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, but, 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.
Thanks to awareness campaigns and health movements, more and more people are seeing the benefits of an alcohol-free lifestyle. 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.
What are the benefits of cutting out alcohol?
1. 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 just twice a week, you’re spending £1560 each year on booze! That’s a huge amount of money you could be saving by saying no to a tipple.
2. You’ll eat less - We’ve all been there, queued up in the takeaway for a 2am kebab. A recent study found that the neurons that are 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.
3. 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 on the sauce.
4. 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.
5. 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 6 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 high-calorie intake than your body can do without.
6. Your skin 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 not only leaves you dehydrated, but also causes your skin to dry out. You’ll quickly notice when you stop drinking, that your skin looks and feels more hydrated and skin conditions such as dandruff and eczema may improve.
7. You’ll be healthier - It’s no secret that alcohol consumption can lead to a number of 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 and heart disease, as well as certain cancers that are associated with the lifestyle of heavy drinkers.
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 a daunting task to go cold turkey. Having a glass of wine with your meal or popping down the pub has become so routine that eliminating alcohol all together can be harder than you expect.
Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can stay focused on your goals without giving into temptation.
1. 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 me, when you see how much money a Friday night on the town is costing you, you won’t be rushing back!
2. 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.
3. 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 where 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.
4. 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 class that blends an intense workout with dimmed lights and fast-paced music for the ultimate Friday fitness feeling.
For more helpful advice on fitness and nutrition, visit our blog for more information.