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.
1. You’ll 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, RD, spokesperson for the Academy for 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.” This can have a negative effect on your metabolism.
2. You’ll have lower 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 2011 study at the University of Rochester Medical Center, 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 CDC estimates that nearly 15 percent of Americans binge drink (consuming seven drinks a day) twice a week. “People need to consider not only how much alcohol they drink, but the way in which they are drinking it,” said lead study author John Cullen, PhD, research associate professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
3. 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 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 a blood pressure 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 to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
4. 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 recent study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found that drinking before bed increased the kind of brain waves that usually occur when you’re awake but resting—meaning 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.
5. 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 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.
6. 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 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.
7. Your workouts will improve
Regular consumption of alcohol could have detrimental affects 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.
8. You’ll eat healthier
Alcohol is one of the biggest drivers of excess food consumption, according to a study published in American Journal of Nutrition. 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, Debridge suggests eating 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.