6 Alcohol Guidelines to Follow, According to Experts

Alcohol is known to pose health risks. Research shows that it is linked to certain cancers, can damage the liver, is linked to the risk of dementia, and can make you feel unwell. So, with all these findings, it’s natural to think more about your relationship with alcohol.

As the sobriety of Dry January draws to a close, you may feel the urge to return to your old drinking habits. But it’s a good idea to think about your alcohol use and make changes after January. (And, no, this doesn’t mean stopping it altogether.)

Terms like “mindful drinking” and “sober curiosity” are appearing in the news and on social media, indicating that people are taking the study’s findings seriously. What mindful drinking means to one person may not be the same to another, but in essence it is bringing awareness to your alcohol consumption and choosing to drink when you really want to, not just as a reflex while watching the game or as a crutch for drinking. deal with stress. While some people who follow this lifestyle still drink, others don’t, so the definition is fluid and can be adjusted to suit what’s right for you.

Ultimately, your decision to drink or not drink is yours. But for those who decide to take it, nutritionists say there are a few things to keep in mind. Below, they share alcohol guidelines you should follow if you do choose to drink.

1. CDC guidelines say women should not drink more than one drink per day and men should not drink more than two drinks per day.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines define moderate drinking as no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men each day, says Christine Byrne, a registered dietitian and owner of Ruby Oak Nutrition in Raleigh, North Carolina.

“I think that’s a pretty good guideline,” he added. “The specific guidance also points out that for women it doesn’t mean seven drinks a week, it means one drink a day – so not drinking for five days and then having six drinks on the sixth day is not the same thing.”

“Alcohol is processed a lot by your body,” which is why you can’t just save all those drinks for day six, says Byrne.

“Overtaxing (your body) in one day and not drinking for seven days or more can be more dangerous than having just one drink for women or two drinks for men in one day… our bodies are capable of processing those amounts. alcohol,” Byrne said.

Not a killer alcoholic drink, but one alcoholic drink doesn’t mean a Long Island iced tea (a cocktail that combines gin, vodka, rum, tequila, and triple sec).

Instead, the CDC says one drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer containing 5% alcohol by volume (ABV), 5 ounces of wine containing 12% ABV, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor or 8 ounces of alcohol-containing malt liquor. 7% ABV.

But know that alcohol is not beneficial for your health.

″(It’s) important to know that as recently as last year, I think the World Health Organization actually stated that there is no safe amount of alcohol,” said Sumner Brooks, a registered dietitian and author of “How to Raise an Eater.” Intuitive.”

“We know that alcohol is associated with cancer, it’s a Group 1 carcinogen, which puts it at the same group level as tobacco,” Brooks said. In addition to being a carcinogen, alcohol is also a poison, according to Byrne, who adds that “our body prioritizes metabolizing alcohol because it is a poison, so it wants to get rid of it.”

WHO guidelines say that one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men are still associated with these health risks, Brooks said.

So for people who choose to drink, “it’s important (to know) that we have moved beyond the general consensus that drinking alcoholic beverages provides health benefits,” he added.

Suffice it to say that just because the guidelines say you can drink a certain amount of alcohol each day doesn’t mean you should.

2. If you drink, drink water after each alcoholic drink.

These aren’t official guidelines, but the idea of ​​following up an alcoholic drink with a glass of water is a good practice to follow, Byrne says.

“Not only does it hydrate you, but it also slows you down, and that can help,” he adds. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you urinate more often and can make you dehydrated.

If you decide to drink more than what CDC guidelines consider “moderate drinking,” following each drink with water will be helpful, Byrne says.

If you drink alcohol, it is important not to substitute food for it.

franckreporter via Getty Images

If you drink alcohol, it is important not to replace food with the drink.

3. Don’t drink on an empty stomach.

You probably have at least one (albeit vague) memory of drinking on an empty stomach.

For more than one reason, Byrne says, drinking on an empty stomach is not a good idea.

“I do not recommend drinking on an empty stomach. “Alcohol can hit you more quickly, and that can be a problem,” he said. Specifically, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, your body absorbs alcohol more quickly when you don’t have food in your stomach.

“Drinking while eating can help you from getting too drunk, and that’s a good thing,” says Byrne. “It can also help you drink less because you’re not just drinking, you’re eating too – there’s something else to do. And drinking less is a good thing.”

So, if you are having fun with friends, order some food too.

4. Don’t replace food with alcohol.

According to Brooks, although alcohol provides your body with calories, it does not provide necessary nutrients, such as protein, fiber, or fat.

“People tend to equate food quality with calories, which is actually dangerous, especially when it comes to alcohol. “Because if they only think about how many calories they consume, then they will replace food calories with alcohol calories and think that’s enough or that’s a healthy replacement,” said Brooks.

“But the truth is, nutrition is about getting what we need: protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals and water, and when we cut back on those things to maintain caloric balance, then there are nutritional risks,” he said. Your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs if you replace food with satiating beer.

5. Be aware of what constitutes binge drinking.

Byrne said it’s important to know the official definition of binge drinking. The CDC says drinking five or more drinks in one sitting for men and four or more drinks for women is considered binge drinking.

“I think the number is smaller than many people think,” Byrne said.

Think about it: If you’ve ever been to a wedding where there’s a cocktail hour, dinner, dancing, and often an after-party, you know how easy it is to have four or five drinks during the celebration.

“What you do with alcohol is completely up to you, and just because you drink more than is considered binge drinking on one occasion does not mean you have an alcohol addiction or an alcohol problem,” says Byrne. “I’d like to explain that too, but technically, that’s the definition of binge drinking.”

6. Pay close attention to the reasons you drink.

For those who do choose to drink, Brooks says it’s important to pay attention to three things:

Your drinking frequency and quantity: Use CDC guidelines to assess how much and how often you drink. Why you drink: “Ask yourself, what do I think this drink will do for me?” Brooks says, adding that if you use alcohol to relieve stress, unwind, or be more social, know that you can do without drinking alcohol. Is there anything else you can do or drink besides alcohol? “Because there are actually many ways that we can get the benefits that people think we get from drinking alcoholic beverages, we can get all of those benefits without drinking alcoholic beverages,” Brooks said.

“If you say, ‘I just need this drink because I just need to relax’… alcohol itself isn’t actually the thing that helps you relax. (What can give you that effect can be) sitting down, taking a break from what you’re doing or going to happy hour and talking to people, connecting with people, getting a change of scenery,” Brooks explained.

You can still relax without a glass of wine. You could color or shower with seltzer by your side instead of a glass of wine, or you could take a walk to enjoy the view after work, she adds.

“If someone believes that having a drink at the end of the day is their way to relax, then they automatically don’t think about other ways to decompress,” Brooks says.

Apart from thinking about your intentions for consuming alcohol, it is also important to look for the danger signs.

“If you think your drinking may be causing problems, ask yourself why you’re doing it,” says Byrne, “and if you’re doing it to avoid a certain feeling or numb a certain taste, then that’s something worth asking about and may be a reason for doing it . reassess your relationship with alcohol.”

In this case, it’s also a good idea to contact a therapist trained in substance use treatment who can support you, adds Byrne. The Psychology Today website can help you find a local mental health provider.

Additionally, Brooks notes that changing drinking habits is not easy. If you’re trying to do this, it’s a good idea to lean on loved ones who have a similar mindset.

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