Morning Medicine?
October 27, 2010 10:28 AM   Subscribe

A drink a day is not bad for you and depending on what you read may be beneficial to your health. Is there anything detrimental to having this drink in the morning?

I find that alcohol in small amounts has a slight stimulant effect on me. I do not like coffee and other caffine based drinks (like energy drinks and colas) don't settle well with my GI system. I like tea, but it doesn't give me quite the kick I need to get going in the morning. Is there anything about having 1 drink in the morning that would be bad for my health? Is the body's metablolism "off" or something in the morning?

For the purpose of answering the question - Let's assume this morning drink would be a measured drink, i.e. just one shot of alcohol and non-alcoholic mixers. I drink socially about once every other week, but other than that this would be my only drink on a regular basis. As far as my tolerance level - I find that I feel drunk (in control of myself, but would not want to drive type drunk) after 4 drinks in 2 hours (or a drink every half hour for 2 hours). Let's also assume that I wouldn't reek of booze after the morning drink - I'm looking for health reasons for / against this, but not social ones.
posted by WeekendJen to Health & Fitness (46 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If that drink is wine, then you may find yourself agreeing with the large group of people who taste wine professionally and who think that their palate is "fresher" in the morning!
posted by MisterMo at 10:35 AM on October 27, 2010

You could develop a tolerance and find yourself getting less and less of the stimulant effect after a while.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:39 AM on October 27, 2010

I would say that if you have your "one drink a day" in the morning, you probably won't count it in your mind by the evening when everyone else is drinking and opportunities for other drinks arise. In other words, I think over time you'd end up drinking a lot more than you think you would.
posted by hermitosis at 10:40 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

What kind of job do you have? How would this affect it?
posted by questionsandanchors at 10:54 AM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not concerned about counting it in my evening drinks since I do not drink most evenings. I elsewise only drink about 2 Saturday nights a month and I would not have a morning drink on the weekends because then I could enjoy the enormous warmth and comfort of my dear bed and blankets, outside world be damned!
posted by WeekendJen at 10:54 AM on October 27, 2010

This would not affect my job. I do customer service. The drink would be imbibed about an hour - 90 minutes before I leave the house for work.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:56 AM on October 27, 2010

That stimulant effect will wear off in an hour or so to be replaced by the sedative effect. If you want your morning tipple so be it, but don't kid yourself into thinking alcohol is going to replace coffee.
posted by caddis at 10:56 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your definition of not feeling drunk and being sober enough to operate a motor vehicle may differ so I recommend consulting the height/weight charts etc, although you may have already done this. Alcohol may also be rough on your stomach if you haven't eaten breakfast, so that's something to consider as well. (And if you are eating breakfast, will that lessen the stimulant effect?)
posted by Kimberly at 10:56 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nothing physically detrimental, but I find that if I tell people I occasionally have a glass of vinho verde on weekend mornings because it's like the alcohol equivalent of OJ (i.e. very crisp and refreshing) they think I'm some kind of alcoholic. There's just a stigma about alcohol before 5pm.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:57 AM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

It isn't a health or social one, but a legal one: many employers explicitly forbid the consumption of alcohol during or immediately before work hours. So you'll probably want to discreetly take a look at your employer's employee handbook before embarking on this course of action.

Second, if you drive to work, many states have set their BAC levels for legal intoxication so low that you could get nailed for DUI/DWI on your way to work. You'll blow higher than your actual BAC for a few minutes after consuming alcohol, so this could further exaggerate your condition. Getting busted for this is not only embarrassing, it's a felony, and could cost you your job, driver's license, and freedom. And possibly any professional licenses you may have.

Neither of these are dependent on whether or not you smell like booze.
posted by valkyryn at 10:58 AM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

And that's what I get for not previewing.
posted by valkyryn at 10:58 AM on October 27, 2010

Why not try it for a couple of days when you know you won't have much pressure at work and see how it goes? Personally, a drink at night wakes me up for several hours, but a morning drink (like at brunch) leaves me really sleepy and stupid by early afternoon. Your mileage (and metabolism) may vary.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:01 AM on October 27, 2010

You might look at information about diabetes and alcohol consumption for information about how it will play with your blood sugar levels on an empty stomach. You might set yourself up for a "sugar-crash" because the alcohol will play around with how your body regulates your blood sugar, and if you haven't eaten, you can end up feeling draggy.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:02 AM on October 27, 2010

That stimulant effect will wear off in an hour or so to be replaced by the sedative effect. If you want your morning tipple so be it, but don't kid yourself into thinking alcohol is going to replace coffee.

