With St. Patrick’s Day, the end of finals and Spring Break rapidly approaching, some of us may feel the need to celebrate with this little substance called alcohol. We all know the risks of heavy drinking, such as liver or kidney damage, increased chances of developing certain cancers, and higher rates of depression and violence.
However, some of us lose track of how it affects us nutritionally. Many of us forget how many calories we are consuming with each beverage. Many students don’t realize that one evening of drinking can be equivalent to a meal or even an entire day’s worth of calories! Alcohol can also deplete our body of several nutrients, such as folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A and calcium. Those who choose to drink alcoholic beverages should do so sensibly and in moderation. Here are a few tips on how to celebrate wisely.
Women absorb and metabolize alcohol more quickly than men, so watch out for that girl who tries to out-drink the guys; she might pay for it later. Also, when diet beverages are used to mix alcohol, such as Diet Coke, the alcohol actually hits the bloodstream faster than when drinking with full-calorie drinks. This poses a potentially dangerous situation if you consume multiple drinks with diet soda in a short period of time. Welcome to Blackout City, population: you!
The reason we are prone to craving unhealthy foods after a night of drinking is that we are dehydrated and our blood sugars are low. Anyone who has been to Taco Bell or Tonita’s around 2:30 a.m. has been witness to the “drunchies.” Instead of engorging yourself on greasy foods, try drinking Gatorade to help re-hydrate yourself and get your blood sugars back up.
While painkillers will provide immediate relief, they can cause problems for the kidneys and liver with long-term use. Aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil, Ibuprin, Motrin IB) are hard on your stomach and may promote gastrointestinal bleeding, while acetaminophen (Excedrin, Tylenol) is hard on your kidneys and liver, too, which will work overtime processing the alcohol.
Eat a full meal: A full stomach slows the absorption of alcohol, giving the body more time to process the toxins.
Drink a glass of water: This ensures the body is hydrated before the diuretic effect takes hold.
Take multivitamins: This better prepares the body for the depletion of vitamins caused by frequent urination.
Drink in moderation: Ideally, drinkers should limit themselves to one drink per hour because the body takes about an hour to process a single drink.
Dilute your drink: Another option is diluting your drink with club soda or sparkling water. Wine spritzers are a low-calorie standby. And if you usually drink a vodka and cranberry, for example, try it with club soda for hydration, just a splash of cranberry juice, and a squeeze of lime. Garnish with a wedge of citrus or pineapple to add flavor and few calories.
Have a game plan: Decide in advance the number of cocktails you are going to drink and cut back on unnecessary calories, such as sweets, during the day in anticipation. But eat a light snack before you go so you won’t get tipsy with the first drink and it will be less tempted to dive into the food. Always be aware of your own personal limits. Don’t drink too much, and, of course, don’t drink and drive.
Watch your drink choice: Drinkers generally fare better when they stick with one type of alcohol. Some drinks give you worse hangovers than others due to the actions of impurities called congeners. Vodka and gin (clear liquors) are generally lower in congeners than whisky, rum and bourbon, due to the filtering process involved, and hence usually give a less intense hangover. In general, the cheaper the alcohol, the more the congeners, and the worse the hangover. Popov anyone?
Before bed: Drink a full glass of water
In the morning: Drink a full glass of water and some Gatorade if you have it, and take another multivitamin. Also, eat breakfast. Eggs contain large amounts of cysteine, which can break down the hangover-causing toxin acetaldehyde in the liver. Eating bananas the morning after a night of heavy drinking provides lost electrolytes, but it specifically replenishes the potassium lost to alcohol’s diuretic effect. Fruit juice is a good idea the morning after because it is high in vitamins and nutrients depleted the night before due to the effect.
Sarah Bailey is a nutrition senior, a Mustang Daily nutrition columnist and a member of PULSE. This is her final column for the Mustang Daily.