few days. You can then enjoy the many benefits for your fitness that good sleep brings.
When you are drinking alcohol, you are much less likely to be drinking water. Combine this with the dehydrating effect of booze, and you will end up with a water deficit fast.
Drinking six glasses of wine (for example) will make you lose the equivalent of around twenty glasses of water. Increased water intake leads to more hydrated skin, an increased cell turnover and premature aging is prevented.
That hangover? Yes, it is primarily caused by dehydration – along with a lack of quality sleep.
It has been proven that drinking one or two glasses of wine once or twice a week for men over forty and women of any age can have health benefits. However, if you are drinking in excess, the risk of cardiovascular disease increases.
If you are cutting out alcohol, adding in exercise can be a further boost to your heart. Your blood pressure can also be increased through excessive intake of alcohol. Not to mention fat storage from the added calories increasing your chances of diabetes – compounding the ill effects of heart health.
Drinking in moderation can give a short-term boost in terms of mood, sociability, and optimism.
Everyone has experienced feeling more confident or less anxious after having a drink or two. However, if you’re drinking in excess, the negative effects on your mental health will outweigh any positives.
The more alcohol you drink, the more impact it will have on the functioning of the brain. Alcohol is a natural depressant which disrupts the chemical processes in the brain. Long term misuse of alcohol can lead to anger, aggressiveness, and anxiety. Booze and depression have a complex relationship.
Consumption of alcohol can slow down the speed at which nerves communicate in the hippocampus of the brain. This can lead to that short term memory loss after an especially heavy night. In the longer term, excessive intake of alcohol can actually damage the hippocampus by destroying nerve cells. This can have a negative impact on both short term and long-term memory.
As you can see from above, there are many benefits to giving up alcohol. Drinking in moderation avoids many of them, while giving up the booze completely gets you added health benefits.
As with everything in life, knowledge is power. Once you become aware of the immediate and long-term pros and cons of drinking, you are empowered to decide for yourself.
One final thought, the less you drink, the more money you will retain. Spending that on healthy eating, fitness equipment or membership of your local gym will give you a boost you never thought possible.
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