Fitness Facts: Can alcohol be included in a healthy lifestyle?
By Emily Orvos
Campus Registered Dietitian
It’s Alcohol Awareness Month, so this is a good time to bring a hot topic to light: Can you drink alcohol and still be healthy?
Spoiler alert: Yes, with the caveat that drinking in moderation is best. The unfortunate truth is that alcohol provides little to no health benefit, regardless of the amount consumed.
While red wine does contain resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant, it provides only a minimal dose. You would need to consume multiple liters of wine to benefit from these antioxidant components.
At that point, the health detriment from excess alcohol would outweigh any potential benefit. You’re much better off eating red grapes as a snack for the specific health benefits of resveratrol.
What does drinking in moderation actually look like? The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans define “moderate drinking” as one standard drink per day or less for women, and two standard drinks per day or less for men. Keep in mind that this is per day – not an average over the entire week.
A “standard drink” is the equivalent of a 12-ounce beer (5% alcohol), a 5-ounce glass of wine (12% alcohol) or 1.5 ounces of liquor (40% alcohol). This means it can be very easy to exceed “moderate drinking” with a single strong cocktail or by opening a bottle of wine at the end of the workday.
Don’t forget that a single serving of a standard drink packs 100-150 calories while providing no vitamins or minerals to support normal healthy functioning in our bodies. Especially when combined with sugary mixers, a single drink easily can equate to a full meal from a calorie standpoint.
Alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning it can quickly dehydrate you if you are not careful. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water, or at least take sips of water in between sips of your drink to ensure you are hydrating. This can help prevent you from feeling not so great the next day.
While hydration is important when drinking, sleep is also crucial for keeping unwanted alcohol-induced symptoms at bay. However, even moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to decrease sleep quality by 24%, so keep this in mind if you feel tempted by a drink the night before an important day.
All this does not mean you can’t enjoy a good margarita sometimes! It is just important to be conscious of how much and how frequently you drink alcohol. If you choose to drink, be sure to eat a balanced meal beforehand and hydrate with water to prevent getting sick.