Whether it’s cocktails over the weekend, a few pints down the pub or a glass of wine on the sofa, many of us love a good drink every now and then.
Everyone knows that overindulging in alcohol can lead to addiction and serious health problems. However, the odd drink here and there can’t be too bad, right?
Well, as it turns out, even if you stick to your recommended daily units, drinking alcohol can still have a negative impact on your health. More and more people are seeing the benefits of an alcohol-free lifestyle thanks to awareness campaigns and health movements. But is it for you?
To help you make your decision, we’ve taken a look at the changes you can expect if you make the decision to go teetotal.
How many units of alcohol can you drink per week?
NHS guidelines state that men and women shouldn’t regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week. This is equal to:
- 12 glasses of spirits such as vodka or gin at 25ml
- 6 medium glasses of wine at 175ml
- 6 pints of cider or beer.
There’s no completely safe level of drinking, but lowering your average consumption can be extremely beneficial to your health.
Why can alcohol be harmful to your health?
Alcohol is a powerful chemical that can have a wide range of adverse effects on almost every part of the body. Drinking daily, whether in the evening after work or during the day, can be detrimental.
Some short-term effects of alcohol include:
- Impulsive behaviour
- Changes in mood
- Head pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Changes in hearing, vision and perception
- Trouble focusing or making decisions
- Loss of consciousness or gaps in memory.
Alcohol use can lead to longer-lasting concerns that extend far past your mood and health. These include:
- Insomnia and other sleeping changes
- Persistent changes in mood, including anxiety and irritability
- Weakened immune system
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Increased tension and conflict within relationships.
What are the benefits of cutting out alcohol?
There is a wide range of benefits of going teetotal that can not only change your physical and mental mindset but also improve your savings, too!
- Improved finances — This one is obvious, yet people still find it surprising. Alcohol is more expensive than you think, and each drink can quickly burn a hole in your wallet. In fact, if you buy 3 drinks for £5 each just twice a week, you’re spending £1560 each year on booze! That’s a huge amount of money you could save by saying no to a tipple.
- You’ll reduce food cravings — We’ve all been there, queuing up in the takeaway for a 2 AM kebab. A recent study found that the neurons usually activated during starvation are triggered by drinking alcohol – resulting in intense hunger. By cutting booze out of your diet, you won’t be stricken by food cravings in the same way as after a couple of drinks.
- You’ll sleep better — Although a night on the town may lead to you crawling into bed and passing out for a good eight hours, alcohol actually causes us to experience unrestful sleep. Drinking before bed increases alpha wave patterns in the brain, which disrupts the crucial deeper stages of sleep. This is why you’ll find yourself waking up tired and groggy after a heavy night out.
- You’ll have more energy — You’ll naturally feel rejuvenated after a good night of shut-eye, but you’ll also notice you’re eating better too. A study published in Nutrition & Diabetes found that drinking alcohol results in less-quality sleep, causing the subjects to eat fats instead of carbohydrates. Each 30-minute deficit of sleep led to an average of an extra 83 calories consumed! By eliminating alcohol from your diet, you’re much more likely to feast on energy-boosting carbs instead of fatty foods.
- Weight loss — Often referred to as ‘liquid bread’, a single pint of lager contains nearly 200 calories – think about that the next time you pick up a six-pack! But it’s not the only offender, as a medium glass of wine clocks in at 159 calories and even a single shot of spirits without a mixer equates to 61 calories. Whether you enjoy a couple of drinks every other day or you look forward to a weekend bender, every drink adds up to a higher-calorie intake than your body can do without.
- Your skill will look better — As alcohol is a diuretic, it makes you need to urinate more frequently. It also decreases the body’s production of antidiuretic hormones, making it difficult for your body to reabsorb water. This leaves you dehydrated and causes your skin to dry out. When you stop drinking, you'll quickly notice that your skin looks and feels more hydrated, and skin conditions such as dandruff and eczema may improve.
- You’ll be healthier — It’s no secret that alcohol consumption can lead to some serious health issues. Giving up drinking makes a big impact on your liver and seriously reduces your risk of developing liver disease. You’ll also lower your chances of strokes, heart disease, and certain cancers associated with the lifestyle of heavy drinkers.
How long will it take to see the benefits of cutting alcohol from your diet?
