What Happens When We Drink?

Alcohol…. A few quiet drinks with friends… ‘Just one’…. After work drinks…

It can be the start of many a great night, and the catalyst of some of our worst decisions.

So what happens when we drink (from a health perspective)?

We have a few drinks, which are all high in kJ, and then we become less restrained as our risk aversion shifts. Many people will eat more food, and energy dense food, as they stay up later then they would if not drinking. Also the quality of our sleep after a few drinks is reduced so even though you might collapse into your bed for 8+hours, the amount of slow-wave sleep (SWS) after drinking is much less. This SWS is the deep restorative sleep when our bodies rest and repair. So often after a big night out & a long sleep in we wake up feeling tired & groggy (especially if you drank a lot) and that feeds into the next day. We often wake up dehydrated, disorientated and exhausted. The next day you’ll have impaired judgement & co-ordination, and are more likely to have depressive moods. Typically on a hangover day most people will move less and burn up to 30% less energy then a normal day, yet ironically the hangover seems to make most people crave energy dense & greasy foods such as cooked breakfasts & burgers. So we consume more kJ and burn less, all while feeling lethargic, moody & tired. All this sometimes carries on for 12-24hrs even affecting our sleep the following night.

You certainly don’t want to be putting your body trough this cycle every week (or multiple times/week).

While I do enjoy a night out with friends, by having 1 or 2 drinks less (or driving and just having a light beer or soft drink), it can help you feel better for days. Every now & then I do have a big night (shock horror) but because it’s less often I don’t feel so guilty about what I’m putting my body through. Also I’ll do it with moderation and I’ll usually be up the next day keeping active with a swim or a run to help me shake off any dusty feelings.

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