Social drinking has long been a part of our culture. Historically, it has brought people together, lowered walls, and even helped us through wars. We use it to unwind, connect with others, and to celebrate. It also helps us to be more creative, according to research published by the Harvard Business Review.
It can seem as though almost no matter where we go or what we get up to, alcohol is inherently involved–whether you’re going to a game, a backyard barbecue, or a black-tie event. Your good time might cost you your productivity and mental clarity in the days to follow. But it doesn’t have to.
Even if you’re not waking up to skull-shattering headaches or a teetering horizon, that doesn’t mean you’re not damaging your ability to focus, engage, and think on your toes. Just one drink can be enough to cause-poor quality sleep, which naturally we associate with low energy, brain fog, and decreased productivity the next day. But poor sleep isn’t the culprit. The drink that messed with your blood sugar is.
There is good news though: Not every drink will quite have this effect.
The key to maintaining mental clarity, energy levels, and productivity–even after drinking–is understanding a few key details that I learned from working with a nutritionist. While the answer to feeling your best is obviously to avoid alcohol altogether, here’s how you can make smarter drinking decisions in the instances when you do want to partake.
With these tricks you can feel your best and continue to get the most out of every working day. Because when you’re starting and running a business, every day makes a big difference in landing sales and getting you closer to your goals.
1. When drinking hard alcohol, choose vodka or tequila
Vodka and tequila are widely regarded as the “healthiest” types of liquor because they’re naturally lower in carbohydrates and calories compared with their leading counterparts. So when looking at a cocktail list or deciding on a stiff drink, try to choose one that is vodka- or tequila-based.
2. Skip the flavored liquors
To add another layer of which type of drink to choose, skip any of the flavored liquors. As tempting as some of the fun flavors may be, they’re not doing you any favors. Because of course these sweet flavors are, well, sweetened with sugar. The result is a jump in blood sugar, often counteracted with a drop in blood sugar. In other words, the recipe for a poor night’s sleep.
3. Make club soda your mixer of choice
A major cause of the next-day brain fog and fatigue is excess sugar, and for many, it’s not necessarily the alcohol that is the worst offender of this, but the mixer. Instead of choosing a drink that is mixed with sugar sodas like Coca-Cola or fruit juices, opt instead for club soda. It’s naturally zero calories, zero carbs, and zero sugar.
Here’s how much sugar is in eight ounces of each (according to data from the USDA):
Club soda: 0g sugar
Coca-Cola: 21g sugar
Ginger ale: 20g sugar
Orange juice: 18g sugar
Cranberry juice: 28g sugar
If you’re thinking you’re doing OK because you choose diet soda, think again. Sure, diet sodas may not have calories, but they do have a lot of reasons why they’re bad for you, according to PennMedicine.
4. Beware of syrups (e.g., agave)
There are a number of ways in which cocktails are sweetened, most of which are masked by a name other than sugar. From simple syrup to agave and orgeat, added sugar is cleverly snuck into many cocktails. Instead, keep it simple and flavor your drink with citrus fruit like lemon or lime for a natural flavor that is much lower in sugar.
5. When drinking wine, go dry
If you’re a wine drinker, you already know that dry wine means less sugar. And of course, less sugar means less negative effects on your glucose levels and general well-being. So if you’re reaching for a wine, go dry.
Dry red wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Merlot
Dry white wines: Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay
Of course, these aren’t the only dry wines. To learn more, refer to Wine Folly’s list of wines from dry to sweet.
6. When drinking beer, go bitter
Beer is known to have a lower sugar content than wine or liquor, but on the flipside it has a higher carb content per serving. According to Livestrong, bitter beer is better. This is because regular beer has 12 grams of carbohydrate per serving and zero grams of sugar, whereas more bitter beers such as light beer have about half the carbohydrates and less than half a gram of sugar. What that means for the body is it’s easier to process, leaving you in better shape the days following its consumption.
7. Drink after eating
We all know not to drink on an empty stomach, and yet, our system is set up so that we often drink before eating. We go for a pre-dinner drink, we sit down at a restaurant and order drinks first. But we should eat something before drinking to prepare our digestive system for the alcohol to come.
8. Take a teaspoon of olive oil before drinking
In the instances when you can’t eat food before drinking, do your gut a favor and drink a teaspoon of olive oil before your first drink. It helps protect your stomach by lining it, which essentially serves as a barrier against the booze.
Think of it like doing a load of laundry and using bleach. If you put pure bleach directly into the load, you’ll damage your clothing. But if you dilute it with water and then pour it in, it will do its job of cleaning your clothing–without any bleach stains. This is a lot like how olive oil before a drink works for your stomach.
9. Get plenty of vitamin B
Alcohol consumption depletes us of vitamins and minerals. But more specifically, it depletes us of vitamin B, and so by upping our intake, we can reduce or potentially even avoid the common next-day effects of alcohol, according to Live Science.
10. Stay hydrated
Sure, we’ve all heard this before, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a drink of water between each drink. Instead, it may be even more important to be well hydrated prior to drinking. In other words, drinking plenty of water all day before drinking alcohol will help your liver function properly. In general, dehydration has been associated with increased blood sugar levels, according to NutriSense, which is associated with brain fog and fatigue. So don’t wait until you’re becoming dehydrated to hydrate. Instead, proactively hydrate and avoid becoming dehydrated altogether.
Of course, alcohol should always be consumed in moderation, and I’d be remiss not to say that ultimately, what any nutritionist will tell you is to avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible. But when you do decide to drink, use these tips so that your good time isn’t as bad on your body. In doing so, it will help you improve your sleep, mental clarity and productivity in the days to follow. Talk about the best of both worlds.