Written by Emily Johnson, Co-owner High Vibes Drinks
We’ve been asked the question many times already, “Are non-alcoholic drinks healthy?” Put simply, when replacing alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks it is a far healthier choice. So yes!
But looking a little deeper it really comes down to how you measure your own health, which of course can be a little different for everyone. What is healthier for me, might not necessarily be healthier for you.
As a PT and Nutrition Coach, I generally think about, and talk to my clients about physical health in terms of the four key health pillars. These are: 1) nutrition; 2) movement/exercise; 3) sleep and 4) stress. Note, I am going to leave mental health out of this for now as it is a really big conversation and we plan to cover it thoroughly at a later date. And of course there are other smaller things at play - but they make up the one and two percenters so let’s not get too bogged down in that.
Let’s examine non-alcoholic drinks through the lens of each key health pillar.
Now I'm not going to claim that drinking non-alcoholic drinks is better for you than drinking water, but certainly any drink that does not contain ethanol (a known poison) is going to be better for you. I've previously written a detailed article and posted about both the negative health impacts of alcohol and specifically have discussed the cancer and heart health risks, click here to ready it. So for me, this is an obvious one.
Calorically, there are also benefits to drinking non-alcoholic drinks compared to their alcoholic counterparts. We all know you don’t want to be consuming empty calories through what you drink, so keeping that to a minimum is always going to produce health advantages. It is certainly easy to consume a few beers or wines at a time, which means the excess calories do add up. Most of our products contain about a half (and in many cases far less than half), the calories than their alcoholic counterparts contain.
For example a typical glass of red wine (150ml) might have approximately 100-130 calories. My personal favorite non-alcoholic wine is the Altina Sansgria and it contains only 25 calories for the same 150ml.
Another example is beer. One of my favorite non-alcoholic beers is the PARC Pilsner, which contains 56 calories in the 375ml can. Let’s compare this to a standard alcoholic beer (e.g. a 375ml can of Great Northern), where you’d be consuming 117 calories. So that’s twice as many calories you would consume in an alcoholic variety. And for me personally, I drink beer for its refreshing qualities, not for the alcohol, so this is an easy choice for me.
Now imagine the compounding impact of having a few drinks in one session, or even one or two drinks per night a few times a week, this can really start to add up.
So it’s all relative. If you drink one glass of wine per week, you’re not going to see too much difference in outcome, but if you’re drinking a few or several drinks across the week, subbing out a couple can definitely improve your health.
And here is the real truth bomb coming at you. Wait for it... If you drank 8 glasses of wine across the week and subbed out just half of them for non-alcoholic varieties - this would equate to a 21,840 calories across the year, and would roughly result in 2.8kg less weight gain (or a 2.8kg weight loss, depending on if you were in a caloric surplus or deficit). Swap the 8 glasses for water and it’s 7kgs difference. So this is where your personal health goals and health status become relevant. For me, I typically gain and lose the same 3 kg every year, so this would make a difference. But if I had 50kg to lose, I’d probably make the switch to water to speed up my results.
Movement and exercise
We all know that after a few drinks you might be less inclined to get up and exercise the next morning - I've definitely been there. And even if you did, the quality of your exercise and quality of your movement wouldn’t be as good. And consequently your performance might not be optimal.
So we know that in terms of exercise, staying consistent is often a key difficulty for many - so drinking non-alcoholics versus alcoholic varieties would be more likely to produce a healthier outcome, as there would be less reasons to deviate from your exercise regime. This is before you even take into consideration the hydration impacts of drinking alcohol and how that might impact exercise and overall health.
This is a big one for many (including myself). For me one of my personal drivers to drink a bit less is due to the impact it has on the quality of my sleep. Consuming a drink or two might make it easier for us to fall asleep, but it does negatively impact our ability to stay asleep. And this is because of the impact that alcohol has on our REM cycles. We need to have undisturbed REM cycles in order to wake up feeling refreshed.
Non-alcoholic beverages do not impact your sleep cycles at all, so you know you can enjoy a drink or two and still wake up feeling your best the next day. So better quality sleep is a massive tick for me because it's one of those important things that helps me live my best life and show up for the people I love.
I think alcohol and sleep is a bigger issue than many people realise. But it’s quite ‘sciency’ and detailed - so let’s park the detail for a future discussion to give it the air time it deserves.
The sleep impacts can compound when you look at the stress implications of alcohol consumption. The reason for this is because both sleep and stress impact your hormones. Specifically our stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are impacted by alcohol.
When we take those first few sips of an alcoholic beverage, dopamine is produced which creates that relaxed feeling. It happens pretty quickly. For many, this is a nice cosey feeling, but a very temporary one.
And while that dopamine is being produced, both adrenaline and also cortisol are also being produced - and these hormones take much longer for our bodies to process. You will be feeling the negative effects of these two hormones well after the initial dopamine wears off, leaving you feeling anxious and restless, which compounds the sleep problem above.
Non-alcoholic drinks don’t have the same impact on our hormones, which is great news for all those who have had hormone troubles in the past, or simply like to keep their hormones in the most optimal balance. It's also great news for people who have anxiety. This will be covered in more detail in the future, as it's a really big topic.
The final verdict
So there you have it guys, just a quick overview on why I think non-alcoholic beverages are much better for your health than their alcoholic counterparts. And while I'm not saying that you need to give up alcoholic beverages completely, it's clear that there are some definite health benefits to gain by reducing consumption and increasing your alcohol-free days.
But don’t take my word for it - try our range and experience the benefits yourself.
This is an opinion piece and is not intended to be taken as medical advice. Please speak with your GP for health advice.