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How Alcohol Impacts Health, Plus 10 Summer Cocktail Recipes

Natalie
Stein
July 18, 2023
Alcohol
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In this article:

  • Many people enjoy consuming alcohol in the summer, whether at gatherings or at home.
  • Alcohol consumption can lead to accidents, weight gain, and other health concerns in the short and long-term.
  • Staying within your alcohol limits, taking steps to prevent dehydration, and having some food while you drink alcohol can help you drink more safely if you choose to drink.
  • Here are 10 cocktail and mocktail ideas to help limit alcohol and sugar while you keep partying.
  • Lark can help you stay motivated and fit 24/7 when you use the app.

Whether you’re relaxing with a beer and some friends, you’re watching the sunset with a margarita, or you’re sitting on the beach with a strawberry daiquiri, summer fun can often include alcohol. It can come with risks, but there are steps you can take to help prevent accidents, weight gain, and other health risks.

1. Know the Risks

Drinking alcohol has risks, as noted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. Here are some of the short-term risks:

  • Vehicle and other accidents
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Risky behaviors, such as unprotected intercourse or drug use. The NIAA says that you might even be more likely to skip sunscreen when you’re intoxicated.
  • Interference with medications or caffeine

Long-term risks of alcohol use can include the following:

  • Increased risk of hypertension, heart disease, and liver disease
  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety
  • Higher risk of nutritional deficiencies

It’s important to think carefully about whether to drink and factors such as how much to drink, how often to drink, and how you can stay safer and healthier if you choose to drink.

2. Review a “Standard Drink”

The CDC says that men who choose to drink should have no more than two drinks a day, and women should have no more than one drink a day. Binge drinking is particularly risky, and it’s defined as having at least five drinks for men, or four for women, during one occasion.

What’s one drink? It may be less than you think. Here are the sizes for “standard” drinks for alcoholic beverages.

  • 12 ounces of beer - A regular bottle or can
  • 5 ounces of wine - A small wine glass
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor or spirits - A shot glass

3. Know Your Own Limits

The CDC points out that individuals have different responses to alcohol due to personal differences in metabolism. It’s best to pay attention to how your body may respond to alcohol, and to adjust accordingly.

For example, you may be more affected by alcohol at lower levels of consumption if you don’t drink regularly or if you are a bariatric surgery patient. Also, smaller people can have higher blood alcohol levels in response to the same level of intake.

4. Stay Hydrated

Alcohol can dehydrate you. You may not feel dehydrated because alcohol is a diuretic and makes you urinate more frequently. The result though, is that you can become dehydrated when you drink. The risk is greater in the summer when the weather is hot, humid, or both.

Anytime you drink alcohol, it’s best to also drink water or another hydrating, low-calorie, caffeine-free beverage, at the same time. The Cleveland Clinic suggests balancing each standard-size alcoholic drink with an 8 to 12-ounce glass of water. When you’re out and about during the summer, water bottles can help.

5. Watch Your Calorie Consumption

Drinking alcoholic beverages can add a lot of calories to your day or night. Each gram of alcohol has 7 calories; a standard serving of beer, wine, or liquor has 14 grams of alcohol, or 98 calories.

Starch and sugar can add more calories to alcoholic drinks. Beer has 10-12 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving. Cocktails can have sugar from ingredients such as fruit juice, soft drinks, and syrups.

The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, or NIAAA, offers estimates of calories in typical alcoholic beverages.

  • Beer has about 150 calories per 12-ounce serving
  • Wine has about 90-140 calories per 5-ounce glass
  • Cocktails can have 100-450 calories per serving

The NIAAA has a calculator that lets you estimate how many calories you might take in if you drink a certain amount.

Calories from alcohol aren’t the only ones you might consume. Alcohol lowers inhibition, and it can make you more likely to choose high-calorie, low-nutrient foods in larger-than-normal portions. Burritos, nachos, hamburgers, chicken wings, and fries are some common bar foods, and they’re all high in calories.

6. Beware of Drowning While Drinking

Summer and water go hand in hand, but what happens when you throw alcohol into the mix? The results can be devastating. In fact, the NIAAA reports 31% of drownings are related to high blood alcohol concentration. Intoxication can cause poor judgment in and around pools, oceans, and other bodies of water. Rip currents, diving into the shallow end, misjudging where the edge of the pool is, and having bad balance can all result from drinking.

