It’s Friday afternoon, you have had a tough week at work and your co-workers invite you to join them for happy hour before you head home for the weekend. Perhaps you and friends are just going out to dinner, and the restaurant is serving two-for-one happy hour cocktails while you are waiting for your table. Sounds good, right? After all, it is called Happy Hour!

Well, as happy as it is, and as much as you might enjoy those pre-prandial cocktails, in excess they can have severely deleterious impact on your health. We are by no means suggesting that you shouldn’t drink…just that you are aware of some of the unhealthy results that could occur if you are not an educated drinker! And, if you are considering a healthy lifestyle or if you have some extra pounds to shed, knowledge is power!

The liver can be the loser!

The liver is the detoxifier of the body. It supports your metabolism, processes fats and is a major contributor to the balance of nutrients in your body. It recognizes and processes toxins as well as ingested fats, so when the liver detects alcohol in the body, it has to turn its attention to processing the toxins of that drink, taking about an hour per ounce of alcohol…and hour it can’t spend breaking down other fats in the body so that those fats are stored without being broken down. The reason so many heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis of the liver, which is generally irreversible scarring and which can contribute to liver cancer, is that the alcohol the liver processes metabolizes into a highly toxic carcinogen.

I don’t drink that much – what does that have to do with weight?

The more of this toxin is stored in the body, the more the body fools itself into thinking it has fuel, so the regular proteins, carbs and fats are not processed and…what do you think? They become excess body fat! So if you are trying to lose weight, even one or two drinks a week, let alone at happy hour, can be your enemy!

But wait…there’s more!

Alcohol is full of sugar and carbohydrates. And the more sugar you ingest, the more sugar you will crave. That’s why so many of us get so hungry after we drink – our bodies are seeking more fulfilling nutrients since our real nutrition should come from proteins, fats and healthy carbohydrates.

Fear not, however – happy hour can be happy…and healthy!

There are some ways you can be healthy while enjoying the occasional cocktail. We are not suggesting live-long abstinence, just educated choices. Here are some tips to consider:

  1. Take a break from all alcohol for 14-21 days. That will give your body a chance to detoxify and recover.
  2. Tequila, many rums, vodkas and gins tend to be lower in sugar and often gluten-free. Mix one of those up with some lime, lemon, grapefruit juice or maybe even coconut water and enjoy a healthier cocktail.
  3. Sorry, but try to indulge in higher-quality and higher-priced liquors. Sometimes they are processed better with fewer additives.
  4. We know you might love beers, but try a high-quality craft beer, or a gluten-free beer, that may have fewer fillers and better overall ingredients.
  5. Be logical when you drink wine – the sweeter the wine, the more sugar it contains. So try to stick to dry wines.
  6. Water, water, water! Be sure you always stay hydrated. Have a glass of water between drinks. You will help your system dilute and flush some of the toxins.

If you follow these tips as part of your overall healthy living regime, you will help mitigate some of the ill-effects of overindulgence. And, of course, be sure to brush your teeth, clean your tongue and eat a balanced diet. The alcohol you do drink will taste better, of course, and will pair with, rather than replace, the nutrients your liver and the rest of your body need for proper functioning and for a happy, and healthy hour…and life!

Happy Hour and Your Health!