A nutritionist on healthy drinking, how to fight a hangover and best exercises for the morning after
Alcohol can be our friend or fiend. They're liquid courage when things get a little too tense, punchy yet delicious all at the same time. But of course, with actions, come consequences. We know too well of the calorie count or the aftermath of a nasty hangover. Could there be a way to excel in healthy living while enjoying a night out with your girlfriends with a bottle on hold? We check in with COMO Shambhala's nutritionist Eve Persak on her verdict on healthy drinking, pre and post-workouts for imbibing and the dangerous alcohol choices you should avoid if you're looking to shed a few pounds.
HEALTHIER ALCOHOL SELECTIONS
When we talk about alcohol, it's important that right from the start, we recognize that alcohol is a toxin. And that's okay — alcohol is part of our food and beverage supply that demands more of our detoxification systems.
What I always like to suggest are the ones that are going to have the least tax on our detoxification systems. That would mean purer, distilled spirits like vodka or tequila. They are clearer and less colourful than their alcohol counterparts that may be more robust in colour. The colour comes from something called congeners, which also gives the alcohol their characteristic aroma or flavour. While the jury's still out on whether congeners contribute to hangovers, a lot of people of people who do drink coloured beverages remark that they tend to feel a little worse the following day.
Tequila contains natural sugar in the form of agavins — they contain fibre so they have less impact on your blood sugar levels. Although granted you will probably get them in a more concentrated form if you have the actual fruit. The resveratrol in red wine is very cardio protective so if you have to choose between red or white, I would suggest red just because it's more heart healthy. I'm a fan of choosing high quality — sometimes it's more expensive but choose the wines that are a bit more reputable and from locations where the climate is conducive for growing grapes. When your alcohol is prepared in an environment where its naturally more well-suited, companies will have to doctor it up less by adding sulfates or preservatives or things of that sort. Choose organic — think about how much pesticides may or may not be used in a juice. This is an easy way to remove any additional toxins that you might ingest.
I like to keep people away from some of these artificially flavoured beverages. Between the alcohol and the artificial ingredients, you are not doing yourself any favours because you are asking your body to detox them. If you are looking to lose weight, I always suggest keeping beer to a minimum — they are just so rich in carbohydrates compared to the other drinks. Also, most people are not having it in the day; they are having it in the evening and carbohydrates are just often poorly processed and metabolised in the evenings. I think mixed drinks can be a little bit troublesome because it's really critical to pay attention to what you put in — I find that those tend to be really rough with hangovers. Totaling up the extra ingredients, they tend to collect calories a little bit more quickly and therefore can be a little bit more burdensome on weight control efforts.
HOW TO FIGHT A HANGOVER
When it comes to rehydrating, I actually think that it starts before you head out actually. Arriving to your evening hydrated is helpful but even when you get home, the last thing that you need to do after you have been out drinking is having a large glass of water before you go to bed. Your liver is going to process that alcohol but your kidney is also going to need to flush that out before you go to bed.
B vitamins are required to matabolise alcohol so often times, you could take one B-complex vitamin before you go to bed. I'm not sure if there is any research behind it but some of my clients swear by it and I'm not opposed to having people try it because one B-complex vitamin is fairly benign as a water-soluble vitamin. My colleague always recommended coconut water with a twist of lime and a pinch of salt. The coconut water is rich in electrolydes, the lime is rich in vitamin C and then the pinch of salt gives you the extra sodium because the alcohol is obviously a diuretic and dehydrating; just a little trick that he used to swear by and our guests used to appreciate. I actually used to do a really nice miso soup in the morning because it's savoury and has probiotics in it, which helps in settling the digestive tract. I love a ginger tea and lemon — sometimes a touch of honey, sometimes not.
PRE AND POST-WORKOUTS
Before the night out, I would do the workout that you know you are not able to do the next day. If you're intending to do a high-intensity workout at the gym (HIIT, CrossFit, sprints), the odds are such that if you get up for it, you are not going to do it well or you are not going to do it at all.
I find movement after a night out especially helpful. That perspiration is your body's way of clearing that alcohol from your system — it really helps the alcohol to come out of your pores. I recommend a little bit more low impact, rather than a strength workout or a high-intensity workout. Good examples include an elliptical workout, a good hike, a light jog or even swimming as it helps with the circulation.
THE RECOMMENDED AMOUNT
Everyone's tolerance is different. I think it's very important to recognise your own and respect it. Everyone's liver responds differently to alcohol so some people can clear it more effectively and it's genetic too. We all have a certain genetic predisposition to be able to clear it. Most experts suggest that excessive drinking is more than three drinks a day, and the reason why I think that is worth respecting is only because research has shown that drinking more can be detrimental to your vital organs — like your brain, heart and liver. It's all about finding that personal middle ground that is appropriate and doesn't compromise your health.
At the end of the day, it depends on what your goals are. If you want a good time, go for it but keep it to a minimum. In the long run, you'll be alright. Pace yourself and know what is a suitable average on the week as a whole and whether or not you have tethered over too much.