I recently gave up drinking for a while, to see how it affects me.
Since The Boy came along, I’ve struggled to keep fit. I used to play sports three-four days a week, and I’d walk to and from work every day. I even managed to train for, and run, a marathon in 2015. In the months following his birth, though, I struggled with spending time away from him and Cat (something I wrote about, here), and my fitness suffered. I tried to incorporate a run into my commute home, with some success, but when we moved to South Queensferry that wasn’t possible.
In order to get things under control, I have started cycling to work. The 25 mile round trip is getting me fitter, and I’m starting to feel the benefit (hunting segments on Strava). I needed something to really aim for, though, so I’ve signed up for my first triathlon. It’s a super-short one, with just 400m to swim, an 18km off-road bike, and a measly 2.5km run, but I’m a little nervous. I’ve started to get back to running, and the commute is helping to get my bike fitness popping. The swim is worrying me, but I have six weeks to work on it…
I am not one for doing things by halfs (as my wardrobe full of once-or-twice-used kit for a variety of sports will attest), and I have thrown myself at this opportunity to feel better. Aside from the training, I have also given up drinking until after the race (for now), to see if it helps me gain my edge again. This is not the first time I have abstained – having given up on and off since my final year of uni when I went 12 months without a sip. It’s not that I have a problem – though I don’t have the easiest of relationships with booze – but I like to feel in control sometimes, and saying no gives me a sense of power and pride.
So far, I haven’t noticed a great deal of difference in my weight (it’s only been a fortnight), and my fitness has only slowly improved, but I have seen a marked improvement in my mood. This is not surprising, really. A mental health nurse told me recently that alcohol is the biggest depressant, and I can believe her. Apart from anything else, drinking disrupts your sleep patterns, and I already have a tiny terrorist filling that role nicely. Furthermore, I don’t have to deal with the foggy head, there are no crippling hangovers (I’m a wimp), and there are
no less late night kebabs.
I notice such a huge difference between giving up in 2011, and giving up now. When I was finishing uni, the options were booze or sugar. If you didn’t want to drink water all night, you had to drink coke. In some really fancy places you might get a San Pelegrino Limonata. Nowadays, it’s so much easier – probably due, in part, to my stage of life. However, the profusion of non-alcoholic options in the past few years has been amazing, and craft breweries have turned their hands to making really good non-alcoholic options (and a few who only brew low abv – e.g. Big Drop Brewing).
Now it seems that every bar holds at least one non-alcoholic beer, and bar staff don’t ask you ‘what do you want that for?’ Below is a list of some of the better non-alcoholic options (even if you’re only driving).
Great non-alcoholic options:
- Brew Dog’s Nanny State is hoppy and refreshing, and was the first non-alcoholic beer I tasted that wasn’t obviously a washed out lager.
- Heineken and Becks Blue are the best of a reasonable bunch, and if they are really cold, are actually pretty nice.
- Erdinger alkoholfrei is sweet and malty with good body, but is pretty gassy.
- Cawston Press juices are amazing, and never too sweet. The rhubarb is a firm favourite, but they are all great.
- Kombucha – Yes, I know I’ve been going on about it lately, but the depth of flavour, tangy fizz, and fermented funk make this a great booze substitute. Just watch out, it’s caffeinated.
Some 0-1% beers that I’m ordering at lightdrinks.co.uk online as we speak (this is not an advert), and am really excited to try are: Big Drop’s Citrus Pale and their Chocolate Milk stout, Infinite Session’s Pale, Mikkeller’s Drink’in the Sun, Small Beer’s Dark Lager, and Nirvana Brewery’s Pale Ale.
Not all non-alcoholic drinks are good, in fact many are pretty boggin’. Here’s a few I’d avoid:
Not so good:
- Seedlip ‘gin’ – I really wanted to like it, since I love a good G&T, but I had it with great tonic and the perfect garnish, and it just tasted like a flat cucumber water. Sorry.
- Innis and Gunn’s Innis and None alcohol-free craft beer – top marks for the name; nae marks for the chemical-hop flavour.
- Kaliber – Still clinging on from the 70s, though not sure how.
- San Miguel and a host of other big brand duds. Avoid, avoid, avoid.