I was thinking about the first time I tried to quit drinking (for 28 days). It didn’t work out brilliantly for me, but it did give me an idea of what to expect on this next leg of the journey. It also gave me a little insight into some alcohol math.
What is alcohol math?
Well, it is the hard numbers associated with alcohol. As I understand it, long term sobriety is associated with wonderful intangible benefits: better sleep, less bloat, better skin, more focus, no hangovers, less embarrassing situations, and more energy to name a few.
Alcohol math addresses the tangible benefits. What you can see with your own eyes that is objective (numbers) as opposed to subjective (my skin looks better)? Well, turns out, there are at least two.
Let’s start with a biggie for me – and most of us that are not independently wealthy: Money.
If I go out 4 times per week and drink an average of 4 beers at $6 each – that is $96 / wk. This translates to $416/ month and $4992/ year. That money could fund at least a weekend get-away. Now this is not taking into account if I get food while I am out (consider my idiotic “fool-proof” system of having a couple drinks + food = okay to drive). So even if I didn’t drink 4 times per week “out,” I most assuredly would have some food with those couple drinks and spend that $96/week easily. Sometimes it could be $96 in a weekend, hell, since we are being honest -an evening.
Now if I was going to be “going all-in” on a night out and not moderating my alcohol intake, I would arrange for a ride. I think Uber and Lyft are great ride services, if for no other reason they keep drunk people out from the behind the wheels of cars. That said, I could spend $60 on an Uber or Lyft on a round trip from my home into town/bar/etc. If I split this, which I often did, that would equate to about $30/outing. If I did that type of outing once per week only (this is conservative) – that would add $30 to my $96/wk. This equates to a total of $126/week, $546/month, $6552/year. What asshole has that kind of money to spend on future hangovers? Apparently, me. I’m that asshole.
A couple months ago, when I tried to complete the practice 28 day “dry-run” on sobriety (pun intended), I calculated how much money I spent (in ride services alone) the previous month. This math checks out and is a little conservative. I spent $150-$180 in paid rides alone for the two months leading up to my first 28 day sobriety challenge.
I know people that drink less than I did and people that drink more. Spending will vary for every person – but I bet if you sat down you could do this math easily. Numbers don’t lie, folks. I like money way more than I like hangovers. Just being honest.
The second kind of alcohol math I’ve considered is Alcohol Caloric Math.
Most people understand that calories in alcohol are empty calories. They serve no nutritional purpose, are high in sugar, and contribute to obesity and diabetes. It is called a “beer belly” or “wine gut” for a reason.
Some simple alcohol calorie (kcal) math:
Beer has about 153 kcal/12 oz beer on average.
Wine has 125-165 kcal (we can average this to 145 kcal/ 5 oz of wine.
Number of calories in one pound = 3500
Let’s say (conservatively) I drink 4 beers on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday.
On Friday I drink 2 glasses of wine while out at dinner.
On Saturday, I drink 3 glasses with some friends that stopped by.
For the week:
12 beers = 1848 kcal
5 glasses of wine = 725 kcal
Total empty, non-nutritional calories for the week = 2573
Number of calories in 1lb = 3500.
If I do this every week over an above my actual caloric need, and I get all my required kcals from the food I eat, these additional empty calories will equate to a 38.2 lb weight gain for the year.
How did I come up with that math? 2573 kcal *52 weeks = 133,796 kcal per year / 3500 kcal in one pound = 38.2 lb total gain. Options? 1. Eat less. Replace nutritional (food) calories with empty (alcohol) ones. 2. Work out more to compensate. Y’all, I have busted my ass to burn 600 kcal in a work out class, or on the elliptical for an hour… I do not want to spend that time burning off the booze just to stay where I am when I could be burning of excess and getting FIT. I don’t have enough time or energy to exercise all of that off. I don’t think any of us do.
These are examples for me. But if my examples don’t work for you, please feel free to calculate your own. I used a combination of excel and this NIH website: https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/Tools/Calculators/Calorie-Calculator.aspx