Dry January: the benefits of giving up drinking alcohol

Luke James
Medical Director Bupa Global and UK Insurance
02 January 2018

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This article is more than three years old. It reflects the best available evidence at the time of publication.

Have you had too much alcohol over the festive season? Thinking about taking up the Dry January challenge this year?

Here’s a rundown of the top health benefits of going without alcohol your body may see in a month.

Healthier weight

Some alcoholic drinks have a considerable amount of calories in them, so embracing an alcohol-free existence may be all you need to do to shed unwanted pounds.

The most obvious reason for this is the high amount of sugar in alcoholic drinks. For example, in terms of calories, a large glass of wine is the same as eating an ice cream. A pint of cider has the same amount of calories as a doughnut. And, as many people tend to drink a few pints per sitting the calories will soon tally up.

Another benefit of being sober is we make better choices in food – we’re less likely to make impulsive decisions such as picking up a take away of junk food.

Happy skin

Alcohol dehydrates the body including your skin. Drinking a lot is also thought to stop your skin getting the vitamins and nutrients it needs. If you stop drinking and keep yourself hydrated, your skin will likely thank you for it.

Liver recovery

The liver is a vital organ in our body; it breaks down food for energy, gets rid of waste and helps defend the body from infection. Regularly drinking too much can cause fat to build up in your liver which can lead to problems. But, if you stop drinking for a few weeks, your liver should start getting rid of the excess fat and repair itself.

Improved sleep

Alcohol affects the quality of sleep and drinking excess amounts can mean you experience less of the ‘deep sleep state’ needed to re-energise the body for the next day. Cutting back will improve your quality of sleep and will help you concentrate the next day.

Better sport performance

Alcohol has a negative effect on your performance in sport. This is because alcohol dehydrates you, and it also reduces how much blood sugar your liver produces (which is important for exercise). So it follows that an alcohol-free body will allow your body to perform at its best when exercising and you’ll get the most from your workout.

Giving up alcohol for a short amount of time may allow your body to recover, and this sort of discipline also helps raise our personal awareness of how much we drink on a regular basis.

Dry January is a great way to kick-start a healthier year – if you can do something for 31 days, you can probably make it a habit!

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Luke James
Dr Luke James
Medical Director Bupa Global and UK Insurance