It’s finally summer, and with it, everything that makes life sweet: festivals, vacations with friends, and long lazy days in the park with beers. That last part matters, because let’s face it, day drinking is as much a part of the season as sunburn and overdosing on ice cream.
While it’s tempting to approach the year’s most fun activity with chill and spontaneity, drinking minus a plan can mean peaking too early and heading home to take a nap or drinking too fast and getting nauseous.
So if you’re ready to approach getting liquored up with the precision of a chess champion, consider one or all of the following pieces of advice. They range from things you should probably know already if you're a fully functioning adult, to lesser known boozing secrets that could revolutionize your drinking sessions.
Start Planning the Night Before
In an ideal world, you’d be aware that the next day would be devoted to drinking and you’d take it easy on the drinks the night before. This is partly common sense, but how much sleep you get is linked to how drunk you'll feel if you drink the following day.
Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D., a psychiatry professor and coauthor of Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy, told the New York Post that drinking alcohol (a sedative) when a person is short on sleep can make them feel drunker than they are.
Swartzwelder explained that this is psychological — your blood alcohol concentration isn’t higher when you’re sleepy, but you simply feel more drunk, because alcohol heightens your tiredness and makes you less alert. So if you want to increase your chances of an effortless day drinking session, you’d better get eight hours of sleep first.
Brunch First, Booze Later
While lining your stomach is an eye-rollingly predictable tip, most people tend to opt for carb-heavy meals, which experts say isn’t necessarily the best option. Thrillist cites some breakfast-friendly foods that could combat the effects of alcohol later: a glass of milk (minus coffee), which according to nutritionist Isabel Maples replaces the potassium “lost with excess urination”; avocado, because the healthy fats are “digested more slowly than carbs”; cereal, because the high fiber content “provides a good buffer for the alcohol and will slow its absorption”; and, of course, eggs, because the presence of amino acids in will “help break down some of the alcohol.”
If you’re also able to order eggs Florentine with salmon at your fancy brunch, do it, because the same article states that the fish boasts “super-high” levels of vitamin B-12 (the same vitamin that alcohol depletes).
Alternate Your Drinks With Water
Again, so predictable, right? But this matters, especially when you examine the science of getting drunk. Drinking is all about your BAC, or Blood Alcohol Content. Non-profit organization Aware Awake Alive explains that a “BAC of .10 means that .1% of your bloodstream is composed of alcohol.” They stress that a BAC of .020 is when “light to moderate drinkers begin to feel some effects,” while a BAC of .040 is when “most people begin to feel relaxed” and classify a BAC of .060 as when “judgment is somewhat impaired.”
As such, if you want to feel lightly buzzed without suffering the downsides of drinking, you’re going to want to keep your BAC around .040. One way of doing this is to match every alcoholic drink with a glass of water – this slows down the increase of your BAC (something which is essential if you drink faster than most people).
Professor Oliver James, Head of Clinical Medical Sciences at Newcastle University, told drinkaware.co.uk, “Alcohol is a diuretic, it acts on the kidneys to make you pee out much more than you take in – which is why you need to go to the toilet so often when you drink.” So no, consuming more liquids may not be something you’re desperate to do. But this not only helps keep your BAC at a relatively low level, but also counteracts the dehydrating effects of alcohol, which is especially important when you’re basking in the sun.
Stay in the Shade (as Much as You Possibly Can in Glorious Weather)
Speaking of which, as the director of Health & Safety at the American Lifeguard Association explained to Mel Magazine, “Sun and alcohol don’t mix. People don’t realize the sun amplifies whatever intoxication you’re experiencing.” Preach. Again, another piece of counterintuitive advice — skip sunbathing and encourage everyone to take as much time as possible in the shade.
Think About Your Drinks
A 2007 Journal of Forensic and Legal Medicine article detailed a study in which researchers at the University of Manchester measured how different types of mixers affected levels of intoxication. They mixed vodka with still water, carbonated water, and also offered it neat. The study found that 14 of the 21 subjects “absorbed the alcohol with a carbonated mixer at a faster rate.”
Another small study showed in 2001 that sparkling wine makes people drunker faster than its bubble-free counterpart. Fran Ridout and a team in the human psychopharmacology unit at the University of Surrey organized a couple of “drinks parties” for volunteers in their department and, without informing the volunteers, Ridout used the parties to test the effects of fizzy versus still wine. Here's what happened, according to New Scientist:
“She gave champagne to 12 volunteers – half drank fizzy champagne and the other half had flat champagne, purged of its bubbles beforehand with a whisk. The following week, she repeated the experiment but gave each volunteer the opposite kind of champagne to the previous time. That way, everyone tried both types of wine.
"Each person drank two glasses of champagne per session. Ridout adjusted the exact intakes so that everyone drank the same amount of alcohol per kilogram of body mass. Sure enough, alcohol levels rose much faster among the bubbly drinkers. After just five minutes, they had an average of 0.54 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood. Those drinking flat champagne averaged just 0.39 milligrams of alcohol."
This doesn’t sound like such a big deal until you translate these figures into their practical effects — according to Ridout, the bubbly drinkers were obviously worse off afterwards as she stated “some could hardly write.” These are small-scale studies, so it’s worth exercising a little skepticism, but if you err on the lightweight side of the drinking scale and are planning on a multi-hour drinking session, it could be worth skipping the bubbly stuff — whether coke as a mixer or champagne — for something bubble-free.
“One Weird Trick”
If you care enough to google how to drink without getting paralytically drunk, one odd piece of advice dominates search results. In 2015, Esquire conducted an interview with the co-founder and chairman of the Boston Beer Company, Jim Koch. Koch had a drinking hack up his sleeve that sounded so much like a piece of dubious health advice doled out by “One Weird Trick” advertorials that the internet was immediately divided into believers and skeptics.
He cites advice developed by the late Joseph Owades, someone who “probably knew more about fermentation and alcohol metabolism than perhaps any man who has ever lived.” Thanks to Owades, Koch consumes “active yeast” by swallowing standard Fleischmann's dry yeast before he drinks, stirring it into yoghurt to take the edge off it. He argues this lessens how drunk a person gets when boozing.
On one hand, the mind boggles: carrying around a six-pack of yoghurts and a bag of yeast doesn’t exactly sound sunny day-compatible (or something you could pull off in front of anyone beyond best friends and family) and besides which, could this really be true?
But on the other hand, Serious Eats conducted some very in-depth analysis of the advice given, and reached a few interesting conclusions. One, if trying this tip, you should use the specific brand of dry yeast recommended, Fleischmann’s. This particular brand contains the yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which “contains the ADH enzyme that digests ethanol.” Two, the Serious Eats author concluded it does help decrease alcohol levels. So if you can chug a mouthful of dry yeast without yoghurt, this could be worth employing on your next multi-hour daytime bender.
Sometimes the best advice is the most obvious: sticking to drinks with a lower level of alcohol that fill you up (like beer, for example) rather than drinks which are stronger and quicker to consume (cocktails, spirits), especially when alternating with water, is an obvious strategy for pacing yourself. Take breaks from drinking. Eat balanced meals throughout the day.
As Gary Shteyngart’s protagonist in Super Sad True Love Story put it, “We know summer is the height of of being alive.” Daytime drinking is a great part of that — embracing an ambling sort of hedonism that feels like one of the sweetest things a person can do in the year’s sunniest season. But nobody wants to be that person who’s uncomfortably wasted in broad daylight. So this summer, get lightly buzzed instead.