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You’ve seen the posts and the social “proof” – October has been deemed “Sober October” while January dubbed “Dry January.” Even the “sober curious” movement and alcohol free bars have seemed to catch a bit of steam, which is cool, as it gives those who don’t drink, or don’t want to, a place to feel more comfortable.  

And seemingly overnight, it seems like brands are coming out of the woodwork offering their non-alcoholic versions of otherwise alcoholic options, like beer, vodka, tequila and more recently, even bourbon.  

Now if you currently drink alcohol, it’s of course important to do so moderately and safely. And the Distilled Spirits industry just updated their website with information of what is a standard drink.

Take note of the ABV, particularly with beer, since some ABV’s – specifically with popular IPA’s, double and even triple IPA’s – can go as high as 12+%. That’s essentially equal to 2.5 full beers, but in just one drink.

  • 12 oz, 5% beer

  • 5 oz, 12% ABV wine

  • 1.5 oz, 40% ABV distilled spirits

  • 12 oz, 5% ABV ready to drink beverages (hard seltzers, hard kombucha, etc)

Let’s also take a step back and put it out there that during the last 18 months, alcohol sales have skyrocketed, with some reports showing a 56% increase in alcohol sales and anecdotally people everywhere reporting sinking into the couch nightly and making it through a bottle of wine, a six pack or at least a handful of brews. During a time full of the unknown and frankly, what felt like chaos at times, alcohol has become a COVID companion for many.

If any of those scenarios are the case for you and what have been more a weekend binge or indulgence has carried through to be a 7 day/week drink fest, your liver would certainly love a little time to “dry out” so to speak, whether that’s by committing to “dry January” or simply creating some boundaries to really just encourage and support you feeling your best. 

After all, there’s no true physiological benefit to alcohol and while any health benefits of an occasional drink are often pushed hard and celebrated by many, the downsides of regular consumption can outweigh those, even if just as simple as interfering with quality sleep and the carryover that alone can have. Truth be told, the health benefits are celebrated more than they maybe should be because we want to find positives in drinking alcohol. 

I’ve lectured to groups around the world regarding this topic and constantly hear the same sentiments; people share that for them alcohol has become a crutch, suggesting that at corporate events or any kind of celebration, they’ve had shade thrown on them by many if they aren’t drinking. 

And then outside of corporate events, beer in particular is commonly used to socialize post-exercise, celebrate victory or commiserate post-defeat.  But would alcohol itself hurt recovery after exercise and hurt mental recovery after a long day of work? It sure could.

Interestingly, years ago a consultant I was talking to lived on the east coast, but his job took him to the west coast...weekly. He would fly out to California on a Sunday, arrive in time to meet his group for dinner (and drinks) and repeated this all week until he took the red eye home Friday night, after more dinner and said drinks, to arrive at Newark Airport Saturday morning feeling like he was hit by a train, but expected to be “on” for his wife and kids, who he had just 24 hours with before he flew out again.

Exhausting to say the least. 

And he came to that conclusion himself in a certain moment following another long work day. He said he was too exhausted for the evening out with his team, so he called it a night early, no alcohol and crashed in his hotel room at 8 PM. He said the feeling of waking up the next morning without an alarm and like he was ready to conquer the world, switched on a lightbulb in him. It wasn’t that he had to go to bed at 8 PM nightly, but it was the rinse and repeat cycle of daily alcohol and big meals late into the night that needed to change. From that day forward he switched completely to non-alcoholic drinks – whether ones marketed as such, just water or something else–and he’s never looked back. In that process, he also took up regular exercise since he was waking up energized in the morning and lost nearly 40 lbs (over the year).

While this is an extreme example of life on the road, it’s common to pop open a drink (or several) nightly, pass out on the couch and wonder why each day is such a struggle. 

Now this isn’t meant to be a “wake up call” to never drink again. I love a good brew or glass of wine, like many, but there is a point of awareness to consider.

The non-alcoholic, or sober curious push has become more common, creating a less awkward or potentially judgemental space, as has the impressive array of non-alcoholic options.

While I’ve naively said to others in the past “if you don’t want to drink, just don’t drink,” I’ve all too often heard it’s not that easy. There can unfortunately be a stigma around not drinking too often. So much so we’ve had executives tell us they have walked into corporate events and tipped the bartender to bring them non-alcoholic drinks so they feel like they have something in their hands without actually having alcohol.  

Non-Alcoholic Options

I’m looking at you Athletic Brewing.

