Everything in Moderation: A Balance Between Health and Alcohol

You wake up after a long night of drinking. You feel bloated, heavier, and full of regret from all the unhealthy choices you made the night before. Yet, at the same time, you are filled with joy by how much fun you had with all your best friends last night. This is a repetitive scenario many college students of the legal drinking age face. It is a constant juggling act between staying healthy and creating incredible memories on the weekends.

Its no secret that drinking and weight gain are linked, as explained by Substance Awareness Coordinator, Suanne Schaad.

“Most people gain the first year 15 as a direct and indirect result of drinking. We all know that we can directly gain weight by drinking as our bodies consider it to be a carbohydrate.  The indirect results are maybe even more significant… if we are under the influence and get the munchies from Nelly’s late night… are we ordering a little side salad with no dressing?  Heck no! We are probably ordering something yummy, fried, and fatty,” Schaad said. “We are probably not making it to the gym the next day to work out because we may be a little hangover or tired from a night out drinking. If we do make it to the gym, my bet is that we aren’t having the most productive workout. A  hangover includes a reduced level of oxygen in our bodies causing us to fatigue earlier than usual.”

While this is a vicious cycle, there are still ways to enjoy nights out and stay on track with a healthy lifestyle. Of course, there is no definitive healthy option for a night out drinking; there are only healthier choices.

Planning is one of the key aspects of balancing good times and a healthy lifestyle.

Senior social work major, Katie Agabiti said, “I balance both by planning my week so I know when I have the time to go out and when it’s time to stay in and be prepared to workout.”

Moderation is key; you can’t go out every night and stay healthy, you have to pick and choose.

Besides planning out your week, it is important to prepare your body before you go out. Alcohol is a diuretic, so it slows down your metabolism. Anything you eat before a night out drinking will sit in your stomach twice as long, the longer it sits in your stomach, the more your body absorbs it. Eat something light with a natural fat content. Think Salads with nuts or avocado or a peanut butter sandwich.

Jackie Mosca, a senior finance and economics major said, “it’s always a good time to go out with friends but it’s also important to stay active throughout the day.”

Keeping an active lifestyle during the day keeps your metabolism up which will help later when alcohol is slowing it down.

After carefully planning your week’s schedule by staying active and choosing meals wisely before going out, it would be a shame to throw all that away with poor choices in drinks. Alcohol contains seven calories per gram, making it more fattening than protein or carbs.

Adjunct Nutrition Professor Amanda Enright Unanski is a practicing dietitian as well.

“I generally advise my clients that it’s in their best interest not to drink their calories, as it’s easy to lose track. A can of Miller Lite may be 95 calories, but if someone has more than one, those calories quickly add up to equal a Big Mac with fries!” she said.

Since these drinks also contain almost no nutritional value – no protein, no vitamins – they are calories that in no way benefit your body. Whereas a 200 calorie breakfast would be full of nutrients that your body needs, these 200 calorie drinks add nothing. This is another reason why it is important to choose your drinks wisely.

This being said, beverages like a Twisted Tea or a Smirnoff Ice, at 260 calories each would take about 72 minutes walking, 30 minutes running or 40 minutes of cycling to burn off.

Wine is the most calorie friendly drink. It averages 20 calories per ounce, meaning 5 ounces comes in at 100 calories with no cholesterol, sodium or fat although it does contain more sugars than other drinks.

Hard liquor is higher in calories, ranging from 30 to 80 calories per 1.5 ounces. Although your first thought may be to mix these with sugary sodas, there are healthier options. For example, instead of mixing vodka with soda, use club soda and lemon.

“Mixed drinks are by far the worst offender. The juice or soda mixers alone are calorie bombs before the alcohol is even added-  a 4-oz margarita averages 170 calories, while an 8-oz cranberry vodka can be over 200 calories per serving!” Professor Enright Unanski said.

To burn two of those mixed drinks off you would have to walk for two hours or run for 40 minutes.

Lastly, there is beloved beer. There are many light options that do not sacrifice flavor and slash calories in half, like Miller 64. Most beers average nine calories and .5 grams of carbs per ounce, regular beers range from 12 to 18 calories and 1.1 grams of carbs per ounce. Watch for carbs too, some beers can weigh in with 24 grams of carbs per serving.

While out, there is always the option, to burn calories as well by dancing. Dancing is a great exercise and can burn up to 300 calories per hour. No need to be a wallflower when you can sneak in a mini workout!

So the night is now over, you are heading home and you are hungry! Your first instinct is to reach for the chips or worse the telephone and order a pizza. There are better options though. Craving a burger? Grab a eanut butter sandwich instead. If pizza is what you’re after, cook yourself a grilled cheese. Hummus and pita chips are a great alternative to chips and dip. Cereal, rice cakes, popcorn, and pretzels are all options as well that won’t leave you feeling bloated the next day.

The next day do not reach for the bacon. Although your mind may be calling for greasy foods, grease does not cure any ill feelings in the morning. Replenish what your body lost after the long night out. Options like eggs, berries, melons are loaded with vitamins your body will need. Eating a healthy breakfast instead of a greasy one will put nutrients back in your body, which is what you are really craving.

There you have it, a complete guide to a less toxic approach to managing both your social life and health. Make the best out of this semester by replacing unhealthy habits with smarter choices.