What used to be an ok amount of alcohol now is not. Help!
May 21, 2015 10:18 AM   Subscribe

I've been through a lot of changes lately and one of them has been losing 40 lbs. I love beer and socializing. And another change is being more social and putting myself out there. But the combination of eating less and weighing less has put a dent in my ability to deal with alcohol. I end up slightly more drunk and a lot more hungover How do I continue to enjoy the things I love without it affecting me so much?

So I want the beer with less effect. I like strong Belgians and would like to mitigate the effects of alcohol, both at the time of drinking and the next morning, when I usually work out.

Its ok to feel buzzed, but as I get older, I am less enamored of it.

The other problem is that I drink anything quickly, so my 1 beer, 1 water strategy isn't as effective. And lately, since I dumped my TV, I've had to go to bars to watch my beloved Blackhawks in the playoffs, which sometimes go into triple OT.

I read once that Jim Koch of the Boston Brewing Company mixes active yeast in yogurt and that it helps. One teaspoon of yeast for every beer he will drink. But I see skepticism of the chemistry. Does this work? Are there any other techniques?
posted by Ironmouth to Food & Drink (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly, I've found that as I age I just need to drink less in order to not feel hungover the next day. Maybe just work on slowing down as you drink, and making sure to eat some food while you're drinking?

I'm a small woman in my late 30s, and I find I can only really have two drinks now throughout an evening if I want to feel good the next morning. It's one of those lovely aspects of getting older. So I've learned to slow down and nurse my drinks.
posted by barnoley at 10:27 AM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Didn't I read in a fitness thread that you are doing keto?

If so, while in ketosis, alcohol will supposedly affect you more.

I started a keto diet after I quit drinking, so I don't know of any mitigation strategies.
posted by tomierna at 10:28 AM on May 21, 2015

There is no magic. Drink slower. Drink beer with less alcohol. Drink more water. Find a decent light beer you enjoy. Eat food before hand. Be less old - wait, I think I covered that with there not being any magic answers.
posted by GuyZero at 10:29 AM on May 21, 2015 [18 favorites]

Congrats! When I lost my weight and went through the same thing, I rediscovered my love for porters & stouts. I just can't/don't drink them as quickly as I drink any/everything else. Maybe branch out from the strong Belgians and start exploring the darker and/or lower abv beers. Make it a bit of a thing.
posted by imbri at 10:29 AM on May 21, 2015

There's no trick. As we get older we have to stop drinking less unless we're willing to feel like garbage more often. Switch to soda water after a few drinks.
posted by something something at 10:29 AM on May 21, 2015

I'm a complete lightweight, so I like places that do small pours. My favorite place will do any size you want, so I can get 6 oz, drink that, drink some water, see how I feel and decide if I want more.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:31 AM on May 21, 2015

Best answer: Sorry, the successful technique is "don't drink as much."

The science behind the Jim Koch yeast approach is sketchy at best; if you Google around you can see stories of people trying that and it just totally failing. Apparently people who actually have to hang around Jim Koch consistently say that actually (1) he has a high tolerance from drinking all the damn time, and (2) he still ends up pretty wasted in a lot of situations; this whole "I keep drinking and don't get drunk" thing is... perhaps a bit of denial, or at least illusory to put it kindly.

Anyway see if you can substitute some light Belgians for the strong Belgians. Even if "it's just not the same!" at first, at least you could find some plausible alternatives as you explore. Also, try 1 beer to 2 waters. And if that isn't slow enough, 1 to 3. Etc.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2015 [5 favorites]

How do I continue to enjoy the things I love without it affecting me so much?

You say you drink anything quickly, but maybe this is the problem. You've obviously made big life changes and been very successful at this, so why not work on the drinking as well? I tend to be a very slow eater/drinker, and as a result, I end up consuming less alcohol over the course of an evening than my friends do, which mostly means I can afford way better stuff and I never get hangovers. It's like calories, really. If you're used to eating really fast, then a very small portion of very good cheesecake is going to seem incredibly unsatisfying. If you take small bites and savor them and take your time about it, you get roughly the same quantity of experience-of-eating-cheesecake as somebody who inhales a slice three times that size. It takes effort and practice to learn to consume things that way, but it's a useful skill for both moderating calories/alcohol and moderating cost. So, win-win.
posted by Sequence at 10:33 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Consider switching drinks to help with drinking less. I can put back ten beers in a night with no problem and I hate nursing a beer because it gets warm, whereas I can easily nurse a neat whiskey for two hours. My wife, on the other hand, doesn't mind tepid beer so much and gets full after two, while she can easily put back half a bottle of whiskey if she sets her mind to it.

