Dry January has become a staple of the new year pop culture: a rebalancing from the excess of Christmas celebrations and perhaps a chance to test your will alongside some longer commitment resolutions. We’ve written about ‘Damp January’ before, a cutting down rather than cutting out, of alcohol. And lets not forget that the Office for National Statistics reported that the proportion of adults who drink is at the lowest level on record (only 56.9 per cent of those aged 16 and over had a drink in the week before being interviewed, in comparison to 64.2 per cent in 2005.
But even if you’re not abstaining this January, everyone knows someone who’s taking a break from the booze. So what are they actually taking a break from? Alcohol is classified as a drink that contains ethanol. Created by fermenting sugars (by adding yeast or bacteria) from a variety of sources; fruit, grains, potatoes and plenty other inventive examples. Alcohol actually works as a ‘depressant’, meaning it slows down your central nervous system.
But, while your nervous system is slowing down, your kidneys are speeding up. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it encourages you to pee out more liquid than you’re taking in. This can lead to dehydration – the culprit for those hangovers that leave you with a banging headache and a general feeling of nausea.
Another benefit of keeping off the booze, is better sleep! Sleep is so important (you spend almost half your life in the land of nod). Although some people find alcohol can help them fall asleep quicker, the quality of your sleep is far poorer. Not only are you likely to get up for the toilet more regularly, but you spend less time in REM sleep which can lead to fatigue the following day. (Check out some better sleep tips from our friends at Eve Sleep here)
Want to know what you’re drinking?
A pint of beer is around 215kcal
A small glass of wine is around 126kcal
An alco-pop is around 237kcal
Alcoholic drinks have no nutritional value and the sugar content can be staggering. Alcohol accounts for around 10% of the UK’s daily sugar intake, and that doesn’t take into account what the drink is mixed with (we’re looking at you, fizzy drinks!). A pint of cider could use up your daily recommended amount of sugar.
If you’re sweating your butt off in the gym all week, eating well but then drinking excessively, you could be undoing all your hard work! If you want to keep it low-key and switch to something that won’t have your body wasting energy breaking down all that sugar (or you want to avoid working out on a hangover), we’ve got some alternatives:
Good old H2O! Our bodies are roughly 60% water, so it’s not surprising we don’t feel our best when we haven't had enough! It helps balance your fluid levels, regulate your body temperature and transports nutrients around the body. Although it feels like a boring option to order at the bar, water will keep you hydrated, is zero calories and can even help boost your metabolism. 10/10 would recommend.
Yes, it may feel a little odd not to be paired with it’s best pal gin, but thanks to the explosion of gin & tonic the past couple of years, tonic water is now available in a variety of ace flavours. So if you like a little fizz in your tipple, tonic water is a far lower calorie choice than fizzy pop. Also, fun fact, tonic water was originally developed as an anti-malarial medicine! Modern day versions have a lower quinine (anti-malarial) content however.
Unlike a certain famous Mr. Bond’s drink of choice, a classic Negroni is stirred not shaken. The Italian cocktail is a mix of gin, vermouth rosso and Campari and is only garnished with an orange slice. Seedlip’s non-alcoholic twist on the classic cocktail, the NOgroni debuted at The World's Best Bar Awards in 2017. The NOgroni is 'a complex, bitter & citrusy blend with hints of Chinotto Orange and Grapefruit, All Spice and Gentian.' It also won’t leave you with a mouth drier than the Sahara the next morning.
Virgin Bloody Mary
Feel as fancy as anyone else at the bar with this celery garnished cocktail. The main ingredient is tomato juice which contains lycopene, and in higher quantities than actual tomatoes! Lycopene is an antioxidant that could help prevent diseases such as cancer. Look for an option without lots of added sugars for a truly healthier alcohol alternative.
Elderflower-based drinks have become so popular, they’re available in most bars, restaurants and cafes. Generally low in calories and elderflower is rich in bioflavonoids which act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Elderflower plants have been used in medicine for hundreds of years and extracts are used to treat colds, flu, sinus problems and so much more. Elderflower is one of the ingredients in Neat's Immune Support supplement.
Harnessing the power of plants, Three Spirit offer 100% vegan alcohol alternatives based on the feelings surrounding alcohol rather than the drawbacks. Their three blends; Livener, Social Elixir and Nightcap combine a variety of ingredients to promote euphoria, sociality and relaxation, respectively. Their zero-plastic recyclable packaging and cruelty-free products mean you can sip smugly from the glass knowing you’re being an environmentally friendly drinker.
By this we mean alcohol-free beer, wine and spirits. If you’re tied to the taste of alcohol or the psychological comfort of fitting in with others who are drinking, there are plenty of alcohol-free alternatives. Its hit and miss in terms of taste, but sampling and making your personal list of favourites could be half the fun!