From when you drink to how you work out, make these small tweaks to benefit—not suffer—from a glass of red wine.
Red wine is kind of like sex: Even when you don’t know exactly what you’re doing, it’s still fun. (Most of the time, anyway.) But in terms of your health, knowing your way around a bottle of red and its benefits is better than fumbling around like a vino virgin. Here, five mistakes you (and lots of others) make when it comes to red wine, and how to sip smarter.
1. You pour a glass right before bed. True, the alcohol in red wine can lower your core body temperature, speed the release of certain hormones, and trigger metabolic changes that help you drift off to sleep, studies show. But booze also disrupts your sleep after a few hours of slumber, shows a report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That can leave you tossing and turning in the early morning hours, and feeling groggy the following day. Better to keep your wine habit to a glass or two earlier in the night—like several hours before you hit the sack, the NIH study indicates.
2. You’re drinking it in place of exercise, instead of after exercise. A recent study (from France, natch) suggests one ingredient in red wine protects your muscles and bones in ways similar to physical activity. So quit the gym and drink more cab, right? Wrong. You’d have to pound about a gallon of red a day to get enough of that ingredient, and that wouldn’t do your liver or your lifestyle any favors. But multiple studies, including one recent paper from the Czech Republic, have shown that a glass of wine can bolster your heart and muscle health if—big if—you exercise regularly.
3. You’re overdoing it. Loads of research has shown light-to-moderate red wine consumption—that’s a glass or two a day, several days a week—can extend your life and strengthen your heart. But drink much more than that, and you’ll shorten your life, raise your heart disease risk, and generally torpedo your health, shows a study from the New England Journal of Medicine.
4. You’re trying to get its good stuff from a supplement. A lot of the research on red wine’s benefits focuses on resveratrol, a healthful compound you can now buy in supplement form. But just as popping a multivitamin isn’t as beneficial as eating whole vitamin-rich foods, swallowing a resveratrol supplement doesn’t seem to offer the same benefits as drinking red wine. In fact, a Canadian study found resveratrol supplements actually hurt your body’s response to physical activity. Skip the pills and grab a glass instead.
5. You’re guzzling it to help your skin. Some research has tied that same red wine compound to protection from sun damage and firmer skin. The only issue: You have to spread it on your skin in lather form, and most of the studies showing benefits involved rodents, not people. On the other hand, drinking red wine in heavy doses harms your liver and dehydrates you—both of which hurt your skin and make you look older, studies show. So no, getting cozy with a bottle of red won’t do your skin any favors.