Switching drinks might also break you out of your old habits and just make ordering another one less automatic.
posted by 256 at 10:35 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm hurtling through middle age now, and like you, have found that things have changed.

When it comes to beers - and I love me some beers - here's what I do. I alternate between soda water (Fizzy! Bitter!) and beer. It slows down the consumption, and I don't get as drunk as fast. It took a bit to develop the taste, but I've found it helps out a lot.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:43 AM on May 21, 2015

Similar to your 1 beer, 1 water strategy, I switched to one drink, 1.5 - 2 soda waters/seltzers. I like seltzer even more than water, so I drink it faster, and that helped me to stay hydrated.

The only other thing is that when I do wake up a little delicate (much less often these days), I have a bunch of fruit - pears and other juicy fruits really seem to help fix the electrolytes or what-have-you.

Congrats on your slimmer self! When I've done similar things I congratulate myself on becoming a cheaper date, (because seltzer is cheap).
posted by ldthomps at 10:43 AM on May 21, 2015

I've learned to always ask for a water when I get a beer at the bar. It helps to slow down my alcohol intake and fills me faster, so I end up drinking less alcohol overall. Also, the bar snacks like pretzels and popcorn help.
posted by I am the Walrus at 10:45 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: A couple of answers.

First, I am not doing keto. I just work out in the morning in the fasted state. I also lift weights mainly, which burns more calories than cardio. I can't do cardio right now because of hamstring tendonitis (slowly getting better so I will soon).

This means that I can't eat fruits when I get up. Working out in the fasted state just burns fat. I think I lost 20 lbs in 40 days at first when I could also do cardio. I also have a solid rule of not eating to allow me to drink more. So I usually have a lot less in my stomach.

I also do not eat any snacks while at the bar. I am eating 2 meals a day, with nuts and fruit snacking during the day and if I get hungry at night.

I want to avoid tonic water. It has 83 calories and 21g of sugar! Soda water seems to have less.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:55 AM on May 21, 2015

I also have a solid rule of not eating to allow me to drink more.
Well, there's your problem, and it's only going to get worse as you get older. I've been an enthusiastic drinker my whole life, but I'm 48, and the hangovers are getting worse, so I've developed a solid rule of always eating before drinking, even if it's a food-cart hot dog on the way to the bar.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:01 AM on May 21, 2015 [7 favorites]

Could you start with one nice strong Belgian and then switch over to a much hoppier or bitter beer? I find I naturally drink those much slower than a good Belgian. Or sub in an O'Douls?
posted by JackBurden at 11:06 AM on May 21, 2015

Best answer: Soda (aka seltzer) water should be water and carbon dioxide so by "less" calories and sugar, think "none." Club soda is also similar, but has some other minerals added (which shouldn't add sugar). But yeah, tonic water is a clear and sneaky devil.

I know that good beer is your thing, but from a caloric intake perspective, you might want to think about mixing in a serving or two of red wine at 125 cal/5oz glass, or whisk(e)y (no mixer) at 105 cal/shot (compared to 300+ cal per 12oz pour of most beers worth drinking). Especially with the whiskey, you'll probably drink it slower, and the reduction in sugars gives you a little more leeway as far as eating to help mitigate the alcohol hit.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:08 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

In addition to eating more and drinking less, think about your electrolyte balance. If you're working out a lot, it's easier to get dehydrated. Find a way to get some salt and potassium along with your beer! (If you can't bring yourself to eat the nice, salty bar snacks, getting a soda water with lemon or lime and putting a pinch of salt in it will do the trick.)
posted by yarntheory at 11:10 AM on May 21, 2015

Best answer: +1 on the seltzer/soda/sparking water idea. After a few beers your tastebuds are deadened anyways, so swapping your 3rd Belgian for a seltzer should be okay. I find I drink the fizzy stuff much slower than the still and that's been a big help in putting off that last Bad Idea beer of the night.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:21 AM on May 21, 2015

posted by cotton dress sock at 11:44 AM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

I also have a solid rule of not eating to allow me to drink more.... I also do not eat any snacks while at the bar.

