Are You an “At Risk” Alcohol Drinker?


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As the temperature heats up, backyard barbeques, bonfires and after work social celebrations increase. As many of these events include alcohol, the first week of summer is the perfect time to review alcohol’s effects on our health and recommended drinking limits.

What is One Serving of Alcohol?

IMG_3292The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines 1 serving of alcohol as the equivalent of 14 grams of alcohol. This is the equivalent of 12 oz of beer, 5 oz wine or 1.5 oz of liquor. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate alcohol consumption as having up to 1 serving/day for women and up to 2 servings/day for men.

How Do I Know if I have A Problem?

So when does drinking alcohol become problematic? The NIAAA defines “low risk “ drinking as:

  • Females who drink no more than 3 drinks/day and less than 7 drinks total/week.
  • Males who drink no more than 4 drinks/day and less than 14 drinks/week.

The NIAA defines “heavy” drinking as:

  • Individuals who drink more than the above stated limits.

Not all alcohol abusers become full blown alcoholics but it is a big risk factor and it’s important to know the symptoms, health implications and how to get help. We also need to emphasize that “low risk” does not mean “no risk” and it in no way applies that it is safe to drive or operate a motor vehicle.

What Are the Health Implications?

  1. Alcohol adds empty calories. There are not enough health attributes to alcohol to suggest that it’s significantly advantageous to ones health. Grape juice or a healthy dose of fruits or vegetables will have the same effect and more health benefits than the resveratrol in a glass of wine.
12 oz Regular Beer 5 oz. Wine 1.5 oz. liquor
Calories 145 122 98 (not including mixer)


  1. Alcohol reduces the breakdown of fat in the body as an energy source. This is especially problematic for people trying to lose weight, those with lipid disorders and athletes who are trying to increase their lean body mass. In some instances we see a person’s weight stay exactly the same but their percentage of muscle decreases as their body fat increases from the effects of alcohol.
  2. All gross and fine motor skills are negatively impacted. The effects of a binge can last up to 3 days and include dehydration, slowed reaction time, impaired precision, balance, hand-eye coordination, accuracy, strength, power, speed and endurance.
  3. Injury and infection rates increase. It also leads to an increase in swelling during injury, delaying wound healing and muscle repair.
  4. Heavy drinking does lethal damage to one’s physical health including increasing ones risk for heart and liver disease, dementia, high blood pressure, pancreatitis, cancer, stroke, diabetes, obesity and accidents. It can also drain spiritual, mental and financial health not to mention the emotional toll it takes on family members.

Tips to Setting Safe Limits

  1. Keep count and don’t “top it off.” Track how much you drink. Writing it down may help increase your awareness and help you to maintain lower risk habits.
  2. Set goals. Establish how many drinks you are allowed per week and which days.
  3. Pace and space. Don’t exceed 1 serving size/hour and space your drink with a glass of water. Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
  4. Avoid triggers and find healthy alternatives. If a certain place, time of the day, or people cause you to drink more find healthy distractions and hobbies that help you avoid the urge.
  5. Enlist support from a trusted friend or family member. Have them help you create the skills to say “no” or “no more.”

For more information on alcohol and how it affects the body go to:

Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholics Anonymous

Alcohol and Athletic Performance

Alcohol and Public Health

Enjoy your summer and set healthy, reasonable limits for those of you who choose to drink alcohol.


Categories: Media, Nutrition & Wellness, Sports Nutrition

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