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What I Learned by Not Drinking Alcohol in September

Alan is back to chat about his getting healthy...this month, not drinking. Back in August, I blogged about using Foursquare to help encourage me to walk more—especially after meals. The mobile application was a great motivator because I was using it to earn badges. I also used Twitter ( #AlanGetsHealthy) as a way to not only remind myself to keep doing what I’ve been doing, but hopefully inspire others. And believe it or not, some of my friends have started their own programs now. My friend Will, for instance, invented #poofygetshealthy. (Poofy is his nickname.)

The month of September, however, represented my greatest challenge: #AlanNotDrinking. In the middle of July I decided I wanted to take an entire month off from alcohol—no wine, no beer. Nothing and no excuses. I decided August wasn’t a great month because of a number of parties, and, because frankly, I hadn’t thought through how it was all going to work. So I decided on September.

I don’t really want to go into the exact reasons for why I decided to do #AlanNotDrinking. Instead, Laney thought I could comment on how it affected my body and my fitness routines .

First, let’s level set. How much was I drinking exactly? I’d say at least four-five nights a week, and the majority of those nights involved more than 4 drinks. Usually liquor and usually not mixed with non-alcoholic drinks. Beer only once a week or so.

I’ve got some interesting findings from my little experiment that I thought I could share:

  • I feel no negative effect. When I quit caffeine – no, there was no hashtag for that – I definitely had headaches for at least two weeks. Never once did my body respond negatively in a way that I can attribute to quitting outright.
  • I sleep better. Just as I noticed when I started going to the gym about 2 months ago, I’m more tired towards bedtime and I sleep better. I also require less sleep—I get by just fine with about seven hours now, whereas if I got really, really hammered, I needed at least nine hours or I felt groggy in the morning. Not surprising since you’re said to not sleep as strong – even if you fall asleep more quickly – when you’re drunk.
  • I have more energy throughout the day. Going to the gym after a date in the city is easier with no drinks in my system as opposed to two or three beers. I can go longer and harder on the machines or on weights. (Ed Note: so gross if I wanted to go there)
  • I’m not making poor decisions late at night. Let’s leave poor hook-up choices aside and instead talk about food choices. It’s a lot harder to eat that greasy pizza slice or chicken fingers when I’m sober; however, you actually can indulge a little bit more since you’re not ingesting alcoholic calories. Recently, I stayed out until 2:30 a.m. with some friends (let me tell you, New York is an interesting place at 2:30 in the morning when you’re dead sober) and I felt no guilt at having shrimp and ribs at Dallas BBQ knowing that I wasn’t drinking the fish bowl tequila drink my friend Will was on top of his greasy, fatty food.
  • And finally, if you care: dating is definitely a little more difficult. Explaining to someone on a first date why you’re not drinking can be very uneasy and sometimes I feel like I should just lie (on antibiotics or something like that). House parties are definitely uncomfortable because it’s hard to hide that you’re drinking water; that doesn’t happen at bars if you’re smart about putting a lemon or a lime on the side of your glass of water.

Anyone else ever tried the no-alcohol experiment before? What has your experience been? Leave it down in the comments, or suggest something for me to try in October. I HATE bananas (like REALLY!) and friends are trying to convince me to start #AlanEatsBananas. We’ll see…

Tasty Tuesday 10/12

More Sweat, Better Athlete?