It’s the most wonderful time of the year again and the holiday party season is already upon us. Celebratory glasses of bubbly are on hand and delicious cocktails are being served as we spend time with family, friends and colleagues.
But with all the season’s merriment, open bars and the growing popularity of cooler fetes and bucket deals, even the most conservative may be tempted to push the limits with alcohol.
Occupational health advisor at Red Stripe Veronica Benain says there is a way to enjoy the season’s offerings and strategically manage alcohol consumption at the same time.
“When we talk about responsible drinking, it means different things to different people,” explains Benain. “You have to first know your limit, and that limit is based on your gender, weight, health and unique physiology. We do, however, recommend moderation across the board.”
In addition to the general principle of moderation, Benain outlines some tips that should prove useful if you plan to imbibe this festive season.
* Alcohol Isn’t for Everyone
Benain, who is also a registered nurse by profession, advises that alcohol isn’t always safe for everyone. “In addition to pregnant and lactating mothers, persons who should avoid drinking include those who are on medication and those who have medical conditions in which they definitely cannot consume alcohol,” she states.
* Eat First – Preferably Carbs and Fats
It’s generally advised that one’s stomach should have food in it before consuming alcohol. “The food provides a buffer and helps to somewhat slow the absorption of the alcohol. Food also protects the lining of your stomach,” explains Benain. Carbohydrates and fats work best.
* Know Your Brands
“Be careful when trying brands of alcohol that you’re unfamiliar with since you can’t be certain of how any new brand might affect you,” cautions Benain. “You can have similar brands, but one may have a higher alcohol content so while you’re good with two drinks of your favourite blend, you may need to have just one of another brand, even if it’s in the same product category.”
* Male vs Female
While she is a proponent of equality in the workplace, Benain says men and women are generally different when it comes to alcohol. “We have different tolerance levels. Men can consume a little bit more because of how they’re built, while women tend to feel the effects of alcohol quicker,” she points out. She advises that as a rule, women should usually have up to two units in a night while men no more than four units.
-Pay Attention to Alcohol Volume
Drinks have different alcohol content, so it’s important to read the labels. “Those with higher alcohol volumes act faster. Persons may say, ‘Oh, but I only had one drink’, but you’re not taking in the same alcohol volume,” asserts Benain, who points out that a beer may have less than four per cent alcohol volume, while spirits can have up to 43 per cent.
– Mixing Matters – Avoid Concoctions
From time to time, Benain says when she is out at parties she enjoys a cold Heineken or the occasional cocktail. “But I’m careful not to mix them,” she states, adding that party goers should also stay away from mixing alcohol with energy drinks and mixing products that have very high alcohol content. “The alcohol volumes are often different and the drinks are going through an organ (the liver) that needs to process them to remove the toxins. When this organ is put under too much pressure and cannot function properly, then you’ll also find that you run into health problems later on,” says Benain.
– Pace Your Drinks and Drink Water
Eat between drinks or have water, soup or some other non-alcohol beverage between drinks. This will slow down the rate at which your body absorbs alcohol and may even result in your consuming fewer drinks.
Alcohol dehydrates the body and, in the hot Caribbean climate, you may naturally lose water by sweating, especially if you are on the dance floor. Benain says, “Drink lots of water to make sure your system is flushed and to help the liver absorb alcohol better. If you’re not putting back the amount of water that you’re losing, then you will lose electrolytes and you’ll have an imbalance.”
Benain also recommends that you avoid topping up your drinks since you will not be able to monitor exactly how much you have had for the night.
– Extra Caution at Beach Parties
For the beach parties in the hot sun, the issue of dehydration should be top of mind. What can be even more dangerous is when partygoers decide to go into the water after they have been drinking. Benain says this is definite no-no. “Persons can get into difficulty in the water and then life-threatening issues may arise,” she notes.
SO YOU’RE DRUNK … WHAT NOW?
Against your better judgement, you’ve a few too many and you’re either drunk or feel you’re almost there. Benain says there is a strategy to manage yourself and get home safely.
“Firstly, stop drinking. If you can get water to drink and if you can manage to eat, have something to eat. Sit for a minute. I would hope that you are out with somebody who had been assigned to be the designated driver, someone who had no alcohol for the evening. If that is the case, you’re home free. If you don’t have a designated driver, it’s time to call a cab. Whatever you do, under no circumstances should you get behind the wheel of a car,” she stresses.
Benain points to the Drink Right mobile app, which has a feature that allows you to call a cab with one click. “It also helps you calculate the amount of alcohol in your drinks so you can monitor your consumption,” she states.