I don't really need sustained energy - once I get going momentum in my daily tasks is enough for me. I'm just trying to get the eye opening effect that others get from coffee, since I'm too busy gagging after taking a sip to really experience it.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:04 AM on October 27, 2010

The stigma is a US one.

We just got back from Lyon where lots of people in Les Halles (including us) were having white wine and oysters for breakfast. The pubs here in Britain have people having their morning beer. All health issues I have seen with alcohol involve the frequency and quantity, not when it is consumed.

The only mention of drinking in the morning on the NHS site is that if you *need* a drink in the morning, then you may have a problem. But, that is different than your question.
posted by vacapinta at 11:04 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

A wee dram of whisky in the morning was a feature of traditional Highland Scots life. It was often commented on by southerners, as was the health of the drinkers, and a tendency not to drink at other times. I guess that broke down along with most other traditions come the clearances, but it sounds like an okay precedent if you otherwise control your drinking.
posted by Ahab at 11:06 AM on October 27, 2010

You asked about downsides. You are solving a problem in a manner that is so unorthodox it will lead people to believe, rightly or wrongly, that you have an alcohol problem and one that you are in deep denial of. So, I am not discounting anything you are saying. However, taken at face value, to me, they sound like the words of a rationalizing alcoholic, not someone who is trying to solve a digestive problem. If they sound that way to me, they will sound that way to other people.

Put another way, it's entirely possible that you have such a unique digestive tract that this is literally the only thing that will work to enable you to have a bowel movement. However, I think that is unlikely. What is more likely is that these are the words of someone who has a problem with alcohol. If you were solving this in a "medical" fashion without having a mixed drink before work, there are other alcohols that you could work into your morning routine.

There is also the downside that you may unerringly drink slightly more than you think, or eat less food and wind up with a blood alcohol content of slightly too high when you're driving a car. This could land you in some pretty serious trouble and, again your "I need this drink to get my GI tract going" explanation is going to sound like the words of a rationalizing alcoholic and not someone taking care of a health problem.

So, just to be clear, I do not think you have a problem with alcohol and it's absolutely your prerogative to do whatever you want to work out your own individual health issues as an adult person. I am also fairly certain that a single drink in the morning--if you don't have calorie or other nutrition issues with it--would not pose a health risk. That said, you may not be aware of just how much this sounds like someone trying to get permission to have a drink in the morning and find some reason, any reason, to justify it. As someone who has spent an entire life listening to the lies of family-member alcoholics, if you were my friend and you told me this, I would not believe you.
posted by jessamyn at 11:06 AM on October 27, 2010 [13 favorites]

Many of the health benefits of a 1-a-day drink are not solely because of the nutrients in say, wine or beer, but the stress relief they provide. Eg., at the end of a long day, you will relax faster with a bit of alcohol in you. You would not be gaining any of those benefits if you drink in the morning.
posted by fontophilic at 11:09 AM on October 27, 2010

On the plus side, you wouldn't be trying to sleep after drinking. I find alcohol interferes with my sleep pattern (easy to sack out, hard to sleep deeply), so I hate drinking in the evening.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:09 AM on October 27, 2010

The only experience I can speak from is that of a relative who worked in a recovery center and gave me some of the guidelines regarding when drinking is starting to become unhealthy. Basically drinking for a reason - be it to wake up or to make oneself drowsy or whatever - more or less any reason besides "I feel like it," isn't really a great habit to get into.

So from a mental health perspective, there's that. It doesn't really sound like you'd be falling into that sort of trap but it's an angle to consider.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:10 AM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Jessamyn, I don't need the drink to get my GI tract going - I think I was unclear and you got a misread. I do not like caffiene because even in 1-coffee amounts it gets my GI tract...going too much. I was more looking to see if it would be ok to sip on a small vodka cranberry or something so I can stare blankly at the alarm clock for a few seconds then get to making breakfast (which by the way is a must must must for me).

