New Year, New You – 22 ways to make the good times last longer in 2022

The start of each New Year always prompts some personal reflection and planning for the year ahead so this month we thought we would share our top 22 tips for helping to make the good times last longer when you are out and about drinking with friends and family in 2022.

Many of you may already have a few of these in your drinking tool kit and others may take a bit of practice – whatever the case, we encourage you to make the choices that are right for you when it comes to drinking and we hope these tips help you to drink smarter this year:

Get the facts:

1. Know your standards – When it comes to alcohol there is one simple fact that can help you to answer pretty much any question you might have about alcohol – How much can I drink to drive home tonight? How much can I drink to stay professional at my client function? How much can I drink and still be OK to look after the kids tomorrow morning? All of these questions and any other “how much can I drink” style questions can typically be answered by knowing this one fact:

A healthy adult liver can only process 10g of pure alcohol (1 standard drink) per hour and there is no way to speed this process up.

To learn more about standard drinks and why they are so important check out our fun, interactive online module here.

2. Remember 1:1 1 Standard drink takes 1 hour to process. This is why experts say “one an hour” is a good rule of thumb for most adult drinkers. It’s not complicated rocket science and here is a quick Standard Drinks guide to give you an idea of how much you are really drinking:

If you drink faster than one standard drink per hour, the excess alcohol will enter your bloodstream and do a tiki tour of your body while it waits for the liver to catch up and this can cause a range of health issues over the course of your life. You can read more about what’s going on inside when you drink here and here.

what-is-a-standard-drink

3. Check your labels – To help make it easier, every bottle of alcohol sold in NZ must have the number of standard drinks printed on the label. This information is telling you how long it is going to take your body to process (or metabolize if you want the technical term) the alcohol in that bottle or can. So, if the label on your bottle of beer says 1.3 standard drinks, that means it will take you 1.3 hours to process the alcohol in that one bottle, a bottle of Sav Blanc at a BYO dinner will be more like 7.4 hours if you drink it alone!

4. Learn your pours – Now it is all very well and easy when you have the bottle in your hand, and you can see the label for yourself but what if you are out and about being served alcohol by someone else? Especially given one standard drink is not necessarily the same as one glass or one bottle. So, let’s have a look at how many standard drinks there are in some more typical pours:

  • A standard wine in a bar (150ml or filled to the line/logo on their glass) = 1.5 standard drinks/1.5 hours to process
  • A large wine (220ml) = 2.2 standard drinks/2.2 hours to process
  • A “pint”of 5% beer (500ml) = 2 standard drinks/ 2 hours to process
  • A 1.8L jug of 4% beer = 5.7 standard drinks/ 5.7 hours to process
  • A double bourbon = 1 standard drink/1 hour to process
  • A Mojito = 2 standard drinks/2 hours to process

You can practice your pours using our cool online interactive tool here or click here to download a handy poster for your fridge.

5. Choose low/no ABV – When it comes to alcohol, not all drinks are born equal. In NZ we have wines ranging from 0.5% to 14% alcohol, beers from 0% to 12% as well as low and no alcohol ciders, RTD’s, spirits and more – the options are limitless. While they all look exactly the same in your glass or bottle, the lower strength ones will definitely help you to wake up feeling fresher the next day! Even better, try mixing it up with water or a non-alcoholic drink every now and then to let your liver catch up on its processing duties.

6. Eat to last – Eating won’t stop you getting drunk, but a full belly will slow the absorption of alcohol into your body. The key is to eat good meals before you start drinking, while you are drinking and after you stop. A kabab at 3am is good, but it won’t be enough on its own! Think about protein rich foods that release energy slowly, meaning they do a good job of helping our body to absorb alcohol over a longer period of time. Some good, easy choices include eggs, meat and dairy products so think omelets, burgers, hotdogs, and cheese.

7. Hydration is key – Water, water, water. Behind food, water is the second most important element in making smarter drinking choices so take water everywhere and drink it often. Alcohol is a diuretic (it makes you go to the toilet a lot) so keeping yourself hydrated is key to waking up without a headache! Anything non-alcoholic drinks will do, but water is best as other sugary drinks will need to be processed by the liver too and it’s already busy with the alcohol. Water before, during and after drinking is best so make it part of you plan and stick to it.

