There are countless reasons why people decide to cut down on their alcohol consumption or abstain from drinking completely, but a desire for improved health is top of the list for many. The normalization of drinking in our culture, however — and even the occasional news headline touting the possible benefits of drinking alcohol — can make it easy to ignore the very real negative effects that alcohol can have on our physical and mental health.
Let’s take a closer look at the positive health impacts of reducing your alcohol consumption. Some of these benefits can be felt within a few days of cutting down on drinking, while others are part of the lifetime of better health that comes from consuming less alcohol.
Achieve weight loss goals
It’s no secret that alcoholic drinks are “empty” calories that add to your daily caloric intake without providing nutritional value (or even the satiating effect of food). With a 12-ounce can of beer clocking in at about 155 calories and a 5-ounce glass of wine racking up about 125 calories, a few evening drinks can add hundreds of extra calories to your daily intake. Cutting out alcohol is therefore a small change that can have a measurable impact on your weight loss goals.
Aside from directly contributing to your caloric intake, the way the body processes alcohol can also hinder your weight loss efforts. When you drink alcohol, your body burns it as energy first before it burns other fuels like glucose, carbohydrates, and lipids. Those unused fuel sources then end up being converted into excess body fat.
Reduce the risk of certain diseases
Alcohol is tied to a long list of negative long-term health effects. Research suggests that consuming two or more standard drinks per day increases your risk of developing high blood pressure.
Although some studies suggest that having one drink per day can lower a person’s risk of heart disease and diabetes, not only do these potential benefits decrease the more you drink but they also don’t mitigate the other health risks associated with drinking.
Alcohol is linked to a higher risk of multiple types of cancer, as well as an array of other health issues, such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, tuberculosis, epilepsy, arrhythmias, and respiratory infections. In short, your long-term health outlook is better with less alcohol in your life.
Improved mood and mental wellbeing
Although alcohol can make you feel good in the moment, it tends to have the opposite effect in the long-term, exacerbating feelings of sadness and anxiety.
Alcohol is known to change the chemistry and physiology of the brain, interfering with the movement of neurotransmitters like serotonin and ultimately reducing the brain’s natural ability to regulate mood.
The relationship between alcohol and mental health can be complicated. Many people look at cutting out alcohol as an opportunity to examine the feelings that drive them to drink in the first place or to develop alternative coping strategies for stress that are healthier for their mind and body.
Without the mental fogginess associated with drinking, many people also find it easier to be present in their everyday lives, which can lead to greater feelings of connection, gratitude, and overall happiness.
Feel more energetic
A nightcap might seem to make it easier to doze off, but alcohol ultimately hinders your ability to get a full, restful night’s sleep. Alcohol is known to interfere with the sleep cycle, leading to more periods of wakefulness during the night and making it more difficult to fall back asleep. Naturally, poor sleep quality means you’ll probably feel tired the next day.
Better sleep quality is a key difference that many people notice immediately when they cut down on alcohol. When you sleep better, you’ll wake up feeling more energetic in the morning.
Feeling more energized on a daily basis is likely to improve your mood, further enhancing your emotional wellbeing. You’ll also probably feel more motivated to move your body and exercise, making it even easier to strive for fitness and weight loss goals. In this way, all the individual health benefits of reducing alcohol consumption start to build upon each other, resulting in a better overall quality of life.