social drinking and hydration

Alcoholic Drinks for Hydration?

Alcoholic Drinks for Hydration?


We drink them, we enjoy the buzz and the socializing with our friends and family.  “Alcohol” is that magical and somewhat mysterious ingredient in our beers, wine, vodka martinis, and after dinner liqueurs.

What exactly is Alcohol?  We drink it, we rub it on sore muscles, and use it to cleanse cuts.  Is there a difference between these types?  Why is one safe to drink and not the other?


There are actually 6 kinds of alcohol and if you happen to consume the wrong one you could wind up dead.  Let’s take a look:

(1)   Denatured:  This is ethanol that has added ingredients making it unfit to drink.

(2)  Fuel Grade Ethanol:  This is the fuel you put in the gas tank of your car.  Don’t think you want to drink this one.

(3)   Isopropl:  This is used as a solvent in fuel, and in small amounts as a surface disinfectant.  It’s the one in the bottle under your bathroom sink used to cleanse cuts and other wounds.

(4)   Methanol:    Here’s your wood alcohol…highly toxic…used as a solvent , fuel and to prevent water-based liquids from freezing.

(5)  Ethanol (Industrial):  This one is produced for non-beverage uses which may contain additives…toxic to humans

 (6)  Jackpot!  This Ethanol (C2H6O)    is used to make alcoholic drinks.   Beer, Wine and Spirits all contain it.  This is the only one that is “safe” to drink.

Alcoholic drinks fall into 3 broad categories:

Beers      usually made from sprouted barley and roasted into malt, cooked with water, fermented with yeast and flavored with the flowers from the Hop plant. 

Wines    made from grapes and sometimes other fruits that are juiced and fermented.

Distilled Spirits     made from grains, fruit or other sugar sources that are fermented and distilled by heating and cooling to get alcohol.

All of these drinks start with fermentation…the natural result of yeast digestion of the sugars in fruit, cereal grains or other starches.  Two products are produced:  1)  Ethanol; and 2) Carbon Dioxide.

Now that we know what it is, let’s see if these popular social drinks can be counted toward our daily fluid intake.  Most important to remember is that alcohol is a diuretic which means it causes your body to remove fluids from your bloodstream through your renal system (kidneys, ureters, and bladder) at a much quicker rate than other liquids.

Warning:  If you don’t drink water with an alcoholic beverage you can become dehydrated quickly.

 What are some ways that it can dehydrate us?

 *Drinking on an Empty Stomach…allows the liquid and alcohol to pass through the stomach lining and small intestine, and into the bloodstream within minutes.

 *Buildup in the Bloodstream…from there it can go anywhere in your body.  When it reaches the brain, alcohol can impair judgment and lead to a serious drunken state.  If it reaches the lungs it can be released when you exhale- hence the reason for breathalyzers being used by police officers if they stop you on the road.  It measures BAC (blood alcohol concentration)…the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream.

 *This one is key (in my humble opinion)…alcohol reduces how much Vasopressin      your body makes.  This is an antidiuretic hormone which causes the body to hold onto water, limiting how much urine the kidneys make.  Suppression of this hormone increases the diuretic effect causing dehydration.  Water is flushed out much faster than alcohol is processed.

Dehydration can have serious effects on our bodies and I’ll let you read about it in my sources at your convenience.   I am concerned here about whether alcoholic drinks can actually hydrate us. 

Bottom Line:  Based on what I’ve learned I advise not to count alcoholic drinks toward your daily fluid intake.   However, any water you drink along with that beer or wine will help.   I was not able to get a clear sense of how many drinks in one sitting would directly cause serious dehydration but since alcohol suppresses Vasopressin I would be very careful about quantity.

 Tip:  Listen to your body – not to your friends or anyone else.  Don’t let anyone intimidate you into drinking more than you know you can handle or want to try to handle.  It’s about personal responsibility…and self-love.

Posted by DSaull in Nutrition