How We Keep Alcohol In A Healthy Lifestyle
We get this question from couples all the time, “How do you drink alcohol and maintain a healthy lifestyle?” We haven’t always done an excellent job of enjoying alcohol and still reaching our health goals, but it’s never crossed our mind to give it up altogether.
Instead, we’ve created rules to guide us. In this article, we’ll touch upon our research, experience, and the rules we developed to control drinking and a healthy lifestyle. Yes, alcohol and weight loss can be friends.
alcohol and a healthy lifestyle
What The Studies Show
Whether or not there is a healthy amount of alcohol to consume is controversial, and Google searching will make your head spin. You have the World Health Organization saying since 1988 that alcohol is a level 1 carcinogen. Then you have the Harvard School of Public Health sharing evidence that beer and wine are actually good for you.
One extensive and recent study published in The Lancet concluded that the healthiest amount of alcohol to consume is none at all. However, they factored in alcohol-related deaths like car accidents and not specifically poor health side-effects of drinking.
Let’s go back to alcohol being a carcinogen. Did you know that Mormon women in Utah (Mormons don’t drink alcohol) show 24% lower breast cancer rates compared to the national average? That’s a compelling statistic.
To further complicate the answer to this question, you have the beverage industry working to preserve the reputation of their business to not follow in the tobacco industry’s footsteps. This skews data.
So, can we enjoy alcohol and still reach our health goals? Studies don’t provide the answer.
What Our Research Shows
When media and scientific findings aren’t conclusive, we read books and observe successful people in our own lives. In The History Of The World In 6 Glasses, it was interesting to learn that beer was consumed far more than water because it was safer (no bacteria due to being boiled).
Humans have also enjoyed wine since 6,000 BCE. In The Blue Zones Solution, a book that evaluates the lifestyle of the longest living and healthiest populations, there is no apparent link to alcohol consumption and poor health. Many of the centenarians are daily wine drinkers (socially and in moderation, of course).
Then, we have our 90-year-old grandfathers who have been drinking their glass of brandy at 7:30 PM sharp for as long as we can remember. According to this study, this has health benefits. It concluded that “compared with abstention, consumption of 1 to 6 drinks weekly is associated with a lower risk of incident dementia among older adults.”
Well done, Grandpa! Think about the successful people in your life whose behavior you’d want to emulate. What are their drinking habits?
What Our Experience Says
We have been drinking since we became adults. Over time, however, we drink less and less. After college, it got to a point where drinking hurt our productivity at work, so we limited weekday happy hours.
Then we realized that alcohol was negatively impacting our sleep. The book Why We Sleep confirmed that even moderate drinking is terrible for our night’s rest. It’s especially bad for REM sleep, which gives us creativity and memory retention that we need to grow our business while we travel.
While alcohol can make you fall asleep faster, it reduces your quality of sleep. Goodbye, night cap (until we’re in our 60s).
Our last straw was crippling hangovers when we had one too many, which would prevent us from having an enjoyable next day. Now, we even limit alcohol on the weekends.
So, do we think you can drink alcohol and still be healthy? Yes. Can alcohol and weight loss still go together? Yes.
Given all the studies, the adverse side effects of drinking still far outweigh the positive. Yet, with such a long history of humans enjoying alcohol, it seems unrealistic to pull the plug. Still, it’s critical to pay attention to your alcohol consumption and how it fits into your healthy lifestyle.
Currently, we drink moderately (1-3 drinks) once per week, sometimes less and sometimes more for special occasions. The best definition of moderation that we found was 1-2 drinks twice per week.
We don’t try to rationalize why drinking is good for us. Yes, drinking alcohol in a social environment can have incredible stress-relieving and community-building benefits. Plus, it’s true that there are healthy antioxidants in red wine.
However, cooking or going on a bike ride together also has stress-relieving and community-building benefits. Moreover, drinking green tea and adding more plants to your diet is a much better antioxidant opportunity than drinking red wine.
Instead of rationalizing drinking, we accept that it’s not healthy and put rules in place to help us moderate our consumption. We also empower ourselves to make healthy decisions. As a couple, you can enjoy alcohol and still reach your health goals by following these rules.
If you need rules to follow to enjoy alcohol and still achieve weight loss, try this 30-Day Weight Loss Challenge. It is a weigh loss plan with an engineering twist — tracking the five most important numbers for weight loss.
our rules to keep alcohol in a healthy lifestyle
1. Special Occasions
Alcohol fits in a healthy lifestyle when you drink for the right reasons. Not for stress relief or because it’s a habit to reach in the fridge for a beer after a long day at the office. Instead, drink for celebratory reasons on special occasions. Like a fun social outing with friends, a wedding, or a sunset drink on a family vacation. We even celebrate with wine occasionally after having a productive workday while preparing a healthy home-cooked dinner.
It’s important not to deprive yourself of something you enjoy. Yet, to control drinking in a healthy lifestyle, it’s critical to prevent mindless drinking. This is why we prefer to keep alcohol out of the house unless it’s for a special occasion.
We made this decision after living in Argentina, where the wine was so excellent and affordable that we always kept bottles in the house. Therefore, we started to drink mindlessly before, during, and after dinner. Although we were still enjoying alcohol together and for the right reasons, it was preventing us from reaching our health goals.
How to do it:
Start by identifying what a special occasion is. For us, it’s rare that there is a “special occasion” more than once a week. Make a plan as a couple on Sunday and decide which days you’ll indulge and how much.
If you currently drink every night, start by cutting back to every other and journal how you feel. Chances are you are going to quickly realize that you have more energy and focus when drinking less.