The timeline for experiencing the benefits of cutting alcohol from your diet can vary depending on several factors, including how much you drank before, your overall health, and your age. However, many people report feeling better within a few days to a week after giving up alcohol.
For most heavy drinkers, unless your diet is unhealthy, you’ll notice changes quite quickly, such as your blood sugar levels normalising. For dependent drinkers, the first few hours of going teetotal means you’ll experience alcohol withdrawal.
Be prepared to experience these symptoms within the first few hours:
- Alcohol cravings
- Hand tremors
If you do suffer from alcohol dependency, it’s so important to get in contact with a doctor and take the necessary steps to recovery.
How to stick to an alcohol-free lifestyle
For most of us, alcohol has become such a natural part of our lifestyles that it can be daunting to go cold turkey. Having a glass of wine with your meal or popping down to the pub has become so routine that eliminating alcohol altogether can be harder than expected.
Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can stay focused on your goals without giving in to temptation.
- Track your progress — Investing in a drink tracker app is a brilliant way to help you visualise your progress. As well as keeping you motivated, the apps can even break down the data to show you how much money you’ve saved since going dry. Trust us, you won't be rushing back when you see how much money a Friday night on the town costs you!
- Stay social — One of the hardest parts of cutting out alcohol is the fear of missing out on social events with your friends or colleagues. Just because you’re giving up booze doesn’t mean you have to become a hermit! Next time you’re at a bar, order an alcohol-free beer or a delicious mocktail, so you can still socialise without falling off the wagon.
- Give yourself a break — Let's be honest; most of us are used to drinking alcohol as part of our regular lives, so stopping isn’t as easy as it sounds. There will be times when you’ll crave nothing more than a cold one at the end of the day or times when you actually give in and enjoy a drink. Rather than giving up at the first hurdle, learn from your mistake, dust yourself off and get back to it.
- Work out instead of going out — Finding an activity to occupy the time you would have spent drinking is a great distraction – and what better way than exercising? Throwing yourself into fitness instead of alcohol has become such a popular concept that more people than ever are swapping the gin for the gym and attending Friday night ‘clubbercise’ style workouts. At Fitness First, we have even created ROX, a back-to-back running and boxing hybrid fitness class that blends an intense workout with dimmed lights and fast-paced music for the ultimate Friday feeling.
How to train when cutting alcohol from your diet
When cutting alcohol from your diet, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s going to be difficult in the beginning — and it can be even harder when you’re trying to stick to a consistent training schedule.
But, if you are taking that route, it’s helpful to consider these tips that can make things that little bit easier:
- Stay hydrated — Alcohol can dehydrate the body, so it’s important to focus on staying hydrated during and after your workouts. Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water, as it’s a great substitute!
- Adjust your routine — If you’re used to drinking alcohol before or after your workout, you may need to adjust your routine. Try finding a new post-workout ritual, such as making a healthy snack or working with a new stretching routine. If you’re used to going for a drink straight after work, why not go for a run or start a HIIT workout class instead?
- Set goals — Setting specific goals can help you stay motivated and focused on your training, even when times seem tough. Making changes to your lifestyle can always be a challenge, especially if you’re cutting out alcohol, but it’ll be worth it in the long run!
- Fuel your body correctly — Cutting alcohol from your diet can also impact your overall nutrition, especially if your body has become dependent on it. Make sure you’re fuelling your body with healthy, nutrient-rich foods to support your workouts.
- Try new activities — If you’re used to socialising with friends or relaxing with a pint in your hand, you may need to try and find new activities to fill that time. Consider a new workout class or even an activity you’ve been curious about! At Fitness First, we’ve got a wide range of classes — from low-impact spin classes to full-body SHRED sessions — you’re sure to find something you’ll love.
- Seek support — Surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family members can make it easier to stick to your goals and stay motivated during this transition. If you’re in need of some extra support, try a support group and connect with others who are also making changes to their lifestyle.
By adjusting your routine, setting goals, fuelling your body correctly, trying new activities, and seeking support, you can continue to train and achieve your fitness goals while staying alcohol-free. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself, as making these lifestyle changes can take time and effort — it isn’t always easy! But, with consistent effort and commitment, you can achieve your goals and enjoy the many benefits of cutting alcohol from your diet.
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