8. Know what a safe level of consumption is for you – It is well known that alcohol consumption can contribute to both negative and positive health outcomes. The more you drink the more your health will be impacted. That’s because your body can only process 10g of pure alcohol per hour (a.k.a 1 standard drink) and there is no way to speed this process up. That is why the Health Promotion Agency here in NZ (part of the Ministry of Health) have developed the below recommendations for low risk consumption. You can find out more about alcohol & your health here.

You are Unique

While the processing time for one standard drink is the same for all adults (1 std drink = 1 hour), there are several factors that can affect how your body reacts to alcohol and how you feel the effects of alcohol which is why it only takes some people a couple of drinks before they start feeling warm and fuzzy versus four or more for others. To understand more about what makes you unique here are tips to consider ahead of our next social occasion:

what-is-heavy-drinking

9. Men vs. Women – Woman have less of the enzyme ADH that breaks down alcohol in the stomach, contributing towards a higher BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) than men drinking the same amount of alcohol which is why they typically feel the effects of alcohol faster. Hormone levels also affect the body’s ability to process alcohol so women will experience higher BAC’s after drinking the same amount of alcohol right before menstruation.

10. Weighty topic – Larger and heavier people have more body tissue to absorb alcohol, so they typically feel the effects of alcohol less BUT….

Individuals with a higher percentage of body fat will have a higher BAC (blood alcohol concentration) than those with less body fat. If you think about a roasting dish in the sink on a Sunday night – water and fat don’t mix. Neither do alcohol and fat so there are less places for the excess alcohol to go and it centres around our vital organs more which is why we feel the effects of alcohol more. Good old biology means that females naturally tend to have a higher percentage of body fat than their male counterparts so they typically feel the effects of alcohol more quickly. On the flip side, muscle has a high-water content, and we know from above that water helps to dilute alcohol so the more muscular you are the less you will feel the effects of alcohol.

11. Check your meds – All medication needs to be processed by the liver so if you are drinking and taking medication, you are increasing the liver’s workload considerably. Certain pain killers and cold medicines can make you feel the effects of alcohol up to 10 times as much as you normally would so be careful mixing alcohol with any medications. Regardless of age, you are best to talk to your health professional before you mix alcohol with any medication. People with certain health conditions and medications are at increased risk if they consume alcohol so seek professional advice before you drink.

12. Moods do matter – Stress emotions such as sadness, anger, anxiety, and depression can change the enzymes in the stomach which in turn affect how we process alcohol. Linked to medication above – if you are someone that takes anti-depression medication or similar, and you haven’t already spoken to your GP about how this medicine works with alcohol then we suggest you do this ASAP. It is important to remember that alcohol isn’t a superhero. It can’t make you happy if you are sad and vice versa. If at any time you find yourself using alcohol to cope with day-to-day life, you should seek expert help from your GP or health practitioner.

13. Get your beauty sleep – Everything is much harder to deal with when you are tired and drinking alcohol is no different. If you are tired before drinking, intoxication will intensify the symptoms. This occurs because when someone is fatigued, the liver is less efficient at processing and eliminating alcohol which leads to a higher BAC than normal and that means you will feel the effects of the alcohol faster. So, if you know you have been pulling some extra shifts, you have a newborn in the house or you’re staying up late to binge watch your favourite show, be aware that alcohol is likely to hit you harder than normal right now

14. Age matters – You can read all about all the effects of alcohol as we age here, but in a nutshell the key reasons you might not be able to drink like you used to are:

  • As we age, we have less water in our systems. Water has a dilution effect on the alcohol so with less water naturally available in your body there is a higher concentration of alcohol in your blood, and you are likely to feel the effects of the alcohol more. That’s why you need to drink plenty of water before, during and after drinking especially those aged 40+ years.
  • Our muscle mass also starts to decrease and tends to be replaced by fat. Remember the roasting dish example above – alcohol and fat don’t mix so there are less places for the excess alcohol to go and it centres on our vital organs more which is why we may feel the effects of alcohol differently as we age.
  • We become less tolerant to alcohol because as we age, we have less of the enzyme (ADH) that helps breaks down alcohol in our system.
drink-driving-limit-nz

15. Functional Tolerance – Commonly described by many as “piss fitness”, functional tolerance is a decrease in the body’s sensitivity to alcohol. It happens for people when they drink lots and quite often. It may appear that your liver is handling the alcohol better but in reality, your liver is just living in a heightened state of “go”. This is fine on the odd occasion (like a three-week Summer holiday), but in the long term it can result in physical dependency and alcohol-related organ damage. Just because you can drink three nights in a row and not feel hungover doesn’t mean you’ve developed new drinking superpowers for Christmas so be kind to your body and stick to the healthy drinking guidelines.