2. Partner Up
Just as it’s essential to be aligned in your healthy lifestyle as a couple, it’s also necessary to share healthy drinking habits with your partner. If one person is always bringing alcohol into the house or ordering it with dinner, the other will feel pressured to drink more.
If you’re drinking together on a date night, set a limit on how many drinks you’ll have together. If you’re drinking with friends or family, plan ahead and give yourself an excuse to say no to more drinks or a late night out. For example, turn down another drink by saying you have an early morning meeting.
Another technique is to order one drink that you’re able to nurse all night, like a glass of red wine. Unlike beer which warms up, setting your drinking pace, a glass of red wine can tie you over through the whole meal when sipped slowly.
Read more: 9 tips to eat healthy on date night.
How to do it:
Have an open and honest discussion about your drinking habits. Is one or both of you over the moderation limits of 1-2 drinks twice per week? Why? Is one person drinking far more than the other? Make a plan to close the gap and reduce your alcohol consumption so that you can be healthy. Set a goal each week and track your healthy drinking habit with our free printable habit tracker.
3. Drink Clean
When people ask us what it means to eat clean, the most straightforward response we have is, “Eat what your great-great-grandma’s grandma would have eaten.” That also applies to alcoholic drinks by forcing you to cut out sweet syrups and give up the mixed drinks containing soda. We gave up the sugary syrup-based margaritas and mojitos a long time ago due to stomachaches and incredibly high amounts of empty calories. Stick to wine, beer, or spirits with ice.
How to do it:
If you’re a wine drinker, find the grape and a few brands that make you feel best. Grapes are typically grown with a lot of pesticides. Therefore, if you have weird allergic reactions, stomachaches, or worse than usual hangovers, it’s worth experimenting with organic wines.
Although this is another controversial topic, we recommend going organic. Use the Vivino app to double-check the quality and ranking of the bottle. We personally found that organic wine gave us less noticeable hangovers, and, for Ryan, fewer stomachaches.
For beer drinkers, avoid those that are brewed with corn syrup. That’s an entirely foreign substance to your body since it’s highly processed. Many people have allergic reactions to beers containing corn syrup ranging from subtle to severe. Either way, they are not healthy.
4. Quality Over Quantity
Now that you’re drinking only for special occasions and only clean beverages, you can learn to appreciate the alcohol you’re drinking together. Doing this will help you generate more appreciation for the drink, consume it slower, and treat each drinking opportunity like a ritual. This will help you enjoy alcohol while still be healthy.
How to do it:
Pick your favorite beverage and learn about its heritage, how it was made, and where. Then, schedule a date night or vacation to visit the brewery, distillery, or vineyard.
Another perk to staying with just one drink for the night gives you license to finally try that more expensive cocktail or glass of wine!
5. No Drunk Munchies
You’re at a considerable advantage here when you decide to keep alcohol in your healthy lifestyle by following these rules as a couple. The added accountability makes all the difference. Together, you can help each other avoid the bowl of chips at a party and pass on going out for pizza late at night.
Drunk munchies always seem like a great idea at the time. But, if you have weight loss goals, alcohol induced drunk munchies will undoubtedly put you at a calorie surplus for the day.
How to do it:
Whatever you do, don’t skip a meal and save the calories for alcohol. That’s a horrible solution to reaching your weight loss goals while still drinking alcohol. Instead, eat a well-balanced meal beforehand.
A meal of protein and vegetables is best to set the foundation for a few drinks. Instead of crumbling and eating late-night junk food, keep healthy leftovers in the fridge that you can go home and heat up. We are totally guilty of passing on late-night tacos and opting for the cauliflower fried rice in the fridge.
Also, follow the drink-water-drink rule to stay alert and hydrated. The munchies are mostly caused by dehydration. While you’re at it, put a lime in your drink if one is available. Why not capitalize on that immunity-boosting opportunity.
Read more: How to not have hangovers.
6. Work Out Harder
If you consume alcohol and exceed your daily caloric needs, you’ll gain weight. If you drink alcohol and account for it in your daily caloric intake, or better yet, burn more calories during your workout, you won’t. If you’re goal is to include alcohol in your weight loss plan, this is critical.
Drinking alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight is not easy. For example, if you drink 4 drinks once per week, estimates say that you’ll gain 10 pounds of body fat per year.
Make sure you are aware of how many calories you are consuming and burning throughout the day, and figure out how to optimize your workouts.
How to do it:
Workout on the days that you plan to drink alcohol. Learn how to do your exercises together, and it’s much more likely that you’ll do it. Plus, people who have lower body fat compositions are less likely to feel hungover.
If you don’t understand how your consuming and burning calories daily, you need to take our 30-Day Weight Loss Challenge. We’ll teach you how to track your calories (and four other highly important numbers) for sustainable weight loss. Again, critical information if you plan to keep alcohol in your weight loss plan. Scroll down for details on this challenge.
If you have other tips to help couples drink alcohol and still be healthy, please share them in the comments below. Let us know which of the above you’ll be implementing because we all know that just reading about something won’t make it stick!
30-Day Weight Loss Challenge
As engineers with ten years of health coaching experience, we needed to create a data-driven way for our clients to sustain weight loss. The number on the scale matters for weight loss, but other numbers are significantly more important.
Too many weight loss challenges involve a long list of what you can, cannot, and need to do every day. We’ve reduced the overwhelm and only require you to track five numbers a day — calories, steps, fiber, sleep, waistline. In this 30-day weight loss challenge, you'll track five numbers daily to give you the highest return for sustainable weight loss.
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Hey we're Ryan and Alex
The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”
After eight years working in the corporate world, originally as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.
The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship, as a couple.