Holidays, parties, and warm weather have one sure thing in common: alcohol consumption. But boozy festivities can lead to a not-so-enjoyable morning after. Drinking water while consuming alcohol is an important part of minimizing its effects.
Staying hydrated not only improves your mental capacity but also helps your body flush out toxins and protects your skin.
Does alcohol dehydrate you?
Dehydration is the loss of water and salts from the body. And yes, alcohol can cause dehydration.
The reason alcohol dehydrates you is that alcohol is a diuretic, which means it causes you to use the bathroom more often. The lack of fluids not only strips your body of key electrolytes, but also exaggerates the symptoms of a hangover. Hydration is always important, but especially when you’re drinking alcohol.
Dehydration in Warm Weather
It’s common knowledge that you sweat more in warmer weather and summer months. For those of us in the southern half of the country, we’re very familiar with the climate’s impact on hydration. Water consumption is imperative if you want to stay hydrated.
Among other factors, the recommended amount of water you drink depends on the climate (i.e. the temperature outside) and your level of activity. Generally speaking, women should consume 90 ounces of fluids per day and men should consume 125 ounces per day.
But the amount of water you drink while playing beach volleyball in August while consuming alcohol should look completely different than the amount you drink while sitting at your desk in an air-conditioned office building.
Alcohol and Dehydration
As previously noted alcohol is a diuretic. That means it causes your body to produce an increased amount of urine. We usually associate the frequent need to use the bathroom as the sign of healthy kidneys or a problem with the prostate.
However, according to Dr. Robert Swift and Dr. Dena Davidson, the frequent urge to use the bathroom is caused by a lack of ADH.
Alcohol prevents the release of the antidiuretic hormone (or ADH) that causes water reabsorption. Without this hormone your kidneys are unable to absorb water and instead excrete urine. “Drinking the equivalent of 50 grams of alcohol in about 8 ounces of water can result in the elimination of up to 1 quart of liquid as urine.”
Does Alcohol Make You More Prone to Sunburn?
Sunburn is a common concern among beachgoers and green thumbs alike. While drinking and driving a lawnmower most likely won’t land you a DUI, it will make you more prone to sunburn.
In the eyes of a beer fan, there’s nothing more refreshing than a cold beer after cutting the grass. That leads us to wonder: “Why does alcohol cause you to sunburn easier?”
We all know the importance of applying sunscreen when spending time in the sun. The couple of beers you enjoy during your yard work probably won’t impact your memory, but one simple way alcohol consumption can lead to a nasty sunburn is because of its impact on your memory. You may be more likely to forget to reapply sunblock while you’re drinking.
But forgetfulness isn’t the only reason alcohol can lead to a sunburn. “Your body metabolizes alcohol into a compound called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde may cause the skin to be more sensitive to the sun's UV rays, which in turn increases the potential for cell damage that can ultimately lead to cancer.”
Benefits of Drinking Water While Drinking Alcohol
All those extra trips to the bathroom will leave you dehydrated and stripped of electrolytes according to Kate Geagan, RD. As a result, the symptoms of alcohol consumption, such as headache and fatigue, are amplified.
Drinking plenty of water while you’re drinking alcohol not only protects you against sunburn but also helps you avoid waking up to a terrible hangover.
There are many ways to balance your alcohol consumption with water, but make sure you have a plan before you start drinking.
How to Stay Hydrated While Drinking Alcohol
Now that you know the importance of drinking water while consuming alcohol, you’re determined to remain hydrated during your boozy escapade. There are several ways to prevent dehydration while drinking alcohol. Here are five simple ways to easily balance your liquor with your water.
We don't mean buying the next round of drinks for your friends. Rather alternating between an alcoholic beverage and a hydrating glass of water is one of the best ways to remain hydrated and avoid a hangover. “Our brain tissues are mostly made of water, so dehydration has the effect of shrinking the tissue, creating painful pressure (aka headaches).”
2. Hydrate Before You Drink
Before you begin drinking any alcohol, begin by drinking plenty of water.
Click here to download the full Avoid the Negative Effects of Alcohol infographic.
3. Add Water
People have been adding water to whiskey for years and years. But try adding some water to your mixed drinks or other adult beverages to prevent dehydration.
4. Utilize the Blender
Blended drinks, like piña coladas, can help maintain hydration. Depending upon the amount of ice and the ingredients, blended drinks can be fairly hydrating. Just avoid the pre-packaged cocktails and the extra sugary drinks. The large amounts of sugar will only expedite your dehydration.
5. Chug Water
Before your head hits the pillow, rehydrate your body by consuming water. Drink at least one to two glasses of water before going to bed after a day of drinking to prevent (or lessen) a hangover the following morning.
Minimize the Impact of Alcohol With Water
Sipping a cocktail can be a nice way to kick back and enjoy time with friends. And sometimes knocking back a couple of cold ones is the most refreshing reward after a long day. And what's St. Patty's without green beer?
But you need to be aware of alcohol’s impact. The human body is made of 60% water and alcohol is a diuretic – hydration is imperative. Whether you’re mixing margaritas by the pool or throwing down shots with your fraternity brothers (or sorority sisters), protect yourself from alcohol’s side effects by drinking plenty of water.