As we head into summer, we head into all sorts of celebrations. From graduations to family get-togethers, there’s no shortage of food, drinks and adult beverages. Although it isn’t inherently bad, social drinking can quickly turn into a binge.
What is Binge Drinking?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is a pattern of drinking that takes an individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to .08 percent or higher.
We’re guessing you don’t regularly measure your own BAC, so what does this mean in drinks? For men, a binge usually occurs when more than four drinks are consumed in two hours. For women, it takes three or more drinks in the same period.
While that sounds like a lot, it may not be as much as you think. Remember, “one drink” varies by the type of alcohol you’re having. The standard drink is defined as follows:
- 12 fluid ounces of beer at 5 percent alcohol
- 8 fluid ounces of malt liquor
- 5 fluid ounces of table wine
- 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof spirits
So yes, you might be able to have three or four drinks over the course of two hours without bingeing — but they can’t be pints or double pours.
How Binge Drinking Changes Your Body
Binge drinking changes the way the brain functions, ultimately causing mood swings, behavior changes and difficulty with balance.
Chronic binge drinking can stretch the heart muscle and lead to an irregular heart rate, strokes and high blood pressure.
Excessive drinking causes lower levels of nitric oxide in the lungs, which can make breathing more difficult.
Fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis are all caused by repetitive bouts of excessive drinking.
Your immune system is depressed in the 24 hours following a binge. This makes you susceptible to diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, flu and COVID-19.
The pancreas produces toxins, which can eventually lead to pancreatitis.
How to Cut Back on Drinking
There’s a variety of tactics you can use to drink less in social settings. Using these strategies, you can have fun with family and friends without imbibing too much.
Set a Maximum Amount of Alcohol and Don’t Exceed It
When you are out and enjoying yourself, it’s easy to have “just one more.” To prevent this, plan ahead and set a specific number of drinks you’d like to stop at.
As previously stated, most men can have four drinks in a two-hour period without bingeing. So, if you’re a man and you know you’re only going out for two hours, set your limit according to these guidelines. By planning ahead, you’ll be much more likely to exercise restraint.
Eat Beforehand and Stay Hydrated
Drinking on an empty stomach is always a bad idea. With little or no food ahead of time, the alcohol can enter your bloodstream much faster. This makes it difficult to control your consumption and can lead to intoxication much earlier than expected. This is a dangerous combination.
So, don’t start having drinks at the St. Patrick’s Day party without eating first — either before heading to the party, or at the party before imbibing. Who doesn’t like party snacks anyway?
Likewise, it’s important that you drink water while you’re enjoying alcoholic beverages. This will reduce the risk of dehydration and also help you …
Not only does water help you avoid dehydration, it also helps you pace yourself. If you have one glass of water for every drink, you’ll stay hydrated and avoid having too many drinks too quickly.
Why does this matter? Remember, the total number of drinks is important but the other part of that equation is the time in which you have them. Too often, people will have their first few drinks quickly, which usually leads to intoxication and additional drinks. In other words — a binge.
Drink Nonalcoholic Beverages
As we’ve previously stated, drinking water is important, but nonalcoholic beverages of any kind can help when you want to avoid a binge. Not only do they stretch out the number of alcoholic drinks you have, they also help you avoid the social pressures to drink.
So, instead of having another green beer, order a glass of tonic water with lime. That friend who always pesters you to have one more might actually leave you be.
You’re watching what you drink, but are you watching what you eat? Try these healthy snacks during March Madness!