I am not trying to address a health issue, just a general morning reluctance to get going feeling.
posted by WeekendJen at 11:11 AM on October 27, 2010

Oh sorry, I assumed that "stimulant effect" was a euphemism. Too many TV commercials.
posted by jessamyn at 11:14 AM on October 27, 2010 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you'd be increasing your normal alcohol consumption (2 days a month) to 20 (work) days a month plus your regular social consumption, plus you'd be creating an intentional daily ritual around a substance you currently consume rarely.

If you were in my office telling me about this plan, I'd have a lot of questions. (Mental health person but IANYMHP.)
posted by catlet at 11:17 AM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

Once you start, it will become more than a habit. Think about what happens once you've been doing it for a month and then for one reason or another you skip a day. How will that feel? Same as it feels now when you don't do this? Or will it feel worse? I guess to me it sounds like you're putting yourself into a situation where you NEED a drink everyday. And personally I feel uncomfortable about needing to drink alcohol for any reason.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:33 AM on October 27, 2010

Apologies if this is too off-topic, but another (also potentially dangerous) way to address your problem would be nicotine gum. It's a short-term stimulant, it's not very expensive in large quantities, and there's no evidence that it in itself is harmful to your health the last time I checked. There might be some stigma, but not nearly as much as if you have a drink when you wake up. It's much less potentially impairing or illegal (imagine you get an urgent phone call the second after finishing your drink, and have to drive somewhere), and it might also have a fresh minty taste that could be nice while you're staring at the alarm clock.

Downsides: Beside the big obvious downside that nicotine is addictive and most delivery mechanisms are deadly, you might develop a tolerance, especially if you use nicotine at other times during the day. I also haven't tried it, so it might not work as well as I imagine. But if I was considering a drink a day in the morning to wake up (and that's not a sentence I expected to type today), I would try nicotine first.
posted by jhc at 11:33 AM on October 27, 2010

see if it would be ok to sip on a small vodka cranberry or something so I can stare blankly at the alarm clock for a few seconds then get to making breakfast (which by the way is a must must must for me).

Your metabolism *is* different in the morning because that's generally the longest you go without food in a day. Pouring vodka into an empty stomach day after day is going to irritate it at best, and is likely to eventually have detrimental effects on your digestive system. It will also effect your blood sugar metabolism as already mentioned. If you're going to do this then you need to eat first. If you do eat first, not right before but more likely twenty minutes before, and you don't crash later on then you're probably fine. I'm betting your build up a tolerance though, same as you would if you drank every evening.

The purported health benefits of alcohol are generally caused by the polyphenols in wine (particularly red wine), and even they're a bot shaky. I've never read of any health benefits of vodka so don't use this idea as an excuse, it doesn't really wash.

Personally I use caffeine tablets when I can't stomach tea or coffee in the morning. One nodoze is about the same as a cup of coffee (although you can look that up) so half a tablet gives me a known, measured dose with predictable effect.
posted by shelleycat at 11:41 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

i think your primary health concern is the overall increase in the number of calories that drink is going to add to your diet, and the fact that it's pretty high in carbohydrates. might be especially bad for those likely to contract diabetes.

could also be a problem if you suffer from low blood pressure-since i believe blood pressure is at it's lowest in the morning.

ancedotal: i had a grandparent who did this. i was not aware of any health problems that she had as a result.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 11:44 AM on October 27, 2010

People have presented many ways in which this might not be healthy or helpful for you in the short or long term, but you seem very eager to dismiss these arguments. Are you sure you really even wanted feedback about this? If you want to do this, then do it. If it works for you, great. If it doesn't -- for reasons mentioned here, or others -- then stop.
posted by hermitosis at 12:15 PM on October 27, 2010

Another idea is a quater-cup or an eighth of a cup of coffee in plenty of milk. That shouldn't irritate your GI system too much.
posted by goethean at 12:22 PM on October 27, 2010

Whoa there hermitosis, chill out. I speciffically stated in my question that I did not want social negatives of trying this and I got a lot of social negatives anyhow (and a few answers that confirmed there is a social stigma, particularly in the US regarding drinking even in non-damaging amounts). I specifically asked for that because I know myself and as an adult I have had experience with alcohol and am not worried about slipping into drinking too much.

