Yes, it’s the season once again for feasting, friends, parties and throwing back a bit of the “bubbly”! By now you’re aware that drinking small amounts of alcohol can’t hurt you. Throwing back a beer or a glass of wine each day has numerous health bonuses for many people. Some of these include a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, even prostate enlargement, and Alzheimer’s disease. What’s more, a little alcohol can prove to be a tremendous stress relief after a hard day at the office. It’s a given that booze can make those social obligations a bit more tolerable, maybe even down right festive!

The important issue is that you don’t get carried away with holiday hubris. Remember, even small amounts of alcohol have been associated with increases in blood pressure, heart rate and risk of injury. Hard liquor can cause dehydration; it throws off your electrolyte balance; it makes you feel tired and drained; and it affects your mental alacrity as well as your balance and coordination. If you’re participating in winter sports like skiing, ice skating, or trying to make gains in your workouts, you may want to skip the booze altogether.

Here are five rules for the holiday drinking season. Drink up, enjoy, but be responsible!

Learn to sip your beverage of choice slowly to enjoy the flavor rather than to get a buzz. If you’re having two drinks, consume them gradually over a period of a couple of hours. Have a bottled water between cocktails or glasses of wine. It doesn’t hurt to drink with food, because that way, the alcohol is absorbed more slowly into your system.

Keep track of your personal response to alcohol. The day after you drink, do you feel tired, depressed and achy? How long does it take for you to feel mellow and relaxed before you feel numbed and actually drunk? Know when to quit and let your friends know when you’ve had enough.

Do a little maintenance. Before, during, and after imbibing, drink plenty of water to prevent the achiness and headaches that come from dehydration. Uptake your B vitamins, because booze depletes these from your system rapidly, which is why you often feel tired and lethargic after drinking.

Never mix alcohol with medications. Combining booze and sedatives can be lethal. Consuming pain killers like Tylenol and Advil with alcohol can result in liver failure, ulcers and internal bleeding.

If you seek the greatest health benefits from alcohol consumption, stick with red wine or dark beer. Hard, dark liquors like whiskey and scotch are highest in calories and contain chemicals in their dyes that may be carcinogenic. A good quality, filtered vodka is your best bet if you are drinking hard liquor.

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Tom Bonanti is a personal trainer and licensed massage therapist (MA40288) with his own one on one training studio in Ft. Lauderdale www.pumpnincgym.com. Contact Tom with questions regarding fitness and nutrition trainertomb@aol.com or call to schedule a free fitness intake massage (954) 557-1119.