By Bianca Mendez
Cheers to finally getting some straight answers!
"I'll have a glass of red please," I asked the bartender.
"Same here," said my friend Jodie. "I want to take advantage of the happy hour special."
"I see you're trying to reap all those health benefits of red wine," I told her.
"But am I?" asked Jodie. "There are so many studies out there listing the benefits of red wine and beer that I can't keep up. How can anyone really know what's actually good for them?"
It's a great question, since staying on top of your health while still enjoying your chances to imbibe can be a challenge for many of us. While having a wine or beer in moderation is healthy, most of us are wondering about the fine line between health and booze. That's why we here at Eat This Not That, decided to ask a few nutritionists to answer the most common questions everyone has about booze. Read on to hear what they have to say—and don't miss these 23 Surprising, Healthy Benefits of Alcohol!
1. Is red wine really as good for you as the studies show?
It can feel like a new study breaks every week about the health benefits of red wine. The verdict? It entirely depends on you and your health. "If you have gastrointestinal issues like GERD, or if you have migraine headaches, red wine may not be the best choice for you," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, founder of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It. "But if you do enjoy drinking alcohol, studies have shown that there are benefits in red wine since its grapes contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that may help your heart. For some of us, alcohol also has a calming effect and can be a little bit of liquid courage, which may both be important benefits to you, too." Find out The Healthiest Red Wines—And Which Ones to Buy!
2. What's the best way to cure a hangover?
It's the age old question that rattles every drinker's brain. Turns out that carbs really are the answer. "When we consume a lot of alcohol, the liver is preoccupied with metabolizing the alcohol and is unable to produce glycogen, which helps keep our blood sugar from dropping," says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, and author of the upcoming book, Body Kindness. "The next morning after a hard night of drinking, you're likely experiencing low blood sugar, so eating toast can help raise your blood sugar and help settle your stomach." Find out more insights with our 23 Swaps to Outsmart Your Hangover Cravings.
3. What's the best workout to do after a night of drinking?
We know—working out during a hangover sounds like the worst idea ever, but it's actually the best. "High-intensity interval workouts keep your blood pumping and help your body with the detoxification process," says Cassie Bjork, RDN, of Healthy Simple Life. She also recommends squeezing in a HITT class before you head to the bar. "It doesn't give you license to overindulge, but it can provide a metabolic boost and help you better maintain energy levels." Just make sure you stay hydrated and also hydrate before your post-drinking workout sesh.
If you can't handle such an intense routine, take a walk, suggests Scritchfield. "Some movement will help your body speed up the metabolizing of the alcohol." So, in short, something is better than nothing.
4. What's the best mixer for spirits?
"The best mixers are ones that are lower in sugar and calories, such as seltzer, unsweetened iced tea, unsweetened coffee, or a touch of 100 percent juice," says Toby Amidor, MS, RD author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen and owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition, PC. For an epic cocktail, add fresh ingredients like herbs or cucumber slices, or muddle raspberries, suggests Amidor. You'll have a fancier-looking cocktail without the calories of those sugary fruit juices. (Plus, those pre-made cocktail mixers are one of the 20 Foods That Put You in a Bad Mood anyway!)
5. What happens to your body when you're drunk?
"Alcohol hits your bloodstream and is pumped around your body, including your brain," says Abbey Sharp, RD, of Abbey's Kitchen. "Your liver tries to do its job by detoxifying your body, but the speed it can do that depends on how much you drank, what it was mixed with, and what food was in your stomach at that time. The liver also makes a byproduct in this process called acetaldehyde, which is responsible for your hangover." Whew. No wonder your bod can feel all over the place during and after drinking!
6. What can someone do to minimize how drunk they get?
"Make sure you have at least one or two glasses of water for each drink—and that you never drink on an empty stomach," says Sharp. And have a hearty meal before drinking, too. "Alcohol is absorbed through the stomach, so having food in your belly will help slow down the rate at which the alcohol is absorbed, taking a longer time to get drunk," adds Scritchfield. Try one of these Pre-Happy Hour Foods That Prevent Hangovers; it'll probably be the only thing you won't regret from your boozy night out.
7. Is tequila really the healthiest choice of alcohol?
"'Healthiest' and 'tequila' are not two words that I generally associate!" says Dix. "In general, a shot of tequila or another spirit like vodka provides around 70 calories, so you're not breaking the calorie bank. But a frozen margarita made with tequila, sugar and lots of other added ingredients can cost you upwards of 600 calories." There is also a bit of research that says the agavins (natural sugar) found in tequila are more favorable toward weight loss; a small edge over vodka but not permission to go loco.
8. Does drinking make you less fit?
Most likely. "Alcohol is a depressant, which can be disruptive to our feel-good hormones, decreasing our motivation for good self-care," says Scritchfield. "A hangover also causes unpleasant symptoms like headaches, nausea, and fatigue, which can derail any intentions for exercise." Basically, you've done one of 31 Ways You Messed Up Your Metabolism Today.) So, when it comes to heading to the gym or the bar, choose wisely.
9. How many drinks should we be having per week?
Obviously, binge drinking is no bueno but having a low-calorie, low-sugar post-work drink or glass of wine every night isn't that bad. One drink is defined as 5-fluid ounces of wine, 12-fluid ounces of beer (a standard bottle) or 1.5 fluid ounces of 8-proof liquor. And no, you can't "save" up seven drinks for all on Saturday night.
