For those of you that know me personally or follow me on Instagram, you’ll have heard me mention my cycling obsessed other half more than once (especially in recent months whilst he’s been recovering from the cycling accident that broke his back).
TC, also known now as Plant Powered Cyclist marked his 31st birthday on Sunday and in honour of the occasion, he’s getting a little air time to talk about one of his other favourite hobbies: beer.
(Not a typical feature for this site you might think but bear with him, he’s got a point…)
CAN YOU DRINK HEALTHILY?
Neon lights selling alcohol on the cheap. Loud music. A sore and rasping throat from shouting uncoordinated speech at someone you are meant to be socialising with. Blurred vision.
OK, so whilst the majority of us have been there, this is far from the ‘norm’ for most of alcohol consumers; and even less so for those interested in a healthy lifestyle. But beers, wines and spirits, on average, consume a decent portion of our spend per annum (almost £800 in the UK per adult¹), a significant portion of advertising space (£800 million in 2013²), supermarket shelves, our precious time and of course – our health.
Alcoholic drinks are big business, but they are diametrically opposed to living a healthy lifestyle. That isn’t to say, however, that knowledge of this opposition makes me lust for it any less, especially after a hard day at work, when relaxing in the sun with friends or perhaps for the single beverage in the comfort of your own home wrapped up by the fire on a cold winters night (something anyone living north of Paris is very likely to empathise with!)
But can we live our lives alongside that alcoholic beverage, moderate our intake and enjoy it from time to time? Or is it something that needs to be eradicated entirely from all of our lives owing to the health dis-benefits it throws up (from significantly reduced recovery times³ through to the cancer causing* and otherwise unpleasant side effects that take place post consumption)?
For the purpose of a shorthand blog – the simple answer would be ‘no – alcohol consumption cannot for part of a healthy lifestyle’ – a healthy smoothie or vegetable juice will be the healthy recommendations any day. But this is not pragmatic as a first step towards healthy drinking for the regular drinker. As mentioned on this site previously, feelings of self deprivation are counter intuitive to leading a genuinely health and happy life.
There are many reasons we drink alcohol (although that’s not the subject of this blog today); to get drunk, to escape, remove oneself from pain or to ‘entertain,’plus deeper mental, physiological or sociocultural issues.
For many, taste is a key motivator – something especially so for the wine and beer drinking communities – can something be done to replicate this without the negative effects?
I’m an avid beer drinker, former member of CAMRA and all round craft beer enthusiast. So much so that trying different beers, even if I don’t enjoy the taste, is an enjoyable experience for me. Work that one out.
I’m also very interested in my health, having recently cut out refined sugars from my very (very!) sweet tooth and significantly increased the levels of wholegrains (mostly gluten free thanks to Lea), vegetables and fruits to a level most people in the UK would consider impossible.
This is helped by a recent ethical decision to live a vegan lifestyle (having been a vegetarian for just over a year) and supported by a significant injury recently which has (in fact still does!) require much care and attention.
But my one vice – something I struggled with especially whilst in the early stages of recovery – is a good beer. Beer tastes great. Not all beer. But a fair few. I’m generally not a binge drinker, instead my tendency is to ingest small quantities regularly: meaning the actual overall alcohol intake can be really quite high (ABV is key here) and with almost no concerted period of time for the body to recover.
So despite needing and wanting my body to repair as quickly as humanly possible, I continued to drink throughout my recuperation, all the while understanding the effects it was having. Perhaps some of this was social, some to pass the time and other levels of intake simply for pain management – but it doesn’t explain why I continue to drink beers rather than a vodka coke or a straight up water. It comes down to taste – I enjoy the flavour. With only our own personal health affected, the duplicity of knowing the health implications and continuing to drink anyway is a far easier decision to wrestle for many of us.
And here’s the good news…
There ARE far less expensive, far less harmful (despite fairly large sugar quantities for which we do still need to be very mindful) and often of equal or superior flavour options out there.
…Alcohol free beers actually taste great
Brewdog’s ‘Nanny state’ is really not that far from a number of their other products,
Kopparberg’s alcohol free cider range tastes like sweetened fruits but unlike the others mentioned here, it is not vegan (it is filtered through but contains no gelatine), ‘Smallbanger’ by
Square Root London is probably one of my favourite drinks (alcoholic or otherwise) of all time and
Erdinger’s ‘Alcoholfrei’ is substantial, refreshing and isotonic – what more could you want post workout than an isotonic beer? And this is to name only a few of an ever increasing market.
I’ve not even begun to explore the non-beer options but they are increasingly receiving rave reviews, good press and importantly – selling. The consumer seems to be voting with their wallets. With these alternatives, perhaps it really is a worthy consideration to shift old drinking habits toward a more body-friendly alternative.
This is not to say that the occasional alcoholic beverage will cause you to keel over. I am also not advocating the use of these as ‘health’ drinks – they most certainly are not. But in an effort to curb our increasing reliance upon harmful alcoholic toxins, perhaps slowly moving away from “regular” drinks to those less harmful would be a better starting point.
Whether this is saving alcoholic drinks for a weekend only and replacing your midweek tipple for an alcoholic free beverage, making every other drink at home one ‘sans alcool’ or starting with a week on/week off approach – there are many ways to begin, and it comes down to the individual to decide how they wish to progress.
For me, having just cycled for the first time in over three months since I broke my back, I have opted for a one on, one off approach for today and, importantly, I’m not beating myself up for it.