The celebratory pop of a champagne bottle. The clinking of glasses amidst a chorus of “Cheers!”. The loud laughter echoing outside a packed establishment during early evening Happy Hour. Cocktail culture is dripping with pleasurable associations. No matter what your drink of choice, an air of festivity and escape infuses every pour and sip, creating a sense of relaxation and recreation. And with the year end festivities coming up, you’re bound to drink more than your fair share.

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Unfortunately, it’s easy to overlook or flat-out forget alcohol’s undeniable drawbacks. Alcohol is a toxin at the end of the day – sad but true.

Although the body comes equipped with detoxification systems capable of breaking it down and clearing it out, excess amounts don’t sit well. In the short term, we suffer through the headaches, nausea and fatigue of a hangover. In the long run, we run higher risk of a handful of chronic conditions.

Is it possible to partake in the party but minimize its potential toll on well-being? Of course! Here are a few easy-to-implement and effective tips to have your alcohol, and drink it too.

Start Smart

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Plan ahead. A few anticipatory steps prior to a night out can make the experience far more manageable for your body…  

  • Hydrate. Arriving to an event short on fluids makes it more difficult for the kidneys to filter and flush out whatever alcohol you consume.  
  • Have a snack.  This will serve as a pH buffer in the stomach, preventing upset when an acidic drink drops in.  
  • Know your limit. Have a cut-off number of cocktails you know you can safely consume, and ask a friend to hold you accountable. Once the evening’s in full swing, keeping track isn’t easy. Acknowledging tolerance and setting boundaries help you moderate and pace intake from the outset.  
  • Gym in advance. Chances are, you’ll wake up tomorrow feeling less motivated to move. Hit up a Pilates, Yoga or personal training session beforehand. You’ll burn some of the evening’s upcoming calories, and won’t feel guilty for missing a workout.
  • Clear tomorrow’s commitments. If you suspect you’ll struggle through any work responsibilities or social plans, streamline your diary in advance. You’ll honor your own energy levels – and respect others, too.

Choose Wisely

Not all cocktails are created equal.  When presented with a multi-page menu of available beverages, it’s tempting to allow taste buds to steer your selection.  However, certain drinks can pose greater challenges on the rest of the body after you swallow.   

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  • Spare your stomach. The combination of complex carbohydrates, carbonation, and yeast in beer is more likely to cause gas and bloating than many other drinks. Leaning toward lighter beers, rather than heavy ales and lagers, can minimize belly bloat. Since wines are made from fermented grape juice, they can sometimes upset GI tracts sensitive to fructose.  
  • Protect your head. The congeners that impart flavor and aroma some darker-colored liquors — like whiskey and cognac — are linked with more pronounced hangover headaches. Opting instead for clear, distilled alternatives — like vodka, gin and rum — might soften the hangover experience.  
  • Save your waistline. Gram for gram, alcohol itself contains more calories than carbohydrates and proteins and just a touch fewer than fats.  Many cocktails contain juice concentrates, nectars, sweeteners, and flavored syrups, too. This contributes added calories (and carbs!), which can translate to extra kilos over time.  Instead, mix drinks with low- and no-calorie ingredients, such as soda water, crushed ice, tomato juice, coconut water, and fresh celery, cucumber, lemon and lime.  

Recover Right

Upon arriving home from a night out, pajamas and pillows are our main priorities.  However, taking a few steps prior to slipping into sleep might make it easier to wake the following day.  

  • Drink at least one full glass of water. It can curb alcohol’s diuretic and likely dehydrating effects, a major hangover contributor. 
  • Eat a banana. Vitamins in the B family behave as co-factors, or helpers, in a number of the metabolic pathways required to process and remove alcohol.  Some sources suggest a B-complex supplement before bedtime can at least ensure that these chemical pathways have sufficient supply as they begin their work. 

Start the next day fresh! There are a couple of things especially useful for hangover relief, such as:

  • Coconut water. Top up fresh coconut water, straight from freshly-cracked young coconuts, with a squeeze of lime (for damage-repairing antioxidants) and a pinch of salt (for added electrolytes).   
  • Ginger tea. While delicious in flavor and calming overall, this brew also settles unruly stomachs and eases nausea. Pro-tip: COMO Shamhala’s signature fresh ginger, honey and lemon tea is served at their spas worldwide. 
  • Therapeutic tonics. If you happen to be at COMO Shmbhala, opt for one of their fresh, cold-pressed juice extractions. The ingredient profiles are designed with wellness intentions so as to offer genuine body benefits, and guests are invited to review the menu and select those best suited for their day, their needs, or their goals. For individuals needing a post-party boost, some tonics even promote circulatory health, alleviate bloating and stimulate the liver and other detoxification systems. 

This article was contributed by Eve Persak, a visiting practitioner at COMO Shambhala Urban Escape. A Registered Dietitian and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, she offers a 360-degree approach to nutritional therapy for weight loss, and nutrition support for fitness enhancement and sport. She also works with clients to evaluate their home kitchens, suggesting alternative ingredients, cooking methods and meal ideas for better health.

Top Image Courtesy of Elevate on Unsplash