Social drinking has long been part of our culture. Historically, it has brought people together, lowered walls and even helped us through wars. We use it to relax, connect with others and to celebrate. It also helps us to be more creative, according to research published by the Harvard Business Review.
It can seem like almost everywhere we go or what we do, alcohol is inherently involved — whether you’re going to a game, a backyard barbecue, or a black-tie event. Your good time can cost you your productivity and mental clarity in the days that follow. But it doesn’t need to.
Even if you don’t wake up to a skull-crushing headache or a vibrating horizon, that doesn’t mean you’re not hurting your ability to focus, engage, and think on your toes. Just one drink can be enough to cause poor sleep quality, which we naturally associate with low energy, brain fog and reduced productivity the next day. But poor sleep is not the culprit. The drink that messed with your blood sugar is.
There’s good news, though: Not all drinks will have this effect.
The key to maintaining mental clarity, energy levels and productivity—even after drinking—is to understand a few key details that I learned from working with a nutritionist. While the answer to feeling your best is obviously to avoid alcohol altogether, here’s how you can make smarter drinking decisions on the occasions you want to partake.
With these tricks, you can feel your best and continue to get the most out of every work day. Because when you start and run a business, every day makes a big difference when it comes to getting sales and getting closer to your goals.
1. When drinking hard alcohol, choose vodka or tequila
Vodka and tequila are widely considered the “healthiest” spirits because they are naturally lower in carbohydrates and calories compared to their leading counterparts. So when looking at a cocktail list or deciding on a stiff drink, try to choose one that is vodka or tequila based.
2. Skip the flavored liquor
To add another layer to the type of drink you’re going to choose, skip some of the flavored spirits. As tempting as some of the fun flavors may be, they’re not doing you any favors. Because of course these sweet flavors are, well, sweetened with sugar. The result is a jump in blood sugar, often countered by a drop in blood sugar. In other words, the recipe for a bad night’s sleep.
3. Make your club soda the mixer you want
A major cause of brain fog and next-day fatigue is excess sugar, and for many, it’s not necessarily the alcohol that’s the worst offender of this, but the mixer. Instead of choosing a drink that is mixed with sugary soda like Coca-Cola or fruit juice, choose club soda instead. It is naturally zero calories, zero carbohydrates and zero sugar.
Here’s how much sugar is in eight ounces of each (according to USDA data):
Club soda: 0g sugar
Coca-Cola: 21 g of sugar
Ginger beer: 20 g sugar
Orange juice: 18 g sugar
Cranberry juice: 28g sugar
If you think you’re fine because you choose diet soda, think again. Sure, diet sodas may not have calories, but they have plenty of reasons why they’re bad for you, according to PennMedicine.
4. Beware of syrup (e.g. agave)
There are a number of ways that cocktails are sweetened, most of which are masked by a name other than sugar. From simple syrup to agave and orgeat, added sugar is cleverly sneaked into many cocktails. Instead, keep it simple and flavor your drink with citrus fruits like lemon or lime for a natural flavor that’s much lower in sugar.
5. When you drink wine, dry
If you’re a wine drinker, you already know that dry wine means less sugar. And of course, less sugar means less negative effects on glucose levels and overall well-being. So if you reach for a wine, dry.
Dry red wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Pinot Noir, Merlot
Dry white wines: Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay
Of course, these are not the only dry wines. To learn more, see Wine Folly’s list of wines from dry to sweet.
6. When you drink beer, get bitter
Beer is known to have a lower sugar content than wine or spirits, but on the flip side it has a higher carb content per serving. According to Livestrong, bitter beer is better. This is because regular beer has 12 grams of carbohydrate per serving and zero grams of sugar, while more bitter beers such as light beer have about half the carbohydrates and less than half a gram of sugar. What this means for the body is that it is easier to process, leaving you in better shape days after consumption.
7. Drink after eating
We all know not to drink on an empty stomach, and yet our system is set up so that we often drink before we eat. We have a drink before dinner, we sit down at a restaurant and order drinks first. But we should eat something before drinking to prepare our digestive system for the alcohol to come.
8. Take a teaspoon of olive oil before drinking
In those cases where you can’t eat food before drinking, do your stomach a favor and drink a teaspoon of olive oil before your first drink. It helps protect your stomach by feeding it, which essentially acts as a barrier to the booze.
Think of it like doing a load of laundry and using bleach. If you put pure bleach directly into the load, you will damage your clothes. Whereas if you dilute it with water and then pour it in, it will do its job of cleaning your clothes – without bleach stains. This is much like how olive oil before a drink works for your stomach.
9. Get plenty of vitamin B
Alcohol consumption depletes us of vitamins and minerals. But more specifically, it depletes us of vitamin B, and by increasing our intake, we can reduce or potentially even avoid the usual effects of alcohol the next day, according to Live Science.
10. Stay hydrated
Sure, we’ve all heard this before, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a drink of water between each drink. Instead, it may be even more important to be well hydrated before drinking. In other words, drinking plenty of water throughout the day before drinking alcohol will help your liver function properly. In general, dehydration has been associated with increased blood sugar levels, according to NutriSense, which is associated with brain fog and fatigue. So don’t wait until you start to get dehydrated to hydrate. Instead, you need to proactively hydrate and avoid becoming completely dehydrated.
Of course, alcohol should always be consumed in moderation, and I wouldn’t say that ultimately, what any nutritionist will tell you is to avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible. But when you do decide to drink, use these tips so your time isn’t as bad for your body. Doing so will help you improve your sleep, mental clarity and productivity in the days that follow. Talk about the best of both worlds.