10. Are there any benefits to white wine other than being lower in calories?
"Not really," says Bjork. (Sorry, white wine lovers.) "I recommend going for the driest red since it comes loaded with healthy antioxidants like resveratrol, which is good for your heart," says Bjork.
11. Why do you always crave the fattiest food when you're drunk?
Pizza, Taco Bell, and Mcdonalds always sound like a good idea when you're drunk. There's some science behind it and your blood sugar, but a lot also has to do with your willpower. "Part of the reason is because alcohol decreases your defenses," says Dix. "You may have had no intention of attacking that bread basket at dinner, but after having those two cocktails while you were waiting for your table, the bread might seem to call your name a little louder! The same thing applies to other rich foods that you would generally avoid when not tipsy." Speaking of willpower, don't miss these 22 Truths About Willpower!
12. Will cheap alcohol make you sicker as opposed to better quality alcohol?
"It's possible that cheap alcohol causes worse hangovers," says Sharp. "That's because they aren't distilled and filtered as much as top-shelf liquors. Distillation and filtration reduce conegers, which are a hangover-inducing substance found in alcohol." So yes, you can blame it on the alcohol—but just drinking less (of both cheap and top-shelf) is a good move, too.
13. Why do you pee more when you're drinking?
Asked every girl who's ever had more than two sips of booze. "Alcohol interferes with antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which has the job of promoting water reabsorption and decreasing how much fluid goes to the bladder," says Sharp. "When you drink, the kidneys don't reabsorb water as efficiently because ADH is interfered with and you pee more often."
14. Why is it harder to poop after a night of drinking?
We know you're curious. "Alcohol inhibits digestion and causes dehydration, causing the digestive track to slow down—which results in constipation," says Scritchfield. She recommends eating fiber-rich foods the next morning to get things moving along.
DON'T MISS: 23 Foods That Make You Poop
15. Are light beers really that much healthier than regular beers?
Absolutely. "Light beers contain 20 percent less alcohol by volume, which means it only counts as 0.8 of a drink," says Amidor. And they have fewer calories, too. Cheers to that while drinking one of these 15 Best Light Beers in America.
16. Can alcohol be the reason why I'm breaking out?
It's very possible, says Bjork. "Technically, alcohol is poison to your body, and everyone's body reacts in a unique way as it attempts to detoxify from it." So, yes, there's a slight chance that your boozing habit could show up your skin. In fact, people who nix alcohol from their diet see an improvement in their skin. It's one of the Things That Happen to Your Body When You Give Up Alcohol.
17. What's the healthiest way to drink alcohol?
Slowly, in moderation, and with food. "Drink with your meal, instead of drinking on an empty stomach," says Dix. "Sip slowly and keep track of how much you're drinking. You'll appreciate your beverage more when you actually think about what it tastes like and when you'll enjoy it the most." And don't forget to drink water in between drinks.
18. Is there any truth to the phrase "Beer before liquor, never been sicker"?
While there isn't any scientific evidence to back it up this old wives tale, mixing drinks is generally not the smartest thing to do. "I just never want to take that chance, so I seldom mix types of alcohol," says Amidor. For some people, this mantra simply works because it reminds them not to switch to drinks with much higher percentages of alcohol.
19. What are the very worst drinks or cocktails?
"Mixed drinks," says Scritchfield. "Think Long Island iced teas, margaritas, and daiquiris. They're all high in sugar from the mixers, which are often from soda, juice, and sour mixes." If they're frozen, then they're usually even worse. Mimosas and bloody marys are okay because of the vitamin C from the orange juice and tomato juice, respectively—unless they're made from pre-made, bottled mixes. Basically, anything coming out of a bottle that isn't straight liquor or beer is probably terrible for you.
20. Why is it so hard to stop after one drink?
I'm just going to have one drink tonight—two at the most, you say to yourself. But then you're on your fourth glass before you know it. Simply put, once you start, you're under an influence other than your own—which makes it harder to stop. "Your inhibitions are down when you're already drunk," says Sharp.
21. How much do I have to cut back on drinking if I want to lose weight?
It all depends on you. If you're having several drinks per day, the calories add up—so cutting back on just alcohol (and replacing with water) will absolutely result in weight loss, says Amidor. "But if you have a glass of wine only once or twice a week, then you're really only adding about 150 calories each time. You can always cut back on other foods like white bread or pasta instead of cutting back on your beloved occasional glass of wine." When there are plenty of healthy alcoholic drinks out there, it makes it much easier to just scale back on the white carbs instead of going totally dry!
22. Why do you feel so full after drinking beer?
By "full," you really just mean bloated. "Large amounts of alcohol can slow stomach emptying, which can make you feel heavy and bloated," explains Alissa Rumsey, RD, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Alcohol also can cause you to retain water." To keep bloat at bay, Rumsey suggests cutting yourself off after two drinks and alternate each boozy sip with a glass of water to stay hydrated. Still feeling puffy and parched the next day? Whip up one of these 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss.
23. Does alcohol affect our sleep cycle?
Oh yeah—boozy evenings do indeed lead to restless nights. "That's because it can make your blood sugar crash in the middle of the night, causing restless sleep," says Bjork. These are the The 30 Best and Worst Foods To Eat Before Sleep so that you can rest better tonight!
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