I agree with MrMoonPie - that approach is definitely going to make the strong beers hit you hard and fast. Your "weigh less" and "drink more" goals are coming directly in conflict here. You should make room in your caloric schedule to eat something while you drink or shortly before - in fact it would be better if it were protein-y and packed with fat, which would be in line with your weight loss goals. (I mean, not too much of it of course - just saying that composition is better than, e.g., a bowl of chips.)
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 11:47 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Are you still on anticonvulsants? If you've lost significant weight, your serum level is going to be higher than it was (even if your calculated BSA is still within the range that wouldn't indicate stepping the dose down, and I'm sure you and your neuro have discussed that possibility). Along with age and simply having less body mass, anticonvulsants aren't exactly known for playing nicely with alcohol in several ways, depending on the class of drug. Many of those ways include "good morning! hope last night was fun! here is your free brick to the head!"

If you're going to drink on anticonvulsants, especially at a lower weight than before, I really recommend staying hydrated, cutting back on absolute quantity of alcohol, and eating something with some protein and fat either right before or during alcohol consumption, because you really want to slow your alcohol absorption down and cut your liver some slack.
posted by Naamah at 12:00 PM on May 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: How did you know I was on anti-convulsants? I take carbamazipine. What about it specifically could cause a hangover?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:04 PM on May 21, 2015

I also have a solid rule of not eating to allow me to drink more.... I also do not eat any snacks while at the bar.

Are you tracking calories or just doing back-of-envelope stuff? Because I like to drink, occasionally, but basically can't on an empty stomach anymore. So I do a combination of going places with small pours (or flights, I drink 16 oz more slowly when it's four servings of four oz) and having something to eat, basically anything, that is in my stomach. I think this is also the recipe for less hangover state (for me) because it's less alcohols turning to sugars and making me middle of the night hangry. So on a day when you work out, just make sure you reserve like 100-200 calories for like a protein pill gardenburger before you head out to eat. Keep on with the not snacking but those few changes should help a lot.
posted by jessamyn at 12:06 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

So you're telling us that you don't want to feel as drunk while you're drinking beer, and you don't want to have hangovers. But when people tell you to either eat more or drink less, you're not interested. You're still after a magic pill that will have the same effect? You will save both money and calories by drinking less, which can then be spent on a snack to help you process the alcohol better.
posted by barnoley at 12:35 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well the difference between the alcohol and the snack is that the snack can be turned into fat. Alcohol generally cannot.

But it most certainly looks like I will need to drink less. And based on the Esquire story involving Koch, I thought it might be possible. I will have to start using soda water when I'm out. I do eat some of the time, but sometimes I drink at times when I'm not hungry.

So sadly, the Koch method doesn't work.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:53 PM on May 21, 2015

Eat some cheese before you drink. I don't think you'd have to eat a huge amount, but just enough to line your stomach and keep the alcohol from being absorbed quite as quickly.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 2:20 PM on May 21, 2015

the snack can be turned into fat. Alcohol generally cannot.

OK, OK, OK, I'll quit responding to every little thing, but this is a seriously wrong way to view beer, of all things. In addition to a relatively small amount of alcohol, beer (especially heavy beer!) has a substantial amount of sugar in the form of maltodextrin, which is produced from mashing the grains but cannot be digested by the yeast. So maybe a shot of vodka would be "just alcohol, which cannot be turned into fat," but in each beer you're drinking more sugar than a can of coke. Possibly way more, depending on the final gravity (i.e., beer strength). Swap one beer for a handful of bar snacks - it may well be a net caloric reduction as well as having the other benefits discussed above.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 2:27 PM on May 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

I am a lurker, mostly. But I have been around awhile, and remember stuff. Tegretol seems to work on GABA, which alcohol is also active on, and therefore in combination the two can cause you to get more drunk/less coordinated/more sedated thàn otherwise. Tegretol can also be not spectacular for your liver enzymes and function in and of itself* (which I am sure you know and have to get the regular blood draws for, along with the rare blood cell issues, though for most people taking it, carbamazepine alone will not cause a clinically significant issue or elevation in enzymes) and metabolizing alcohol is also a bit of a stressor on the liver. So a higher serum level of Tegretol (because you've lost weight, and because as you age your liver very slowly gets less efficient at processing everything, hence everyone's testimony about age +alcohol and hangovers) plus alcohol is making extra work for your liver all around. So when you drink, you have to take that into consideration, along with the lower tolerance due to lower weight.

(That said, carbamazepine is complicated, because it uses some liver enzymes to be metabolized itself, blocks OTHER enzymes from functioning as well as they ordinarily would,so some drugs build up in your system faster and stick around longer, and also induces increased production of other liver enzymes, which speeds up metabolism of other drugs. I honestly can't remember if it has any effect on alcohol dehydrogenase directly, because I don't take it.) Anyway, although I have heard some people say taking Tegretol makes them hangover-proof, that does not seem to be the case for you.

