9 Things That Happen When You Stop Drinking Alcohol
No one is saying drinking in moderation (a drink a day for women and two for men) is a bad thing. But cutting back a bigger intake than that can yield significant health perks.
Less alcohol and mean more health benefits
From your blood pressure to your energy, your waistline to your wallet, you can benefit in so many ways if you decide to take a break from alcohol—and here are some easy ways to drink less. Some changes are immediate and some might take a little while to show up. Everyone’s body reacts in different ways, but here are some of the things that could happen if you give up alcohol.
You may lose weight
A cold brew or summery cocktail might be relaxing after a long day at work, but those liquid calories add up. Just one 12-ounce beer has about 150 calories, and fruity cocktails are loaded with sugar. If you’re drinking regularly, those empty calories can cause you to start piling on the pounds without even realizing it. “Of course, everyone’s body reacts differently to alcohol,” says Wesley Delbridge, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But one thing applies to everybody. “Once alcohol is introduced, our body wants to process it right away. It shuts down every other system to process that alcohol,” he says. This can have a negative effect on your metabolism. Here’s how to know if you’re drinking too much in the first place.
You’ll have lower LDL cholesterol
Believe it or not, excessive amounts of alcohol can negatively impact your cholesterol just like fat and salt, increasing your risk of developing heart disease. In a study published in Atherosclerosis, scientists found that levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol rose 20 percent in mice who spent a weekend binge drinking, compared to mice that consumed no alcohol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about one in six Americans binge drink (consuming seven drinks a day) about four times a month. “People need to consider not only how much alcohol they drink, but the way in which they are drinking it,” study lead author John Cullen, PhD, research associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a statement. If you’re fighting a craving, try these no-alcohol drinks that taste like the real thing.
Your blood pressure will improve
You might think that nightcap is easing your stress, but it could actually raise your blood pressure. According to a study published in the journal Hypertension, 38 ounces of beer or 13 ounces of wine (about three beers or a couple of glasses of wine) increased participants’ blood pressure by an average of 2.4 mmHg. Another study at the University of Bristol found that individuals who drink on a regular basis have blood pressure numbers that are around 7 mmHg higher than people who do not drink. To keep your blood pressure in check, follow the American Heart Association’s recommendation of no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Here’s more of what you should know about alcohol and high blood pressure.
You’ll sleep better
“A lot of people will say that alcohol puts them to sleep. Technically that’s true, you’re going to sleep, but that sleep is not as deep or effective,” Delbridge says. A study in the journal Handbook of Clinical Neurology found that drinking before bed increased the kind of brain waves that usually occur when you’re awake but resting. That means you’re getting a disrupted, not restful, night’s sleep. Even though you may have difficulty falling asleep at first, cutting your alcoholic beverage at dinner will help you wake up feeling rested and rejuvenated. These are the drinks that help you sleep—and ones to avoid.
You’ll have more energy
If you’ve ever suffered through the day with booze breath and a hangover headache, then hit the bar again right after work and wondered why you’re dragging the next day, it’s probably time to break the cycle. “It all stems from waking up and starting out on the right foot: eat a healthy breakfast and get out of the door on time,” Delbridge says. Without the headaches and junk food binges that follow a night of drinking, you’ll experience improvements to your mood, concentration, performance, and energy levels that last throughout the entire day. Here’s more information on the safest amount of alcohol to drink.
You’ll find new hobbies
Giving up happy hour doesn’t have to mean becoming a hermit. When people gave up alcohol, many reported that they felt unsocial and disconnected from their friend groups, says Delbridge. “Alcohol gets us out, active, and talking, rather than just sitting on the couch,” he says. “But it’s not hard to find a happy medium.” Invite your friends to weekend activities that don’t involve alcohol, like a local stage production or walk through the park. Check out all the scientific benefits of hanging out with friends.
Your workouts will improve
Regular consumption of alcohol could have detrimental effects on your workout routine because when you drink, “your body isn’t picking up the vital vitamins and minerals it needs,” Delbridge says. With your body preoccupied with digesting and absorbing the alcohol from last night, you might not be building the lean muscles you’re aiming for at the gym. Here’s what to choose at the bar if your goal is to lose weight.
You’ll eat healthier
Alcohol is one of the biggest drivers of excess food consumption, according to a study published in The American Journal of Nutrition. Other research has found that alcohol shifts the brain into “starvation mode,” increasing activity in brain cells that regulate appetite, according to findings in Nature. This is especially true for those who drink before they eat. “All studies show that when people drink before they eat, they actually eat more calories,” Delbridge says. To avoid overeating, he suggests, eat a healthy snack before you go out. “Get some protein, get some sugar, get some fat. That will get some food in your system” and keep you from gorging on calorie and fat-loaded appetizers at the bar. This is why drinking alcohol makes you so hungry.
Your wallet will be fuller
Let’s be honest: Your taste for fine wine or scotch on the rocks can be an expensive hobby. Start drinking less and your bank account will thank you. Now try these 17 simple ways to cut back on alcohol.
- USDA FoodData Central: “Alcoholic beverage, beer, regular, all”
- Wesley Delbridge, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
- Atherosclerosis: “Differential effects of daily-moderate versus weekend-binge alcohol consumption on atherosclerotic plaque development in mice”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Binge Drinking”
- University of Rochester Medical Center: “Study Links Drinking Pattern to Alcohol’s Effect on Heart Health”
- Hypertension: “Red Wine and Beer Elevate Blood Pressure in Normotensive Men”
- PLOS Medicine: “Alcohol Intake and Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review Implementing a Mendelian Randomization Approach”
- American Heart Association: “Is drinking alcohol part of a healthy lifestyle?”
- The Handbook of Clinical Neurology: “Alcohol and the Sleeping Brain”
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Alcohol consumption, nutrient intake and relative body weight among US adults”
- Nature: “Agrp neuron activity is required for alcohol-induced overeating”