The answers I have thus far found the most helpful are the few that mention looking into how it would affect blood sugar and how to coordinate breakfast, the idea to take blood pressure into consideration (especially since mine does tend on the low side), the fact that I could build up a tolerance after a bit and it would render the whole thing pointless eventually, and the answers that discuss stimulant effects at night (disrupting sleep), but drowsiness from early in the day drinks.

I mean, if I said I was considering having an espresso in the morning, would I be getting concerns about my mental health?
posted by WeekendJen at 12:30 PM on October 27, 2010

It doesn't seem crazy to me because a beverage in the morning isn't as likely to become 2 or 5, as can sometimes happen in the evening. I've seen guys who work at really hard ditch-digging type jobs have brandy in the morning.

The Mayo Clinic says that grape juice may have the same benefits as red wine, so that might be a more culturally acceptable start to the day.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:57 PM on October 27, 2010

To address what shelleycat said, there have been many studies on the effects of alcohol and health and many of the recent ones have all concluded that it doesn't matter what type of alcohol you consume. The "red wine" thing was a popular idea a while ago, but there seems to be little evidence that the type of alcohol matters.

One study often cited is this:

Here's another one:

And so on. There are other downsides, though, and the medical community has generally not gone so far as to recommend daily drinking (although how much of that is worrying about alcoholism I don't know, and that is a more individual worry; some people will be able to have 1-2 drinks a day without a problem and some won't).
posted by wildcrdj at 12:58 PM on October 27, 2010

I don't think there's anything wrong with it health-wise. The big thing for me would be blood sugar -- although there's an immediate stimulating effect, it's actually a depressant and depending on what it was you might have a blood sugar crash comparable to having eaten a Snickers bar for breakfast.

We're in the US and for what it's worth often have wine for breakfast or lunch on weekends, depending on what we're eating with it. I wouldn't want wine with a waffle, but it's nice with an omelet or bread and cheese (no on in our house really likes sweet things for breakfast.)

I'd say try it out and see what the effects are for the rest of the day. If you want to eat a bag of Doritos at 10;30, you're probably going to want to rethink it.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 1:07 PM on October 27, 2010

The pubs here in Britain have people having their morning beer.

Though the pubs traditionally opened at 11am, for cultural reasons of their own, and there's not really the equivalent of the brunch bloody mary.

As others have said, the potential problem here is going to be physical habituation, in combination with the psychology of self-medication. Going to a breakfast place, post-commute and pre-work, and having a single-shot BM or mimosa or wine spritzer in a controlled public setting is a bit different from pouring one out for yourself at home, because that way lies giving yourself an extra splash for an extra boost, and can send things in a bad direction.

(I say this as someone relatively untouched by America's schizoid booze culture.)
posted by holgate at 1:08 PM on October 27, 2010

and the fact that it's pretty high in carbohydrates.
posted by lester's sock puppet

Actually, Vodka, Rum, Gin, Tequila, and Whiskey contain no carbohydrates.

When you drink spirits like the ones mentioned above your body stops using other fuel sources and starts using the energy byproduct of alcohol, "acetate." Acetate isn't converted into fat but your body stops burning fat\whatever else for energy.

If you have a relatively active metabolism that is fueled by eating a very large amount of calories every day the effects of this are fairly negligible in moderation.
Personally, I find the worst part about drinking is the lowering of testosterone.
posted by zephyr_words at 1:11 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

The only thing I would be concerned about is going to work smelling you've been drinking in the morning. My old boss' breath smelled like liquor and everyone talked about it behind his back.

And trust me, brushing your teeth afterward doesn't help. Personal experience!
posted by KogeLiz at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

A housemate of mine from the Virgin Islands would start each day with a pint of Guinness mixed up with a raw egg and a dash of cream. She'd been drinking it for breakfast since she was a kid. As you are seeing here, the US has issues with alcohol, and I would think that this would be the biggest problem you might experience with the morning drink.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:29 PM on October 27, 2010

Why has no one mentioned that this is a question you should ask your doctor? Doesn't sound like any metabolic experts are piping up in AskMe, and someone who knows more about GI issues could at least help you explore your options for getting morning stimulation, as well as the actual studied effects of daily alcohol consumption. I think you can innocuously present this question to a GP if you have one that you've seen more than a few times without getting a rec for AA.

