According to research released in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, people drink more alcohol during the summer than in any other season of the year. And while an ice-cold beer at the beach, or a glass of wine during a backyard barbecue, can all be delightful ways to celebrate the summer season, it does have some drawbacks. Here’s what you need to know about summer drinking, plus how to do it in a smarter, healthier way.
What You Need to Know About the Health Effects of Summer Drinking
Alcohol isn’t inherently bad. In fact, research points to a myriad of potential health benefits. For example, light to moderate alcohol intake is linked with a reduced risk of heart disease. It may even help lower your risks of diseases like diabetes. Yet it’s not without its potential drawbacks.
First and foremost is alcohol intake during the warmth of summer. Summer drinking can feel refreshing, but the buzz from alcohol and the dehydrating effects of alcohol paired with higher seasonal temperatures can lead to dehydration.
“If you’re drinking a lot of beer or alcoholic seltzer, it can feel like you’re taking in a lot of liquid and staying hydrated,” says registered dietitian Julia Zumpano in an interview with Cleveland Health. “But the alcohol offsets that because of the dehydrating factor.” This is why you’ll often see higher rates of heat stroke among those who are imbibing during the dog days of summer.
Dehydration compromises your immune system, in part by sabotaging cell function and reducing blood flow (which your body needs to transport immune cells to where they need to go).
On top of that, summer heat can increase the intoxifying effects of summer drinking. Put simply, that alcohol-driven buzz can ramp up faster than you’re otherwise accustomed to, leading to potential problems like dizziness, injuries, falls, and poor judgment.
Other potential drawbacks of summer drinking include:
- Weight gain: Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories, and summer drinking may also lead you to indulging in more snacks and food than you otherwise would
- Increased stress and anxiety: While alcohol has a temporary calming or lifting effect, long-term use is associated with mood disorders
- Increased risk of sunburns due to alcohol’s effect on your skin
How to Have a Healthier Approach to Summer Drinking
You don’t have to become a teetotaler this summer. If you want to crack open a cold one, here’s how to do it in a way that’s healthier and better for your immune system:
- Stay hydrated: Before heading out into the summer sun, make sure you’re well-hydrated. And don’t forget that alcohol doesn’t replace regular beverages in the summer heat — ensure you’re drinking fluids above and beyond your adult beverages
- Seek the shade: Because alcohol makes your skin more sensitive to the sun’s harmful effects, make sure you cover up and avoid peak sun hours
- Try a mocktail: Mix up your adult beverages with alcohol-free mocktails made with fresh fruit and juices — they’re great sources of antioxidants and they help you stay hydrated while giving you the look and feel of a fancy alcoholic beverage
- Keep track: It’s easy to lose count when you’re having fun at a barbecue or summer hangout. Remember that the upper limit of the definition for heavy drinking is four drinks for men and three drinks for women
- Take supplements that support your immune system, which becomes stressed when you’re drinking. Top examples include BioPro-Plus 500, vitamin C, and magnesium