Many people report feeling the benefits abstaining from alcohol during Dry January. This year a reported 4.2 million people have committed to not drinking for 31 days. The aim of the challenge is to kick start a healthy new lifestyle, challenge yourself and save yourself some money in the new year.
December is generally a very boozy month for many - Christmas parties, social events, the day itself and New Year's Eve all add up to a considerable alcohol intake for a lot of us. January is the perfect time to take a step back and let our bodies (in particular the liver) enjoy some well-earned rest.
We’ve touched on the effect alcohol has on your sleep patterns before, but it cannot be understated the improvements in sleep quality when you abstain from alcohol. According to AlcoholChange.org, 71% of Dry January participants sleep better and 67% notice increased energy levels. The benefits of sober sleep don’t just come from getting an early night instead of staying out until 3am drinking – alcohol has some very real biological effects on the body.
Alcohol disrupts your circadian rhythms - your inner body clock that regulates most of its functions, including shutting down for sleep and waking up in the morning. Alcohol also affects your melatonin production by suppressing the levels your body makes. Melatonin is the hormone that's key for helping your body through its regular sleep cycles.
Alcohol is hailed as one of the worst things for your skin. If you are experiencing any skin concerns such as dry skin, rosacea, or acne, then ditching alcohol could see some great improvements.
Alcohol is a diuretic so it dehydrating your cells when you drink, but it makes it much more difficult for your cells to rehydrate efficiently afterwards. This increases the chances of dry, flaky skin. Alcohol also has inflammatory effects, leaving skin looking puffy and red following a night of drinking.
It’s not just the alcohol though – the high sugar content of many popular beverages definitely shows in the skin. Consuming multiple cocktails, several glasses of wine, multiple mixers and alchopops (preferably not all in one evening) will almost definitely leave you with a higher than recommended sugar intake. Sugar has been shown to trigger hormones which lead to an overproduction of oil, increasing chances of acne and breakouts.
Have you noticed a habit of a late night takeaway after drinking? It’s not just you. When people drink alcohol, they tend to eat more - despite the fact that they're consuming plenty of calories in alcohol already. Research into why this happens is still limited, but a study carried out on mice has shown that alcohol increases the activity in the part of the brain that regulates appetite. Scientists believe that same is probably true in humans - essentially the alcohol blocks the signal from our brains that we're no longer hungry once we've consumed enough calories.
There has also been a hormonal link found between alcohol consumption and hunger, with a study conducted at Princeton University showing increased production in the hunger-increasing hormone Gelanin after drinking.
Forgo the alcohol and you should experience more control over your diet and your food choices, which can lead to some extra benefits…
58% of participants lost weight whilst doing Dry January, according to AlcoholChange.org. The amounts vary by person and their lifestyle, but removing the excess calories from alcohol can lead to a calorie deficit and thus weight loss.
1 pint of beer contains roughly 180 calories, with many brands having more. Cider comes in at 220 calories per pint (fruity versions climbing up to 250 calories). A 175ml glass of wine clocks in at 160 calories and a 25ml shot of spirits averages out at 60 calories (without the mixer!).
If you consume 4 pints of beer in one night, that’s an additional 720 calories on top of your food for the day. If you then find yourself making poor food choices under the influence, then your total calories consumed can rocket.
Think of how many drinking you would have on an average night and calculate the calories consumed. Now, 3500 calories are roughly equal to 1lb of fat –how many pounds of fat would be saved by cutting out those calories?
For many, this is the biggest benefit. Drinking is an expensive past time. In 2017 it was estimated that the average weekly household spent £16.10 a week on alcohol, but when you look at the UK’s 18-35 year-olds those numbers jump up considerably.
Under 35s report that they go out on average 2 times a week, with a budget of £50 each time. 78% of those surveyed admitted to regularly blowing the budget and spending more once they’re started drinking. The yearly total adds up to a huge £6,589 spent on nights out.
It’s no surprise that 88% of participants saved money during Dry January, according to AlcoholChange.org.
Have you signed up for Dry January? How are you finding the challenge?
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