*one of the very very rare oh shit! side effects of Tegretol is hepatotoxicity and liver failure. It is very very rare.
posted by Naamah at 2:57 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

My point about the asterisk is not that it's likely, but that kind of warning for me is the "screeching brakes" sound of "okay, well, if this is what works for me, I am gonna cut back other things instead."

Like, I forgot to wear sunscreen while titrating lamotrigine once. ONCE. I did not get The Rash, but nothing ingrained the sunscreen and cover up habit into me for life like the hideous flu symptoms and sunburn, and knowing that The Rash was a lot worse.
posted by Naamah at 3:09 PM on May 21, 2015

I like beer. I like wine and bourbon, too, but beer hydrates and takes longer to drink. When out, I set my limit, usually 2 drinks of any kind, 3 if it's a lengthy party and I'm dancing a lot. So I can have 2 beers, then have water, ginger ale, or non-alcoholic beer. I think of NA beer as beer-flavored soda pop. Sure, there are methods, and eating helps some, but as you age the cumulative effect of your life on your liver is a real thing. Every hangover is your liver reminding you to go easy. Listen. Getting a slight buzz is mildly pleasant. Anything more than that is not worth the toll on your body. Also, diet tonic water exists.
posted by theora55 at 3:16 PM on May 21, 2015

I have had a lot of luck with drinking alkaline water. It really lessens my hangovers. If I have it on hand, I will try to drink as much of it as possible before I go to bed. I guess you could take a bottle of it with you to the bar.

You can buy it bottled at most grocery stores especially Whole Foods and Fresh Market. I also have coworkers that sell the machines that can make water alkaline but they cost a small fortune. And I do not endorse any of the other hocus pocus health benefits that people say alkaline water is supposed to achieve.
posted by bobber at 4:15 PM on May 21, 2015

So I'm 50 and have been an enthusiastic imbiber for most of my life. For the last 15 or 20 years, I almost always restrict my drinking to Fridays only, but I do tend to drink quite a considerable amount during my Friday sessions. I was a rye drinker when I was younger (or, I guess, and everything-and-anything drinker, basically), but for those last 15 or 20 years, I've stuck to beer.

Like you, I've been exercising a great deal more in recent years mostly to compensate for the effects of aging, and have dropped 30 pounds or so down to close to my optimal weight, pounds I've kept off, so far.

I'm different than most, I guess, in that the level of hangover hasn't really ramped up all that much, on average, for me in recent years. A little, maybe. I still pop out of bed at 7 or so on most Saturday mornings and go for a 3 or 4 hour bike ride, weather permitting.

But I've been a little more diligent in hangover prevention, and the one thing that consistently works for me (and that I feel noticeably worse if I omit) is just what people recommend: water. But my variation on the usual advice is a bit extreme, and maybe not something everyone can do. I customarily eat a small snack of veggies and nuts or something after my Friday beer sessions, rather than before (which is ill-advised, most people suggest), and before I go to sleep, I will neck literally 1 to 1.5 litres of water. So much water that I literally cannot get any more down. After several times that much beer by volume. I think I may have an unusually large stomach sac or something.

And the next morning, almost always, I'm fine. It's a bit extreme, but it works for me.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:56 PM on May 21, 2015

Best answer: Are half pints an option? Inquire.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:00 PM on May 21, 2015

Also have a solid rule of not eating to allow me to drink more.... I also do not eat any snacks while at the bar.

This is 100% of your problem. Budget a way to get in a medium sized not-too-light(like, not a salad) meal beforehand, and a snack midway through.

My wastoid party monster friends would always semi-sarcastically say "eating is cheating" precisely because not eating first will make you get way drunker, way faster.

How drunk i get, and how quickly, is inversely proportional to how much i eat both beforehand and while drinking, and also how long i stay drunk. I can drink a shitload if i'm eating a gigantic meal with desert and basically walk out of the place 1-2 drinks deep inebriation wise. But if i have the same say, 4 drinks without having really eaten anything i'll be pretty solidly buzzed.

So yea, eat more.
posted by emptythought at 8:33 PM on May 21, 2015

Response by poster: Wanted to update everyone.

I have gone with the one club soda with lime to one drink plan and it is working fantastically. Plus, the Blackhawks have won the Cup, so I don't have to go out to watch them in the playoffs anymore.

Thanks for all your help.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:36 AM on June 22, 2015 [2 favorites]

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