 

Putting it all together

Now that you know the facts and you understand a bit more about how alcohol affects your body and mind you are much better placed to make smarter drinking choices. To help you put this all together ahead of your next night out here are some final tips for lasting the distance in style:

16. Plan ahead – Alcohol will impair your judgment and decision making so think about how you want the occasion to shape up before it begins and put plans in place to make it happen. Think about how much you want to drink – do you want to last the distance or peak too early and be a drain on the group? Make the occasion about more than just drinking too – could you take in some sport, play a bit of pool, see a show, or hit the karaoke bar? Know how you are going to get home – if you’re travelling by car agree who the sober driver will be upfront. If you’re taking taxis or a ride share, make sure you have the local number and think about who you can share a ride with to cut costs. If you plan on walking, have a buddy stay over so you can get home together.

bac-limit

17. Pace yourself – Slowing your drinking down will give your body time to catch up. Remember, one standard drink (10g of pure alcohol) takes one hour to process and there is no way to speed this process up. There are plenty of drinks you can choose to help slow down your alcohol intake. The most obvious of these is a regular glass of water or non-alcoholic drink, but even a light beer (1%-3% ABV) or wine (8%- 9.5% ABV) is going to be better for you than the full-strength equivalent. Same goes for the exciting new 0% options that are flooding the market. They look exactly the same in the glass or bottle, but your body will thank you for it tomorrow.

18. Space your drinks -Your body can only process one standard drink an hour so don’t keep downing drinks until you’re drunk. You want a good night out, not a ghastly morning after!

 

If you’re feeling worse for wear, and/or you start saying or doing things you wouldn’t normally do, that’s a sure-fire sign you need to slow down and let your body catch up. Take some time out – Go for a dance, play some pool, set up some BYC, grab a bite to eat – all of these will help you to last the distance in style.

19. Keep count – Knowing how much you are drinking and keeping count are key to lasting a social occasion in style. Remember there is no way to speed the liver up. Yes water, food, medication, your size etc can make you feel the effects of the alcohol differently, but they DON’T speed up the processing of the alcohol itself. Your liver can only process one standard drink (10g of pure alcohol) per hour. So, if you have:

  • 2 standard glasses of wine at lunch = 2 hours to process
  • A dozen 5% beers on Friday night = 15.6 hours to process
  • A bottle of red shared with your partner over dinner = 4.15 hours to process each person (total 8.3 hours)
  • A couple of ciders with a friend after work = 3 hours to process

20. Stick togetherPart of the fun of socializing is meeting new people, but you need to stay safe while you’re being social. Your judgement will be impaired after a few drinks, so one of the best things you can do to keep yourself and others safe is to stay together in a group. Never wander off alone and make sure your friends don’t either. Don’t accept drinks from strangers unless you see them being made and they are served directly to you. If you do decide to go home with someone new, make sure a friend knows where you are going and who with. It’s common sense really, but better safe than sorry!

 

21. Quit while you are ahead – Don’t pass out, pass in instead. Know when it is time to retire and action your plan for getting home. Remember, if you do head home alone, txt a friend when you get there so they know you’ve arrived safe and sound.

22. #Youdrinkyou – Never try to keep up with other people – be yourself and drink at your own pace. While “one an hour” is a good rule of thumb for most adult drinkers you should always drink at the pace that is right for you as we all feel the effects of alcohol differently. Remember: you can have a great time without drinking alcohol, so you should never feel like you must drink if you don’t want to. Never put pressure on others to drink and don’t feel pressured yourself.

Good luck with putting those NY resolutions into action and remember how tomorrow starts depends on how tonight ends, so drink smarter and your body will definitely thank you for it.

As always, we would love to hear your own personal tips and tricks for making the good times last longer so please feel free to share these with us via email (alcoholandme@lionco.com), Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn so we can continue to grow this list for all adult Kiwi drinkers to enjoy.

The Alcohol&Me Team