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Alcohol & Nutrition: What's The Connection?

Feb. 27, 2020
stock photo displaying foods and beverages

It is a well-known fact that students on college campuses drink alcohol.  Based on surveys of University of Arizona students, the average drinks per week is three.  Behaviors around alcohol and nutrition have a lot in common and may warrant some attention.

There can be a lot of shame around drinking too much, related to “blacking out”, dealing with drama, or getting sick, then waking up and vowing to “never do that again.”  But, often the cycle continues.  Why does this happen?  Lots of reasons; social pressure, mental health, unawareness around one’s own drinking patterns, etc.

What does this have to do with eating?

There can also be shame or guilt when we eat “too much” as well.  Using food to cope, celebrate or even numb out, sound familiar?  Often after an episode of eating more than we expected “a binge” we feel similar; sick, sad, and vow to “do better tomorrow.” 

The mindset of needing to “do better” with food can be a very slippery slope.

Do you ever think about going out and drinking, and then start to worry about how that’s going to affect your body size?  This could lead to restricting food intake throughout the day to “save calories” for those cocktails or drinks. 

Alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to getting drunk fast and that is when all those unwanted issues may arise.  Food can slow down the absorption of alcohol. Eating normally throughout the day prior to going out and having a few cocktails can be a smart choice.

What concerns come up for you when I say have dinner before going out and drinking? 

Is eating prior to drinking is an experiment you’d like to try?  Consider a meal that includes some carbs, fat and protein- a chipotle burrito or a peanut butter and banana sandwich come to mind.

If eating prior to drinking doesn’t sound like something you could do or makes you uncomfortable, that may be a sign that your relationship with food and/or your body has been altered.  Reaching out to a therapist and/or dietitian to explore these questions could help.  

Behaviors around drinking and nutrition can parallel each other. Avoiding the binge-restrict cycle and staying in the “sweet spot” (BAC at or below .05) can translate into a better time all around, leading to more socializing, better decisions and less shame. 


Individual consultations designed to nourish your body and mind are available for UArizona students at Campus Health in an online and/or in-person format. Dietitians are available for appointments Monday-Friday.  To make an appointment, call: (520) 621-9202.