Alcohol and Running
Came across this article on RunnersWorld.com and as a former marathon runner who drank all through my running days, I was happy to see this story finally being told to such a large audience! I wrote about this in posts prior as the topic hits very close to home: the act of doing something healthy paired with alcohol was my go-to for many years and I am not alone in this! The virtuousness that is exercise “deserves” a drink and as runners, this is proven by the fact that most races offer a beer or glass of wine upon crossing the finish line. Most races also start very early in the morning. Most races, therefore, make it completely acceptable to drink before breakfast as well as send the message that only with alcohol can we celebrate our accomplishments.
Races besides, it is also the community running and drinking create. The largest running group in my city is called the East Bay Beer Runners, at over 6,000 members strong. They meet at a different local bar weekly, run, then drink and socialize. Another group, the Running Lushes, I was a member of and even though it’s a smaller group, most members are very well known in the Bay Area Running Influencer circles (because yes, that is totally a thing). Even I led a mommy running/drinking group for many years called the Cocktail Moms.
“… the benefits Americans attribute to alcohol—that it is good for the heart, helps you sleep, eases pain—are false… The truth is, there’s no safe amount of alcohol, not even one drink a day… blithely telling yourself beer is a recovery drink because it has carbs and your Tuesday night run ends at a bar? Not so much.”
Society tells us that alcoholics drink in the morning or on the weekdays. Society also tells us that “responsible drinking” does not include slamming pints after we exercise. Then, are runners who grab that congratulatory drink after a race at 8am irresponsible alcoholics?
Both lifestyles are enmeshed and this is the first, I hope of many, articles calling out the oxymoronic nature therein. I also hope that race companies will start to seek more NA partnerships thereby offering at least more than water NA options post-race. Money is the driver here as always but read on for another article that shows a distinct uptick in the consumption of NA beverages in 2022.
Alcohol and Alternatives
Check out this article on Forbes.com stating, “In 2022, sales of no- and low-alcohol beverages grew by more than 7% in volume across 10 key global markets, surpassing $11 billion in market value.” While that seems like the alcohol-free trajectory is headed in the right direction, compared to the market share that is Big Alcohol- $72 billion in the U.S. alone- that’s just a drop in the spit bucket. But it’s something!
Ten markets were reviewed in the report (including the U.S., France, Spain, and the U.K.) and combined showed a 9% growth in the NA product category alone. Again, a very low number indicating low growth of the movement given countries such as Japan and Brazil where no- or low- alcohol options are not at all in demand. Germany, on the other hand, has led in the NA realm and is predicted to show a surge in 2023 given its market maturity while the U.S., still trailing in this category, is expected “to see double-digit volume growth by 2026”.
If all these market predictions come true, then we will see a saturation of resources like the Mindful Mocktail and Mocktail Mom (which I highly recommend!). In this article, Sarah of Some Good Clean Fun, is deemed a Sober Sommelier- imagine a world where that title becomes the norm? Where the study of dealcoholization processes and how NA wines and beers are made as well as the elements/ chemistry that goes into creating a non-alcoholic hard spirit becomes an accredited field? Sign me up!
Alcohol and Moderation
Here it comes. The onslaught of articles, posts, and motivational photos encouraging healthy holidays and Dry January. “It’s just 31 days! You can do it!” And on and on… after 11 months of being alcohol free, I can wholeheartedly say that YES YOU CAN and you do not need a certain date on the calendar to start. If the following types of resources are what you need to find the motivation to do it, then by all means do but please understand that these types of articles, to me, actually encourage drinking.
I stopped drinking because I am unable to moderate my alcohol consumption. Since then, I’ve learned that moderation is a fallacy as just one drop of alcohol creates a harmful ripple effect. Big Alcohol makes even more money during the holidays and to a$$ist, our media depicts holiday celebrations synonymous with fancy cocktails and bottles poppin’. If any resource suggests moderation with an ad alongside for an alcoholic beverage- take note.
Your health is not Big Alcohol’s interest but your money is.
