Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Know your limits

I'm loving all the feedback and comments on my blog - please keep mailing in any comments or suggested topics and I'll do my best to cover them. One request I've been meaning to respond to for a while is a blog on alcohol.

Now may not seem like a good time to be preaching the virtues of teetotalism, but given that most people drink the most in December now is probably a good time to try and convert some people into cutting down.

I infact drink very rarely, and by that I mean less than once a month. A few years ago I had to give up alcohol for health reasons for six months and when I drank again found firstly that I had become very sensitive to alcohol - having much worse hangovers than previously - but I also realised how much healthier and happier I felt if I didn't drink.

There were two reasons for this, firstly alcohol is a depressive drug. This is a fact - however upbeat you might feel when you're drunk in the long run regular drinking will lower your mood and for some people can infact lead to or exacerbate depression.

Secondly alcohol leaches b vitamins out of your system. This group of vitamins are key inputs into the energy production cycle in our cells which is one of the reasons you feel so tired when you're hungover.

If you're trying to lose weight alcohol can also really hinder progress. It provides empty calories (as in low in nutrients) and it's easy to drink 500-1000 calories in an evening. Alcohol also massively disregulates blood sugar levels leading to carbohydrate cravings both that evening (chips anyone?) and the next day and excess insulin production by the pancreas.

To be honest there are lots of reasons why you shouldn't drink to excess - fertility issues, liver damage, ageing, damage to brain cells, diabetes, heart disease - and I think, like smoking, most people know this but still choose to push these facts to the back of their minds and drink half a bottle of wine a night without thinking anything of it.

If you do drink regularly it's worth checking your intake against the government guidelines of 2-3 units per day for a woman and 3-4 for a man, this works out roughly to be one large glass of wine or two pints respectively.

The first thing to remember is that these levels are suggested as MAXIMUMS - not targets to aim for. You might think they are pretty low but if you regularly drink more than this amount then you ARE damaging your health (whether it's antioxidant rich red wine or not). Secondly you shouldn't drink everyday and equally shouldn't 'save up' your units for a big binge on one night.

When it comes to christmas party season and you're out almost every night, then you'll either have to have some alcohol free social events or get good at just having one or two drinks and then stopping. If you're a big drinker this may seem alien at first but alternating with soft drinks and water makes it easier.

Personally I find that most people are ok with you not drinking at all (although a bit surprised unless your driving) but that if you have just one drink they're much more likely to try and pressure you into having many more. The key is to realise that you can still have a fun night out without needing to be drunk - something I've learnt over the years and to which my friends can attest - particularly after last weekends karaoke!

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