This company came on the scene several years ago and has quite literally revolutionized alcohol-free beer so much so that I will often go to these versus regular beers, when I want to feel clear headed, am planning an early morning workout or just want to be on my A game. I might also reach for an Athletic brew if I’m among company who are drinking and it’s more of the social cue of camaraderie, but I may not necessarily feel like drinking an alcoholic beverage. 

I’m admittedly an IPA guy and Athletic Brewing has completely nailed the flavor and made not drinking super easy. And, no, this isn’t a paid ad.

When asked about the creation behind the company, the team behind Athletic Brewing notes that it was born out of passion for health and well-being without sacrificing the luxury of a refreshing beverage. You’re able to keep a clear head, while still enjoying social time or kicking back, without the drag of any after effects the next morning. 

Frustrated with little to no options for those who wanted to forgo having an alcoholic beverage along with some pretty significant data on alcohol related deaths and individuals suffering from disorders involving alcohol, founder Bill Shufelt set out to create something that tasted good and left you feeling good. It was also a goal of his to eliminate the stigma around moderation or help make it easier for those who did not want to drink, enjoy social situations where drinking was at the forefront. 

Teaming up with awarded brewer, John Walker, the pair began experimenting with over 100 batches of home brewed beverage before perfecting the process. Once they were satisfied, they constructed their brewery in Stratford, CT. Athletic Brewing Company promises the use of high-quality, all natural ingredients in their beverages and strives to create brews suitable for everyone and every occasion.

Heck, maybe you’re not a beer person, but like other mixed drinks. There are plenty of options on the market that may work too.

I know when my wife was pregnant but wanted to have a festive drink in her hand but didn’t feel like a non-alcoholic beer, she would turn to kombucha. Health-Ade is my go-to and offers fun, unique mocktail recipes on their website if you’re at home and hosting a party. There’s also always seltzer water, with a squeeze of citrus and bitters.  

Speaking of Health-Ade, Daina Trout, Health-Ade's Chief Mission Officer & Co-Founder, noted, "Health-Ade was founded in 2012 with the dream of bringing delicious gut healthy foods and beverages to every fridge in America, starting with our delicious fermented kombucha. We believe in the power of the gut, and want to help consumers discover this and advance on their journey to being their happiest and healthiest self."

"As a nutritionist," she noted, "I have always had the attitude that moderation is key. While indulging in anything can have negative consequences to our health, so can strict restriction! My philosophy is that we should eat what makes us happy and healthy, and that we as individuals are the ones that can and should evaluate this (hence our company tagline, FOLLOW YOUR GUT!)."

And her tips on mindful consumption or abstaining from alcohol altogether? 

Alcohol is something I both enjoy and have to balance in my life, especially around the holidays (too little AND too much can make me miserable). You have to evaluate what’s right for you, but my general feeling is that if I keep it under 2 drinks, I know I can still feel good the next day. I LOVE margaritas, and my favorite recipe is mixing 1 ounce of great tequila (Casa Dragones is my fave) with Health-Ade’s kombucha cocktail “spicy margarita” mixer over ice. It’s only 3 ingredients, but it tastes so complex and has 75% less sugar than your standard cocktail (and has no fake sweeteners). Another pro tip - Kombucha in a wine glass is my way of participating in the social drinking ritual without having alcohol…you might not even miss it!”

Should You Go Alcohol Free?

Maybe setting some of those boundaries will give you the opportunity to test your own assumptions; do you feel better the next day without a daily drink(s)? Are your interactions with your spouse/kids/co-workers better with a higher quality sleep vs. a regular pass out on the couch in the evening? The holidays and New Year might be different this year if you give it a whirl. Heck, there’s even some recent research that non-alcoholic beer might be the new sports drink on the scene. Maybe it will boost your performance!

Maybe you’re asking if I skip the booze all the time? No. But I choose non-alcoholic beers more often than not and it has, plain and simple, been a game changer to my daily routines, mood, work and home life. And I didn’t even normally drink that often beforehand. If you do drink, consider cutting back, or swapping with some non-alcoholic options, and see what it does for you.

There are many reasons why someone may not drink alcohol or not be drinking tonight, during the holidays - anytime - but the truth is only one matters...

Their own reason! Gentle reminder— please stop asking people why they aren’t drinking. There are many reasons. Many are personal and some they may not feel comfortable sharing. So if you or someone else doesn't feel like drinking, wants a non alcoholic option or DOES want to drink - that's their decision (or your own decision).

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