Personally I also hate how coffee & carbonated drinks make my stomach feel first thing in the AM. Then I found a multivitamin that contained 12mg of caffeine & some guarana blend and it does me feel like getting going (like immediately, so obviously some placebo effect.) Plus Celestial Seasoning's Morning Thunder black tea (I think it's called) is surprisingly pep-inducing and tastes pretty good.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 2:56 PM on October 27, 2010

I'm a little confused by your assertion to the effect that "coffee and soda give me too much caffeine kick, but tea gives me too little, and alcohol just the right amount." This is a puzzling mish-mash of things that can't really be quantified precisely.

For example, "tea" could mean anything from "chamomile herbal tea" to "ultra-stiff black tea" (a.k.a. "builder's tea"). If the tea you have been drinking is not stiff enough, then it's certainly possible to make it stronger. If the coffee you have tried is too strong, then you can make it weaker.

On the other hand, alcohol is a nervous system depressant, not a stimulant.

As you can see, the real "danger" in making it a habit is that you will have to be careful to never breathe a word about it to anyone.

Right or wrong, people will make assumptions about you, and your intake, and you could be ostracized at best - fired at worst. (And I'm afraid that explaining that "I need it as a little pick-me-up" will not help your situation.)
posted by ErikaB at 4:37 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you had a cocktail every day with lunch to help pick you up for the afternoon slog through paperwork, many would raise serious concerns. And yet a lunch martini was a very common practice 30-40 years ago. Trust your instincts and don't worry about the social stigma. Besides, who will know you're having a drink before showering?

That said, some of those gin-sipping businessmen did go on to become alcoholics. So if that single drink starts becoming two when you know you've got a tough day coming up, it's time to give it up.
posted by centerweight at 8:32 PM on October 27, 2010

The Light Fantastic: a pint of Guinness sounds like relatively unproblematic breakfast booze: 4% ABV (less than Bud Light), and pre-measured in its bottle or can. I'd skip the egg and cream, though. (A half-pint of mild or Scotch ale is recommended to ladies for breakfast in a book from 1825, along with broiled beef steaks or mutton chops. De gustibus.)

Still, as Juicy Avenger says, it might be worth chatting to a doctor about your metabolism first.
posted by holgate at 9:26 PM on October 27, 2010

As for the "slight stimulant effect," you may find that it doesn't work that way in the morning. A beer can really perk me up in the evening, but if I have one with lunch, I'll be asleep in 15 minutes. Instant trip to NapLand.
posted by venividivici at 5:02 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Using any stimulant for regularity suggests that you don't get adequate fiber and possibly water. That's bad for your health. My acupuncturist recommended a big glass of water 1st thing, to get things moving. If you're having troubles getting things well-regulated, talk to your doctor and try eliminating problem foods from your diet. Dairy and/or wheat are known troublemakers.
posted by theora55 at 7:48 AM on October 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks all for the answers. Caffiene give me the shits and has for my entire life so I'm just done trying it even in small amounts. When I got home last night I checked my teas and they are all caffiene free herbal blends from Celestial Seasonings and Tazo which is probably why they dont give me the shits or do anything to wake me up in the morning.

I should reitterate I am not asking about alcohol to help me poop. I was simply asking about alcohol as a morning drink because in my experience a drink wakes me up and the tradional morning drinks that do that (coffee, sodas, etc) give me poo problems because of the caffiene (caffine pills are even worse for me than having caffiene as part of a beverage).

Though I don't normally talk about my morning routine, the amount of alarmist answers regarding alcoholism made me realize that I'd need to take extra considerations to make sure it never comes up in the water-cooler chat circle (as ErikaB notes).

I suppose all that's left for me to do is try it (!after breakfast!) and see if it works or if I get a sugar type crash after a few hours.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:20 AM on October 28, 2010

um, vacapinta - I am British, and live in Britain, and can confidently say that 'getting a morning beer' is most definitely not normal and that morning drinking carries the same stigma as the US. Anyone getting a beer in in the AM is most likely unemployed and/or alcoholic. Slightly off topic I know but I felt compelled to correct such a huge misconception!
posted by cmarie at 3:34 PM on November 2, 2010

Hey, weekendjen, I'd like to hear how it works out if you get a chance to update.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:28 AM on November 3, 2010

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