With the holiday season soon to be in full swing, you may be facing a full social calendar. Most holiday parties serve or sell alcohol, which means that most holiday parties end up with at least a couple of guests who drink one or two too many. Or way too many. Keeping your wits about you should be on your wish list, especially at work-related parties. The only thing worse than facing a massive hangover the morning after partying too hard is facing coworkers on Monday morning. There’s nothing wrong with raising a glass or two in celebration of the holidays or the coming new year, but, as with so many other things in life, moderation is key.
If you don’t really care for drinking because it just isn’t your thing (or maybe because money is tight and you’d rather spend it on other things), don’t be afraid to stick to your guns. Anyone who can’t respect your decision to abstain from drinking isn’t worth your time anyway. If, however, you feel uncomfortable just saying “No, thanks,” consider volunteering to be a designated driver. In the case of office parties, you might even talk to your supervisor or HR about encouraging a few employees to volunteer to be designated drivers through some sort of small incentive program. Some bars and clubs offer free non-alcoholic drinks for designated drivers.
If, on the other hand, you want to knock a few back in a reasonably responsible manner, there are a few things to keep in mind if you want to be a social drinker rather than a sloppy drunk.
The first thing to understand is that the average person can metabolize one drink an hour. If you limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage per hour, you stand an excellent chance of not getting drunk. To stay on track, you can either make a single drink last a while or drink a couple of non-alcoholic beverages between cocktails. For the record, “one drink” means one standard drink–5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
You may have heard that eating more means you can drink more. That’s not exactly true. A full stomach will slow down your body’s absorption of alcohol, but not prevent it altogether. It’s a good idea to eat, especially carbs and proteins, while drinking to ensure that alcohol works its way into your bloodstream at a slower rate than if you drink on an empty stomach, which allows the alcohol to hit your system quicker–almost immediately, in fact. Still, though, the one-drink-per-hour rule applies. Snacking while you’re drinking will keep more food in your stomach, which, in turn, will keep the absorption rate lower. In other words, a full stomach means that the alcohol you drink has to compete with that food to get into your system, whereas drinking on an empty stomach means that all of the alcohol in your drink will hit your bloodstream at once.
Another key to lessening the effects of drinking is to keep moving. Dancing or walking around and mingling will aid in digestion of both food and drink by raising your metabolism a bit because moving requires more energy than sitting still. A slower digestive rate (and this applies whether you’re eating and drinking or just drinking) means that more alcohol will stay in your stomach longer. You may think you’re staying sober, but as soon as you stand up, you’re likely to feel like drunk walked up and smacked you upside the head. Moving around also helps slow down your consumption rate because it gives you something else to do.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that caffeine can counteract the effects of alcohol. All caffeine will do is make you a drunk with more energy. In fact, mixing caffeine with alcohol can be dangerous because caffeine’s stimulating effects fool you into thinking you’re less drunk than you really are.
When all’s said and done, not getting drunk really is as simple as not drinking too much. No amount or type of food, no wives’ tales about what to drink when, and no amount of practice can change that.