Sat | Jul 11, 2020

Cheers to responsible drinking this holiday season

Published:Wednesday | December 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM

With Christmas just behind us and the New Year only days away, the holiday celebrations are far from over. Which means that alcohol in all its forms will continue to flow as we all prepare to bid farewell to the old and ring in the new.

But try not to overdo it and consume too much alcohol. Overindulgence in the wrong kind of spirit can be very bad for your health. And, unfortunately, that's quite easy to do, what with all the cocktails and multitude of flavoured alcohols that are on offer for the holidays.

If you're not careful, you will get carried away, consuming way more alcohol than planned, which can lead to unintended consequences.

Here are a few healthful tips for being a responsible drinker this season.




The surest way to get drunk is to drink on an empty stomach. Consuming alcohol while hungry may produce hypoglycemia, which can cause dizziness, weakness, and mood changes. Make sure to have solid food in your system before having any alcohol. Experts recommend that you eat high-protein foods such as cheese and peanuts, which help to slow the absorption of alcohol into the circulatory system and burn it off. While drinking, make sure to always munch on something or imbibe with a meal.




Dehydration can cause your blood volume to drop, allowing less blood and oxygen to flow to the brain and allowing the stress hormone cortisol to have a greater impact on your system, so make sure that you are getting adequate fluid. If you drink alcohol while dehydrated, it will have a seriously negative impact on your system. Water improves the processing of brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. Staying hydrated can reduce the negative effects of alcohol.




Drink a glass of water in between each alcoholic drink. Sparkling or soda water or any non-alcoholic drink will do just as well. For every alcoholic drink you have, your body can expel up to four times as much liquid, plus straight alcohol can have negative effects in more ways than one, including impaired judgement and loss of focus. Adding adequate water to the mix will allow you to still enjoy yourself while keeping sharp. In the end, you will avoid getting drunk and that much-regretted morning hangover.




Don't gulp it down. Sip it slowly and take time to savour it. It's not a race to see how much you can down in a night. Slowly having your drink allows you to enjoy the flavour and pleasure of the experience. Your body absorbs alcohol quicker than you metabolise it. The faster you drink, the more time the toxins in booze spend in your body, affecting your brain and other tissues, and the bigger the hangover will be in the morning.




Metabolism depends on several factors (gender, weight, age, health), but in general, most people can metabolise roughly one drink an hour, so try to keep your alcoholic intake to one per hour. You don't have to take that other drink if someone is forcing it on you, or just ask for a non-alcoholic drink in between. Having non-alcoholic drinks between the alcoholic ones will keep your blood alcohol concentration down. Space your alcoholic drinks out to keep the desired blood alcohol concentration.




Diluting alcohol with ice or water will increase your time between refills and decrease its effects on your body and brain. As you slowly enjoy your beverage, the ice will melt and create more liquid as it reduces the strength of the alcohol. You can also use soda water or another non-alcoholic beverage as a chaser. Don't be influenced or embarrassed into not chasing your drink. Your own health and safety are what's important.




While it may be good to sample new, exciting beverages and cocktails, don't be fooled by the fancy names and delicious-sounding flavours. Some of these mixes can be really deceiving. You may find yourself caught up in the delicious flavour and overindulge. Before you realise it, your head is spinning like a gig and your knees are wobbling like an off-balance washing machine tumbler. Always adequately space out your drinks no matter how good they taste.




Whether it's flu medicine, painkillers, sleeping pills, antibiotics, prescription meds, anti-depressants - you name it, it doesn't matter - it is a really bad idea to mix alcohol with drugs. A real no-no! Whatever meds you are on, make sure that they're out of your system before adding alcohol. Or, better yet, avoid alcohol altogether. Way too many persons ignore that medication warning 'NOT TO BE TAKEN WITH ALCOHOL' to their detriment.




Alcohol is calorie-dense, so too much of it will pack on the pounds, which no one wants.




If you do not already know how much alcohol you can consume without losing it, try it out one time at home among people you trust. Knowing your limitations and sticking to them is very important. Equally important is knowing the alcoholic content of each liquor you plan to consume.

Weekly alcohol consumption should be no more than 21 units of alcohol for a mature male and 14 units for a mature female, which would be equivalent to about two glasses of red or white wine five times a week or two beers five times a week.

It is very important to know how much alcohol your system can absorb before you start to feel the effects. This way, you will know if it's just one beer for you at the party, without you gulping down a half-dozen and not remembering what happened after that. Or remembering what a complete fool you made of yourself.




Before you and your friends head out to the party, appoint a designated driver. That person is not allowed to consume any alcohol for the night. That person's role is to be fully alert and sober to drive everyone who may be drinking alcohol home. No matter how in control you think you are, alcohol always, always affects your body and leaves you less than alert.




• Don't force someone to drink if they don't want to. They may abstain for religious or medical reasons because they are recovering alcoholics, or they just may not like the taste and effect it has on them.

• If you know you have to drive, drastically limit your alcohol intake, drink lots of water, and eat while having that one glass of beer. And make sure you drink that limited amount at least an hour before driving.

• Alcohol intake is for adults - 18 years and older.

• If you are the bartender for the event, please act responsibly, and watch out for those who don't know their limit and those who have already had enough. Don't always top up because the glass is half- or even fully empty.

• As the host, try to serve alcohol every hour and use small cups and glasses. Make sure that food items are always available for persons to snack on while drinking. Nuts, cheese, and meat items are good choices. Make sure you have non-alcoholic beverages easily available. Don't allow guests to drive if you think they are drunk. Call them a cab or ask someone to drive them home.

• Despite belief, coffee is not an instant 'sober up'. As one expert puts it, all you get from drinking coffee to counter alcohol is being "wide awake and drunk".

By all means, make sure to have an enjoyable, peaceful, happy, safe, responsible, sensible, healthy holiday season and a God-blessed New Year.