Those cute and sweet margaritas, a glass or red wine might hit the spot when you’re looking for some steam after a long day at work. However, while it may taste delicious and feel good at the moment, it may not be providing your body much in terms of health and fitness. And if after a workday this drink turns into a regular happy hour, these drinks can build up and lead to more serious consequences down the road.
So, pause between those sips and think, “What’s really going on when I’m drinking this?” Moment. Luckily, we’ve got some answers for you from our dietitians, so you don’t have to sit and think for long. Here’s what happens in your body when you drink alcohol, depending on the type as well.
First, how much can we drink a day?
“It is advisable to limit alcohol intake when consuming one drink for women and two drinks for men when consuming it, and it is better not to consume it on a daily basis.” Beth Stark, RDN, LDN PA-based Nutrition Communications Consultant and Recipe Developer.
It’s also important to remember what really counts as a “drink”, because the huge margarita you order at the beach bar or one shot of wine at night is likely to be greater than the appropriate portion size, as suggested in this recommendation.
A serving according to this guideline might be a 12-ounce glass of regular beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce serving of alcoholic beverage. “Chances are, this is slightly less than what most people drink at one time, especially when pouring their own drinks,” says Stark.
What happens to your body?
When you drink wine, you don’t digest it. It goes straight into the bloodstream and affects every part of your body. “It slows down the chemical pathways in your brain and affects your reactions, your memory and your mood, as your body deals with alcohol like a toxin that needs to be neutralized and eliminated,” he explains. Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT.
Unfortunately, other body processes, including the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fats, stop as your body works to eliminate alcohol. This also changes your body’s mechanism for obtaining energy sources as fuel. “Alcohol is used as fuel before anything else, so the excess carbohydrates (glucose) and fats (fats) are stored as fat in the body,” says Lakatos.
So, if you have a sweet drink, beer or wine, for example, as there are generally more carbohydrates and sugars, they will be stored as fats while you eat them. And if you’re into a burger and french fries – these are, too.
While this may be in more serious situations where you drink a lot and may vomit, illness from alcohol can affect the bottom of your stomach. “Alcohol irritates the stomach lining and increases digestive juices, and when acid builds up from the stomach and alcohol, it can cause vomiting,” says Lakatos.
When you keep doing this over time, you can develop an ulcer. Additionally, elevated stomach juices may lead to a cessation of appetite, so it can be difficult to get the nutrients you need. Of course, vomiting cannot prevent this! So, maintain moderation and responsibility when drinking to avoid overeating.
Alcohol also inhibits the hormone in the brain that tells the kidneys not to make any more urine, so you find yourself rushing to the bathroom after the seal is broken. “If you have to go to the bathroom frequently, this could cause you to become dehydrated and in the long run, which puts pressure on the kidneys and the toxic effect of alcohol may weaken the kidneys,” says Lakatos. Plus, you might feel bloated, thirsty, and dry in the mouth while drinking – not fun.
It could affect your next day, too!
It’s also not good for sleep. “You may fall asleep after drinking, but it disrupts REM sleep during the night, so you won’t feel refreshed,” says Lakatos.
It could continue into the next day in terms of effects. “After a night of drinking – your judgment, memory and reaction times diminish, and your inhibitions are less,” says Lacatos.
Alcohol also makes you hungrier, and you may wake up with a roaring stomach, even if you were inulse when drinking the night before. You may have more cravings and fewer appetite suppressing signals. Therefore, you may find that you are looking for sweeter foods and carbohydrates rather than rich proteins and good fats.
What is the best wine?
“If you adhere to these recommendations, there is no need for there to be too much emphasis on the type of beverage you choose, ie drink what you enjoy without worrying about calories, added sugars, etc.; however, when drinking more than these recommendations, keep in mind that Wines, light beers or Pilsner, beer and beer (as opposed to Stout, some IPAs or some beers), alcoholic drinks are among the low-calorie alcoholic beverage options, “says Stark.
To get accurate calorie amounts, do your research before drinking. Mixed (margarita) or blended drinks (strawberry dairy) are often among the highest in calories, as well as added sugars, thanks to the mixers used to make them. So, using regular wines or low-calorie mixers, as well as dry wines, may be your best option in terms of managing weight and possibly avoiding horrific sugar hangovers.
Either way – keep drinking in moderation for optimal health and wellness, as well as improving sleep, weight management, appetite regulation and performance during your workouts!