Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Last week, I wrote about how to stay sane during the holidays given that it can be a really difficult time of year for some people. Indeed, many rely on alcohol to get them through stressful events and occasions. What's more is that attending countless holiday parties can mean lots of mulled wine, eggnog, hot toddies and more.
So, in today’s post, I'll focus on how you can sip smarter during the holiday season—and how you can cure that hangover should you have one (or three) too many.
But First, Some Real Talk About Alcohol…
Alcohol is a lot more caloric than you’d think. Carbohydrates and protein clock in at 4 calories per gram, while fat is 9 calories per gram. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, which is quite significant! To make matters worse, it doesn’t take our body any extra energy to break it down. For example, your body actually burns calories as it breaks protein down, but every single calorie of alcohol stays with you.
Additionally, your liver plays a role in keeping your blood sugar levels steady, but if it’s being bogged down by filtering out alcohol, it isn’t able to do this job as well. Translation: your blood sugar levels drop and stay that way until the alcohol is metabolized. Bring on cravings for carbs, sweets, and sugar, which is not good during a time of year when you’re surrounded by this kind of stuff!
Drinking alcohol can also encourage fat storage and weight gain. When you drink, your liver prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol, so it’s burning empty alcohol calories for energy instead of focusing on breaking down nutrient-rich food for energy. When you consume more calories than you burn, the extra calories are stored as fat. If you’ve been drinking a lot, your body might be convinced it already has the calories it needs when it comes time to digest your food, meaning that all of those food-related calories will be stored as fat.
How to Sip Smarter During the Holidays
Limit the egg nog.
I know, I know, you only get eggnog once a year. But given that it’s made with heavy cream, eggs, and rum, it packs a huge caloric punch at around 350 calories and 19 grams of fat per cup! I would say limit this as much as you can during the season and savour every sip when you do indulge.
Lighter drink choices include: vodka soda, straight bourbon, a seasonal hot toddy (made with hot water, honey, lemon juice, and cinnamon sticks), and a gin and tonic made with mostly club soda and just a splash of tonic water.
Stay away from drinks that are made with cream-based liqueurs as these are also very calorie-dense.
2. Pour half as much—or make it a spritzer.
If you know you’re going to be consuming a lot of alcohol, pour yourself a smaller glass each time, or fill half the glass with sparkling water to make it a spritzer! This will not only decrease your caloric intake, but you'll give yourself some additional hydration and reduce your chances of getting a bad hangover.
3. Put someone else on “pour duty.”
If you’re one to lose track of what glass of wine you’re on, ask a friend or significant other to be the one to pour your refills and request that they top it off only every hour or so to ensure you’re not drinking too quickly.
Don’t want to put that pressure on your date? Set a quiet alarm or reminder on your phone every hour or more and only allow yourself to pour another glass once that goes off. If you have a smart watch, the silent, vibrating alarm can be an incredibly helpful feature. Again, the key is to slow your drinking down so you’re not drinking more than you need.
4. Drink water.
This sounds simple, but it’s something we often forget to do when we’re drinking alcohol! A good tip is to match every glass of alcohol with at least one glass of water.
5. Use low-calorie mixers.
Lemon wedges, lime wedges, no-calorie soda, and flavoured sparkling water are all great options.
6. Take nights off from drinking and get your detoxification on.
If you’re attending a lot of holiday parties, it’s a wise idea to avoid drinking entirely during the other days of the week. During those days, it would also be wise to engage in activities that encourage detoxification: take a hot yoga class, start your day with lemon water, exercise, drink as much water as you can, drink green juices and smoothies, and take a liver-friendly supplement such as milk thistle.
So You’re Hungover… Now What?
It happens! Here’s what you can do to help yourself out:
1. The night before, chug as much water as you physically can before bed.
Trust me, your body will thank you the next morning.
2. Eat a good, nutritious breakfast.
Your blood sugar levels are going to be all over the place the morning after, so eating a good breakfast can encourage stabilization. Try some steel cut oatmeal with banana slices and coconut milk. The complex carbohydrates take a long time to break down, coconut milk contains healthy fats that are satisfying and filling, and bananas contain potassium—a mineral lost through frequent urination the night before.
3. Stay hydrated.
Alcohol has a diuretic effect, and you’re likely going to need a lot of water to rebalance your body. Water or decaffeinated teas that are liver-friendly like dandelion root tea are a great option the next day. Coconut water is also a great option since it will re-balance electrolyte levels.
Limit caffeine. It might be tempting, but it’s only going to dehydrate you even more and mess with your blood sugar levels.
4. Use some supplements beforehand and stay away from aspirin afterwards.
Prickly pear extract has been studied for its abilities to improve hangovers. In one study, half the participants were given prickly pear extract while the other half was given a placebo before spending four hours drinking. Those who received the supplement prior to drinking reported having less severe hangovers, especially in regards to nausea, dry mouth, and loss of appetite.
Alcohol can irritate the stomach, and medications like aspirin and the like can also do the same thing.
5. Consume ginger to help your stomach out.
You’re likely feeling hella nauseous the morning after, in which case ginger can be your best friend given its ability to fight nausea. Throw some chopped, fresh ginger into a cup of boiling water, let sit for at least five minutes, and drink up, buttercup.
6. Sweat it out.
In an ideal world, we’d all hit the gym to sweat it out, and major props to you if you’re able to do this in a hungover state. If this isn’t doable, hit the sauna or a super low-impact hot yoga class so you can sweat those toxins out.
Your body hates you right now, so let it rest.
The Bottom Line
If you know you're going to be drinking lots at various holiday parties this season, limit your alcohol consumption throughout the rest of the week and engage in activities that encourage detoxification, too. On the night of the party, pour a smaller portion, spread out your drinking, and drink as much water as humanly possible.
And above all, STAY SAFE during the holiday season. Carpool with a designated driver, use an über or cab, or take advantage of services like "Keys Please," which give you one driver for driving you and a second for driving your car to the destination.
You Tell Me!
What are your tips for sipping smarter during the holidays? Let me know in the comments below!