Giving up alcohol completely is no easy task. After all, cracking open a frosty one or pouring out a dram of your favourite whisky at the end of a hard day’s work is one of life’s great pleasures. It is, however, a pleasure that can hit your health hard if you overindulge.
It would seem that many people are taking the health risks of alcohol on board, with 13% of adults saying that have stopped going for a drink with one friend because they believe that pal drinks too much, according to research from Macmillan Cancer Support.
The research also suggests that there is a shift among young adults to socialising without alcohol, a trend Macmillan has called “soberlising”. Let’s be honest, that name probably won’t catch on, but the trend might – in fact, one in eight young adults doesn’t drink at all.
If the idea of going completely cold turkey on alcohol sounds horrendous to you, trying a sober month might be a better option. If you need further convincing that joining in with Macmillan’s Go Sober for October campaign is a good idea, we’ve got some pro advice that might just make your mind up for you.
In support of Go Sober for October, we asked nurse John Newlands and fitness expert Matt Kendrick to detail eight eye-opening health and fitness benefits that you can expect to enjoy when taking a break from the beer, covering everything from a happier mood and a slimmer waistline to better sex, a handsomer face and a drive to rediscover your top fitness levels.
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You’ll Wake Up Feeling Awesome
Just as day follows night, an unshakeable fatigue follows a big session on the booze because getting a solid night’s kip is tricky with one too many beers inside you. “Alcohol interrupts your normal sleep pattern, so waking up after a few hours or feeling exhausted the next day is common,” says Newlands. “Taking a break from alcohol will enable you to get better-quality sleep, ultimately giving you more energy.” Expect to achieve more at work, smash some running PBs and be in a better mood.
The Person You Sleep Next To Will Wake Up Feeling Awesome
If you’re commonly accused of taking a buzzsaw to bed, a sober October should help you keep it in the shed where it belongs. Let Newlands explain: “On top of interrupting your normal sleep pattern, alcohol also relaxes your throat muscles which causes you to snore when you do get to sleep. Taking a break for a while could help you, and your partner, get a better night’s kip.”
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You’ll Dodge The Biscuits
Ever wondered why you want to eat utter trash when drunk or hungover? “Alcohol plays havoc with your blood sugar levels, causing your body to crave sugar and starchy foods. Staying off the booze will give you a much better chance of making healthier food choices,” says Kendrick.
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You’ll Find a New Level of Training Motivation
Every failed miserably at dragging your sorry behind to the gym with a groggy head? Of course you have. We all have. “A hangover write off the whole day and leave you feeling lazy, lethargic and absolutely not wanting to train,” says Kendrick. Waking up fresh will boost your levels of motivation and, Kendrick adds, “reducing the calories that alcohol brings means you can look forward to more effective training and better results.”
You’ll Shed The Midriff Bulge
And finally, one for all of us who look at ourselves in the mirror each morning and grip our beer bellies in sheer frustration. That food baby’s coming off, champ. “Alcohol mobilises insulin, a fat-storing hormone, which can lead to the production of fat cells around the middle,” Kendrick explains. “You’ll be amazed how quickly your waistline starts to shrink when you bin the booze.”
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You’ll Look Handsomer
When you finally succumb to the urge and “break the seal” in the pub, it’s not only your internal plumbing that you’re putting under strain. It’s your skin, too. “Alcohol is a toxin that makes you go to the loo more often. It also makes your kidneys work harder and your liver has to go into overtime to break it down,” Newlands explains. “This leads to dehydration, which can cause dry, flaky skin.”
You’ll Banish Embarrassing Sex
Cue the gut-wrenching flashbacks… “Sadly, brewer’s droop isn’t a myth – too much booze over a long period can lead to problems getting and maintaining an erection,” Newlands says.
You’ll Quash Your Moody Spells
“While your first drink may make you feel better,” says Newlands, “booze is actually a depressant. Those dreaded hangover blues, or beer fear, are caused by a direct effect of alcohol on your brain chemistry.” Yep, while one drink is OK, pretty soon booze will betray you by interfering with neurotransmitters in your head and can even reduce your levels of happiness-boosting serotonin. Not cool.