It’s safer to stay away from water while drinking, or to avoid drinking until you leave a water scene.

7. Have a Designated Driver (or Boater)

It’s not safe to operate a vehicle anytime you drink. Have a designated driver or plan to call a taxi or a rideshare if a car is involved. If you’re on a boat, use a designated driver if you’re planning to drink.

8. Take Appropriate Precautions for Any Health Conditions

Ask your healthcare provider about any possible health conditions or medications that can affect your alcohol decisions. For people with diabetes, it’s especially important to test blood sugar before and while drinking, and for the entire night afterwards. That’s because alcohol can lower blood sugar to dangerous levels and can have unpredictable effects, especially if your beverages have sugar or you eat more or fewer carbs than normal while drinking.

If you have diabetes, take these precautions before drinking:

  • Test blood glucose
  • Pack your snacks
  • Tell a friend and be ready to administer glucagon if needed
  • Have a diabetes bracelet for ID

9. Choose Better Drinks

There are healthy alternatives to your typical alcoholic beverage choices. Alcohol-free and reduced-alcohol beer, wine, and spirits are all increasingly common. Choosing a mocktail instead of a cocktail can help you feel like you’re fitting in without making you intoxicated.

You can also be aware of the sugar content in cocktails that you choose. Drinks such as martinis and Bloody Marys are lower in sugar and calories than a pina colada or mojito, for example.

10. Know When Not to Drink

There are times when it’s best not to drink. For example, the Dietary Guidelines say that women who are pregnant should avoid alcohol. In addition, alcohol can interact with certain medications and cause health emergencies. It’s also best to avoid alcohol if you are recovering from alcohol abuse. Talk to your doctor if you’re unsure.

10 Healthier Summer Cocktail and Mocktail Ideas

Here are five ways you can modify your usual cocktails to cut alcohol or make them healthier.

  1. Margarita: Cut the tequila in half and add 2 tablespoons of pureed avocado and 2 tablespoons of pureed cucumber to your regular ingredients
  2. Apricot whiskey sour: Use whiskey and lemon juice, and add sugar-free jam or 100% fruit preserves instead of sugar-sweetened jam
  3. Watermelon daiquiri: Use 1-1 ½ ounces of rum, frozen watermelon, lime juice, and stevia or another natural sugar-substitute
  4. Ice pop spritzer cocktail: Freeze blended strawberries with popsicle sticks in them. Serve it in a mixture of 1-1 ½ ounces of your preferred liquor, lime juice, and chopped or mashed fresh or frozen berries
  5. Mai Tai: Use 1 ounce of rum, ½ ounce of orange liqueur, juice from half a lime, and 2 tablespoons of simple syrup made with sugar substitute such as stevia. Garnish with mint leaves and a lime wedge

Here are five mocktails that are fun but alcohol-free. You can vary the ingredients to suit your tastes.

  1. Grapefruit lime mocktail: Grapefruit juice, seltzer water, lime juice, agave syrup, and ice
  2. Watermelon lemonade: Pureed frozen watermelon in a mixture of 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of natural sweetener, and ½ cup of water
  3. Spicy mock mango margarita: Use 1 slice of jalapeno, ½ large ripe pureed mango, juice from ½ a lime, cilantro leaves, 1 ounce of simple syrup made with stevia or another natural sugar substitute, and ¼ cup of water.
  4. Melon aqua fresca: Use pureed cantaloupe, lime juice, simple syrup made with stevia or another natural sugar substitute, sparkling water, and a dash of salt. Serve over ice
  5. Margarita mocktail: Use 3 tablespoons each of lime juice, lemon juice, and orange juice, ⅓ cup of seltzer water, and 2 tablespoons of simple syrup made with stevia or another natural sugar substitute, and serve in a glass with salt on the rim.

How Lark Can Help

It may be okay to drink alcohol as part of your summer fun, but it’s best to only drink in moderation, if at all, and to take safety precautions. That can help you stay on track towards your weight loss and health goals. Lark can help motivate you and provide support as you track food and activity and build healthy habits. Lark can help you make good choices every day to improve health and manage weight, and you receive 24/7 personalized coaching!

Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

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