Avoid dehydration, weight gain, and other worse-than-a-hangover side effects of alcohol with smart strategies for boozing before happy hour
Summer means barbecues, picnics, and playdates. (And we all deserve a little fun in the sun after the winter we just had!) But daytime parties also mean daytime alcoholic drinks—and while a glass of wine or a beer won't hurt (according to some research, it may even help), experts say it's easy to go overboard. Women have a special reason to be extra vigilant about drinking during the day too, says Brenda Iliff, former clinical director of Hazelden's Women's Recovery Center and author of A Woman's Guide To Recovery: We're at an increased risk for alcoholism than men because of the way we metabolize alcohol, she explains.
So how can you avoid day drinking dangers and still enjoy that glass of rosé? We asked experts to spill on how to sip safely in the sun.
Alcohol is dehydrating, plain and simple, says Michael Shapiro, M.D., of Vanguard Dermatology. It's a diuretic, which means it makes you pee a lot more, causing you to lose more water than you normally would. Add in hot weather and you'll be parched in no time. To stay hydrated, Shapiro advises alternating alcoholic drinks with plain water or unsweetened tea and limiting your adult beverages to one or two. (Totally bored by just plain water? One of these 8 Infused Water Recipes to Upgrade Your H2O should do the trick.)
Even moderate drinking can affect the way you metabolize essential nutrients, says Jill Weisenberger, author of The Overworked Person's Guide to Better Nutrition. When you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, it blocks the absorption of some vitamins and minerals, particularly B12, according to a recent study. A B12 deficiency could leave you exhausted and mentally cloudy, and, for chronic drinkers, this loss of nutrients can lead to even bigger health problems. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, Weisenberger says not to drink on an empty stomach and make sure your daily diet is full of a variety of fruits, vegetables, protein, and whole grains, all excellent sources of B12 and other nutrients.
Several recent studies have found a link between alcoholic drinks (particularly white wine and liquor) and melanoma. And it's not just scary skin cancer you should be concerned about, Shapiro says. "Alcohol consumption significantly reduces the level of protective antioxidants in the skin, thus robbing the skin of it's essential vitamins and making it more susceptible to faster burning in the sun," he says, adding that drinking also makes it more likely you'll forget to reapply sunscreen if you're outdoors. So if you're planning on drinking outdoors, making sure to be extra vigilant about suncreen. (Try one of 20 Sun Products to Protect Your Skin.)
All the things that people love about a good buzz, like feeling more relaxed and light-minded, aren't things that make you a good employee or parent, Iliff points out. Even if you're not drunk, a little bit of booze still slows your reflexes, impacts your memory, worsens your decision making skills, and makes you unreliable—all things that can be a huge problem if you have to go back to work, take care of children, or man the grill, she says. To protect yourself and others, skip the multitasking and make sure you're just relaxing with your drink (you'll enjoy it more anyhow!).
Drinking often replaces nutritious calories with empty ones—something that can be a problem for your waistline and your health, says Weisenberger. Not only can it be hard to know exactly how many calories are in your cocktail (making it easy to go overboard), but even a little bit of alcohol reduces inhibitions, which is why eating half a pizza suddenly seems like a great idea. To keep your diet on track, she says to make sure that you keep a plate of healthy noshes nearby and make an extra effort to eat a balanced diet the rest of the time, focusing on getting plenty of protein, healthy fats, and produce. (Try any of the 50 Best Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss.)
Anyone who's ever drunk-texted an ex or found an empty container of ice cream in their bed after a few too many drinks knows that booze can make you do questionable things. If you're drinking during the day, then that means you're likely not exercising, working, or reading during that time, Iliff points out, adding that alcohol consumption is frequently linked with other risky behaviors like smoking and promiscuous sex. To avoid this, plan when and what you'll drink so you can make sure you get your workout in early that day, have plenty of time to catch up on missed sleep, and eat well. It's also a good idea to enlist your friends in helping you resist a social cigarette or a questionable date.