This article from ScienceAlert.com, “There’s An Easy Strategy to Reduce Alcohol Intake, Scientists Say, And It Works” makes me chuckle… the only true way to reduce your intake is to stop drinking. Didn’t need a scientist to tell me that! This “scientist” goes on to suggest that counting your drinks is the key to slowing down consumption. Hunh. This tells me that these scientists aren’t heavy drinkers and are not speaking from experience: drunk people can’t count; if they could, they wouldn’t be drunk!
Here’s another gem from Self.com, “How to Prevent a Hangover So You Don’t Feel Totally Miserable”. Not once in this article is it suggested to not drink as a foolproof way to avoid hangovers. Seriously? Self can’t even suggest abstinence?! Below that article is another regarding the benefits of taking a break from drinking, yet at the conclusion states, “…proceed with caution when you start drinking again.” Thanks for the awesome health advice to keep on drinking, Self!
Last one from EatThisNotThat.com extolling Dry January’s benefits on the body (actually, they don’t use the word “benefits”, they state “side effects” which to me has a negative vibe, only further proving my point). Liver health, digestive health, inflammation decrease and then, in the last paragraph, “… try to stick with the daily recommendation of one to two drinks per day.” Sponsored by Big Alcohol much?!
Alcohol and Dementia
I already knew about alcohol’s direct link to cancer, liver damage, sleep disruption, and the negative effects on the brain but I was not aware of the link to dementia until I read this. Luckily and surprisingly, we can add dementia to the list of things that can be remedied upon quitting drinking; again proving that abstinence (no matter what those “scientists” or Self have to say!) is healthcare in its truest form.
“Alcohol addiction in a diagnosed dementia such as Alzheimer’s can accelerate cognitive decline if someone continues to consume alcohol. Therefore, reducing or eliminating alcohol under your healthcare provider’s direction may slow progression.”
This article warns that going completely cold turkey may result in other serious withdrawal-related health issues so to always consult your doctor or seek help prior to determine the best course of treatment. Yet, this is often the hardest part of the journey, the first step. Increased factual attention, such as this article, to the detrimental effects of long term alcohol consumption and the ways in which one can reduce complications while improving prognosis will hopefully aid in getting our population to give it up, decrease, or never start drinking in the first place.
I don’t know about you but dementia is downright scary. As is cancer, liver disease, and heart disease. I am sorry to conclude this post on such a downer but all the above, mainly all those Dry January posts of late, make alcohol seem like a frivolity and something to be taken lightly but it is not. A month long, fun little detox as opposed to a serious, life long commitment to your health. Over 15 million Americans are struggling with this highly addictive substance yet the U.S. blames the addict and not the deadly substance itself (because $$$)- it’s just not as easy nor as straightforward as these new-year-new-you-oh-just-hydrate-and-moderate articles tend to suggest.
Alcohol and You
What are your thoughts on the above topics? What do you think about Dry January as a concept? Any contradictory messages you’ve come across that tell you not to drink but also to drink in the same breathe?
Dry January is awesome but I hope that we can go beyond just the one month and keep it up, start to see non alcoholic options as celebratory, healthier, and safer, and those alcoholic options as dangerous and harmful. Do you think our society can start to catch up in this category? How is it that Germany, a country known for beer, can lead the NA market? If it is just as lucrative there, why can’t it be here in the U.S.?
On a different note, specifically directed to you, the reader: if you are reading this and drink, please know I hold no animosity towards anyone who drinks. I made this choice for myself only, and I write this blog to document the things I have learned along the way. Yes, I am biased. Sobriety is the best way to live and I hope that people find inspiration from my words and decide to give sobriety a try, knowing that I am (virtually) on your side.
Be it today or January 1st; be it a day, week or month- anywhere is the best place to start and everyday we can start again.
You can do anything you fucking want to do. If it’s in your heart, it’s yours. All you ever have to do, EVER, is believe you can. And then, despite all the evidence to the contrary (because there is always evidence to the contrary), keep believing.
And you will. – Holly Whitaker