After all of the yummy food and drink over Christmas, going dry in January – alcohol-free – has become increasingly popular. It is mostly done to counteract the increased amount of alcohol consumed in December, or to raise money for charity – which is a great thing to do. It can also help boost weight loss.
As you probabaly know, most beer, wine and spirits are made from fermenting a grain, fruit, potatoes or sugarcane. Beer, whiskey and gin are made from barley; for vodka, it is made from either barley, wheat, rye or potatoes; for rum, it’s sugarcane and molasses; for wine, sherry, port and brandy it is usually grapes. All of these foods are from the carbohydrate family—which means they breakdown in to sugars. And it is this that is the main contributor to calories within a drink. Drinks with a higher alcoholic content have had more of the sugars converted into alcohol, which is why their calorie content is usually lower than wine or beer. Please don’t however, switch to spirits simply because of the calorie content!
Going dry in January helps then reduce the calories you typically consume. According to the NHS website, the average wine drinker in the UK takes in around 2,000 calories a month. That’s the equivalent of eating an extra day’s worth of calories a month. The calories in this way can add-up quite alarmingly.
In 2016, the government revised down the weekly recommended of units of alcohol to 14 units for both men and women. This equates to 6 x 175 ml glasses of wine at no more than 13% strength or 6 pints of beer at 4%. The DrinkAware website usefully calculates units, calories of your favourite tipple and the amount of exercise required to burn these calories off too. The following snap-shot is from the DrinkAware website.
If you drank 14 units every week, in a month this would accumulate to 4,125 calories for wine or 4,732 for beer – or like eating more than 2 day’s worth of food. I trust that not every week you drink the maximum units – but these numbers help you see what alcohol might be doing to your waist-line.
Those of you who know me well, know that I never promote counting calories (see my article on, ‘Do Calories Count?’) because no-one can accurately tell you exactly how many calories your unique body needs each day. However, your body does need a certain amount of calories each day. So, cutting out alcohol during January will reduce your calorie intake.
Perhaps the biggest benefit though is the rest you give to your liver a rest from having to process alcohol. Soon after drinking alcohol, it is absorbed into your blood stream which carries it to your liver to metabolises it—at least most of it. Between 2-10% is breathed or sweated out from your body, which explains why you can smell alcohol on someone who has been drinking. There are several different enzyme processes undertaken in the liver, and whilst this is happening, the normal processing of glucose comes to a halt. This can lead to too much fat being stored in the liver, which can, if alcohol is consumed in large amounts, lead to fatty-liver disease.
The good news is that your liver is remarkably able to restore itself. Even just 2 weeks without having to process any alcohol can help the liver restore itself.
So, will you go dry in January? Or is there some resistance?
Here is some encouragement for you to do it.
It’s too late to start a dry January…
No. It may be the 4th or 5th or maybe even later when you read this, but that’s still OK to either complete the rest of the month, or simply continue until 4th/5th of February.
My friends and family are still drinking: it is too hard not give up by myself.
Yes, it is challenging to do what others don’t wish to do—but you feel super cool when you have done it and they haven’t.
I don’t drink very much alcohol—so there’s no point…
If this is the case, it will be very easy for you—and it still will reduce your normal calorie content and rest your liver.
What do I drink when I go out?
More and more pubs, restaurants and supermarkets sell non-alcoholic drinks, from alcohol free wine and beer, to mocktails and posh pop. If you are determined to do it, you will find solutions beyond orange juice or mineral water—although I personally like the latter.
And finally, whilst helping your liver restore itself, drink plenty of water too. Have I convinced you? I hope so. If you decide to go dry in January, do let me know how you got on for I love to hear about your progress.
Eat Well—Be Well 😊