Sunday, 15 April 2018

Something more solid

I have written on this subject before, but I thought it was worthwhile re-visiting and exploring in a little more depth. The subject I am referring to is drinking on an empty stomach.  It's an age-old rule about drinking that everyone knows and most people have broken, but always fill up on food before filling up on alcohol. 

I am no exception, and like to have something more solid inside me, either before or whilst I am drinking. I know I am not alone in this, as logic suggests a simple reason, that drinking on an empty stomach will lead to intoxication more quickly. But just how much of a difference does eating before imbibing really make?

Studies on the effects of food on alcohol absorption have found that there is truth to this rule, and that ingesting food before drinking doesn’t just slow the rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream, but also lowers the peak concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream.

Looking back I must have been made aware of this rule quite early in my drinking career, but it wasn’t my parents who imparted this wisdom. Neither of them were drinkers, and both were definitely not pub-goers, so despite being the “black sheep of the family” as far as enjoying a few pints is concerned, something must alerted me to not drink on an empty stomach.

It is a rule I have followed for over 40 years, and it has stood me in good stead; especially at lunchtimes. Although I normally shy away from a lunchtime pint during the working week, due to the soporific effect which even a single pint can have on me when I return to the office, things are different if, for example, I am on a CAMRA outing, or have spent the morning walking around a picturesque or historic town. Then there is nothing finer than stopping for a few pints, along with a bit to eat, particularly when the pub offers good, honest pub food, served at a reasonable price.

The same applies when out for a ramble, and probably more so, as the combination of exercise and all that fresh air, are guaranteed to have worked up an appetite as well as a thirst. Some might argue that beer stimulates the appetite, whilst others would say that distending of the stomach, with all that liquid, is the stimulus responsible for the feelings of hunger. This may be true, and each to their own, but for me some form of "blotting paper", in the form of food, is essential when my stomach is empty and I've had a few beers.

Evenings are a little different, in that I will normally have my dinner when I arrive home from work, and then ideally allow a couple of hours to pass before heading off to the pub. Holidays are different again as the evening meal will invariably be in a local bar or restaurant, where I can enjoy a few pints with my meal. but at weekends, and especially whilst on holiday, I still prefer something solid inside me at lunchtime, even if it is just a couple of rolls or a pie, to soak up the beer.

Pubs have known for a long time, about the importance of serving food, particularly at lunchtime, and increasingly so have beer festival organisers. Having attended CAMRA’S national Great British Beer Festival over the years, I have seen the food offering slowly increase, from simple filled rolls, to full blown catering offering anything from fish and chips to spicy Asian street food.

Food also plays an important part at Munich’s world famous Oktoberfest, which attracts around six million visitors a year. As well as downing almost seven million litres of beer, festival goers munch their way through half a million grilled sausages, 250,000 chickens, umpteen giant pretzels and for those really wanting to soak it all up, around 100 wild oxen!

So next time you are sat there with a pint in front of you, and feeling peckish, consider that it’s your body telling you that something solid to go with your beer, is probably a good idea.


Russtovich said...

Nothing much to add except you make a good point. In fact, I just cracked open my second can of a Session IPA to read this and decided to go and get a cold sausage roll from the fridge to have at the same time (left over from my wife's lunch truck).

Apart from that I too did not learn about the food rule from my parents (though in my case my Dad loved a nice cold glass of beer). I think for me it was while at university, where we realised we could last longer into the evening if we filled up on bread of potatoes before heading out.


PS "but for me, especially when"

Don't leave us hanging! :)

Paul Bailey said...

Sorry Russ. The missing piece has been put right.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

I'm the complete opposite.I prefer to drink on an empty stomach as food just sends me off to sleep.
It's why the 5-7pm session is my favourite as then it's home for a bite to eat.
Generally I like a drink at least four or five hours after something light to eat like a sarnie.
Horses for courses.

Russtovich said...

"Sorry Russ."

No worries Paul. :)

"I'm the complete opposite.I prefer to drink on an empty stomach as food just sends me off to sleep."

Going to be a bit of a contrarian and agree with PPT. :)

There are indeed times when food will just put a damper on the enjoyment so to speak. Most times a light repast will suffice (my favourite is cheese and crackers, perhaps with some cold roast beef or chicken). As well, I find at times having a bite to eat alters the taste of the beer.


Anonymous said...

Interesting points, Paul (and less controversial then your previous post, hopefully !).

We're all different; I'm in the Prof/Russ camp, I can't drink after a full meal. I really enjoy the sort of snacking food you get in Fuggles in Tonbridge - cheese, salamis, bread etc. Could never drink after a curry !

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

"Never eat on an empty stomach", as a dear, departed workmate used to say.



Paul Bailey said...

