Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol

October 13, 2022

Table of Contents

The benefits of an alcohol free lifestyle are numerous: saving money, losing weight, living longer, and having better mental health and cognition.

If you're considering a sober life but need a little push to take the plunge, keep reading. 

4 Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol 

1. Live Longer

Researchers say drinking just one or two drinks four or more times per week can increase your risk of premature death by 20%.[1] Notice that this is a moderate drinking level for most people. 

2. Lose Weight

Consume four bottles of wine per month, and you’ll take in calories equivalent to eating 4 Big Macs per month.[2] A standard alcoholic beverage contains at least 200 calories. If you are drinking 2-4 drinks, thats somewhere between 400-800 calories in one sitting from alcohol alone! While most people on a diet would resist eating fast food weekly, many people won’t blink an eye about drinking daily. A lot of people attempting to lose weight don’t realize the amount of calories they consume from alcohol. Cutting those calories out can make a big difference in successful weight loss. 

3. Remember More Things

Chronic alcohol consumption is also associated with memory loss and decreased cognition over time. [3] Drinking heavily or long term can increase the risk of either temporary or permanent memory loss. 

4. Reduce Your Risk of Accidents 

Researchers say up to 40% of emergency room visits for accidents/injuries involve alcohol.[5] You could have a painful and expensive injury that keeps you from work. Or you could hurt someone else. 

5. Improve your overall organ health

Alcohol can cause permanent damage to over nine major systems within your body, including the following:[6]

  • Bones 
  • Brain 
  • Gastrointestinal system
  • Heart
  • Liver
  • Lungs
  • Muscles
  • Oral cavity 
  • Pancreas

6. Sleep better 

While some people use alcohol to fall asleep, the evidence is very clear that alcohol actually impairs sleep quality. Therefore people who are drinking on a daily basis or even using alcohol a few days a week to fall asleep are likely paradoxically getting worse sleep overall.

7. Have more money!

Purchasing alcohol can be expensive depending on how much you are buying and consuming. Imagine where that extra cash could go if it was not being spent on alcohol! 

What Happens When You Quit Drinking?

Each body is different, but in general, quitting follows a predictable timeline that looks like this.

Within One Week 

People with significant alcohol misuse histories may experience a difficult withdrawal process during the first week. Their doctors use medications like benzodiazepines to help guide them to sobriety safely, and after the first week, they start to feel more like themselves.

Standard, daily drinkers without alcohol dependence may notice that they sleep better and awaken with newfound vigor and energy. 

Within One Month

You may start to lose weight, or conversely if you have been malnourished, you may begin to renourish your body and find you are actually gaining healthy weight again. Your sleep will likely improve.

Your organs, including your liver, make great strides in healing during this first month. Your bloodwork may show signs of improvement, and your doctor may be pleased with how well you’re feeling. 

Within One Year

If you do manage to maintain abstinence from alcohol, you will probably notice great improvements in your nutrition, sleep, energy, and cognition after a year. 

Should You Quit Drinking?

The following are symptoms of a potential alcohol use disorder (AUD). If you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself, it might be time to reconsider your drinking habits: [7]

  • Drinking more than you intend to
  • Trying to quit and failing
  • Spending a lot of time drinking
  • Feeling obsessed with drinking 
  • Cutting back on other activities to make time for drinking
  • Getting into unsafe situations due to drinking
  • Drinking despite physical or mental health consequences
  • Drinking more to get the impact smaller doses once gave you
  • Feeling sick or unwell when you don’t drink

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. People dependent on alcohol can face life-threatening problems if they try to quit cold turkey. Your doctor can help you get sober safely with medications, as well as connect you to  resources to help maintain abstinence long term. 

Resources to Help You Quit

  • Alcoholics Anonymous: Connect with other people who are also struggling with alcohol misuse. Attend meetings virtually or in person and learn how others have taken control and rebuilt their lives. And read literature to help you deepen your understanding of alcohol use disorder.
     
  • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: Read scientific studies about alcoholism research and tap into information about how alcohol harms both your body and mind. Use the NIAAA treatment navigator to connect with professionals who can help.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Use this resource to find treatment help near you. Operators speak both English and Spanish, and they're available around the clock. This service is free. 

Benefits of Not Drinking FAQs

What known benefits are tied to sobriety?

People who don't drink potentially live longer, feel better, maintain a healthy weight, and have more money when they are not spending it on alcohol! They may also see improvements in their work performance, their mood, their overall energy levels, and their ability to maintain meaningful relationships with their friends and families. 

What happens to your body after just a week of no alcohol?

Even after a week or two of sustained abstinence, you will likely begin to notice improvements in your health. In general, people who quit drinking sleep better and feel less brain fog. You may also begin to eat better and shed any excess weight now that you are taking in less “empty” calories from alcohol. You may also notice improvements in your organ function very quickly. For example, someone with hepatitis (acute inflammation of the liver) from alcohol use can recover completely after only a few days of abstinence. Some damage may be more permanent however, which means the sooner you cut down or even stop drinking, the more you can prevent any long term organ damage.

Is it better to have less vs absolutely no alcohol?

This is a personal question, and answers can vary. At Bicycle health, we certainly don’t insist on absolute abstinence from alcohol. Some people may decide that simply cutting down is right for them, while others may know that they need to be entirely abstinent from alcohol. Talk to your friends, family, and doctors about how much alcohol you feel is appropriate to have as part of your life, and reach out to us at Bicycle Health if you would like assistance in decreasing your intake or even discontinuing alcohol use all together.

Medically Reviewed By Elena Hill, MD, MPH

Elena Hill, MD; MPH received her MD and Masters of Public Health degrees at Tufts Medical School and completed her family medicine residency at Boston Medical Center. She is currently an attending physician at Bronxcare Health Systems in the Bronx, NY where she works as a primary care physician as well as part time in pain management and integrated health. Her clinical interests include underserved health care, chronic pain and integrated/alternative health.

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Citations

  1. Even Light Drinking Increases Risk of Death. Science Daily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181003102732.htm. October 2018. Accessed August 2022. 
  2. Calories in Alcohol. National Health Service. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/alcohol-advice/calories-in-alcohol/. January 2020. Accessed August 2022. 
  3. Interrupted Memories: Alcohol-Induced Blackouts. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/interrupted-memories-alcohol-induced-blackouts. March 2021. Accessed August 2022.
  4. The Amount of Money You Spend on Drinking May Blow Your Mind. The Huffington Post. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/money-spent-on-drinking_n_5adf49d9e4b07be4d4c54401. April 2018. Accessed August 2022. 
  5. Alcohol and the Risk of Injury. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8401155/. August 2021. Accessed August 2022. 
  6. Alcohol's Effects on the Body. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body. Accessed August 2022. 
  7. Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder. April 2021. Accessed August 2022.

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