I suppose I ought to qualify what I’ve written, as drinking after a large meal definitely slows my consumption down, or even brings it to a halt altogether. A curry, or any other dish served with rice, is out as it continues to swell up in my stomach even when moderate quantities of beer are swallowed on top of it.

In truth, it’s probably much more important to not drink on an empty stomach at lunchtime, particularly if you don’t want to write off the rest of the day!

I can understand where you are coming from Prof, although for fear of upsetting the domestic applecart, the 5-7pm session, on the way home from work, has never been a favourite of mine.

I like the term “light repast” Russ, and will remember it for future use. Definitely less controversial Martin, although I’m working on another CAMRA - related one at the moment. This one is much more narrowly focussed, so there should be less opportunity for it to go “off piste”.

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

In general, I'm with you on this Paul, but I have discovered something else along the way. I wonder whether others have noticed the same?

It is this. After a long day's toil, such as heavy gardening, you often feel as if there's nothing that you want more than a pint, and you could probably sink six straight off. If you're doing this day after day, then the pull of the ale can become seemingly irresistible, and you might think that this could be a problem.

On the other hand, if, instead of rushing to the pub, you eat a reasonable meal, then I find that the sense of urgency virtually disappears.

I wonder if this means that the alcoholic's craving is, in essence, no more than a manifestation of hunger?



Russtovich said...

Interesting point Ethelred with regards to drinking after heavy exertion (especially on overly warm days!). Lagers are definitely great at those times but even those aren't exactly low ABV.

To be honest in the summer I'll keep some cans of "near beer" on hand at home (0.5% ABV). After gardening or whatnot I can happily quaff a few 12oz cans of those down in a hurry to slake my thirst, and then proceed to a nice 5% ESB or some such. :)


PS - As for a manifestation of hunger, I would say that's true, in the sense that most everyone craves something. For some it's chocolate, or ice cream or 'junk food'. And for some of us, it's beer. :)

Paul Bailey said...

I think it’s a case of everything in moderation, Ethelred and Russ. The craving for a long cool beer (or indeed several), after outdoor exertion, is the body’s way of replacing lost fluids. A former colleague used to argue that beer was isotonic, so it was able to rehydrate a person much quicker than water.

My argument was that whilst beer may indeed be isotonic, it is also intoxicating and the body uses water in order to metabolise and excrete the alcohol – hence that dehydrated feeling we’ve all experienced the morning after a heavy session.

The type of beer best suited to quench one’s thirst after heavy outdoor work, is what our North American friends would described as a “lawnmower beer”, i.e. something relatively weak and not too challenging; just something that really hits the spot.

I’m not sure about eating a meal straight after physical exertion. I think I’d prefer a couple of pints first, or failing that a nice refreshing shower.

Ethelred The Unsteady said...

Fair comment, but I wasn't writing about rehydration, I was taking as a given that one had taken enough water during the day.

Rather, about the sensation that "only a beer (or several) will do".

Maybe the idea of gardening on a hot day was a red herring. The drive can possess one as the sun nears the yardarm on any day.

Can't it?



Paul Bailey said...

"The drive can possess one as the sun nears the yardarm on any day."

It certainly can, E, particularly when on holiday, and I've got a bit of a thirst on now, at 9.15pm, so I'm going to crack open a bottle and pour myself a well-deserved glass of beer!

Russtovich said...

"Rather, about the sensation that "only a beer (or several) will do"."

I'll give you that, but leave it at that. :)

Given my druthers, I'd most certainly rather have a beer (apart from coffee first thing in the morning, and perhaps a late night liqueur if having a bit of chocolate before bed). You get my drift.

As for the "yardarm" thingy, I'm with Jimmy Buffet on this:


Curmudgeon said...

Unlike the Prof, I've never been one for after-work drinking, but I often find that one or two pints before lunch are the best of the day.

Clearly if you're out for a lengthy session during the day, you'll need some sustenance, but a substantial meal doesn't half throw you off your drinking stride.

Professor Pie-Tin said...

I worked much of my life in that there London and commuted out to the sticks so an after-work drink and catching a later train was infinitely more preferable than standing up in a sardine can for an hour or so.
These days I'm an person of independent means but after a day noodling about in the home/office or a bit of this and that I still like the 5'O'clock club.I must have become attuned to it over the years because this week when I'm off the drink in moral support of Mrs PPT attempting to give up the fags for the umpteenth time I'm climbing up the walls RIGHT NOW !

Professor Pie-Tin said...

Full disclosure - shortly after posting the above post I weakened and scarpered off to the pub when Mrs PPT wasn't looking.
And those five pints,the first of the week,went straight to my head.
Four days without a drink and it was sheer hell I tell you.
Sheer hell.