This article is a guest post by Anthony Simola who was on the podcast for the episode Increase Your Brain Power, A How to Guide and wrote the book The Roving Mind: A Modern Approach to Cognitive Enhancement
This short article is intended to show a way of having fun in your twenties without causing permanent damage to your health and your mind. Nobody is asking you to live like a monk but I do advise you to be shrewd and strategic about the choices you make. I can provide counsel on maintaining your health but I cannot fix your attitude—if you want to live fast and die young, this article probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re interested in living fast and maintaining your health long enough to tell your grandchildren about it (and well beyond that point), keep reading.
It goes without saying that the basis for minimizing the damage from alcohol consumption and partying rests on a foundation of sound health. If you have an active social life on the weekends, make sure to exercise during the week, eat healthful food, and rest sufficiently. Rest, by the way, entails not only sleep; spend some time outdoors, and take a conscious approach to managing your levels of stress. Like Travis and I talked about in a recent podcast episode, it is vital to get your basics right before moving up to more advanced things. Additionally, keep your mind sharp—you’re going to need it a lot in the future, so read, learn, and challenge yourself.
Alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs are all habit-forming and addictive, and that is why I tend to be categorically opposed to the habitual use of any even marginally harmful substance. Over time, its negative effects will compound geometrically but a one-off occasional use of something (with the exception of hard drugs) is not going to have a significant negative effect on your well-being after the fact. Before making a decision about drinking, smoking, or otherwise consuming something on a night out, determine if what you are doing is a singular experience or the continuation of a habit. The former will produce a memorable event and enhance your quality of life, while the latter will inevitably in one way or another diminish it.
Alcohol specifically deserves a mention because it serves as the default social lubricant for today’s youth. The most important factor comes in picking your poison wisely to control your caloric load—stay away from sugary cocktails and chasers, and watch the beer calories. I prefer bourbon or domestic whiskey like Jack Daniel’s. Also, if you have a tendency to eat junk food at the end of a night, keep your evening meal light and protein-heavy to make you feel full while still allowing room for cheeseburgers later. Drinking water serves a dual purpose—it prevents you from going too hard on the liquor and also mitigates the effects of a possible hangover the day after.
The extent to which you should pay attention to the following advice depends on how often you plan to drink and how much you are worried about the negative effects of alcohol consumption. Note that you should consult your licensed physician before undertaking any kind of nutritional or supplemental regimen that could affect your health. Drinking exposes you to a risk of liver cirrhosis, nerve and brain damage, and various types of cancer in the long term. If you’re inclined to drink more than recommended, you can mitigate those harmful effects by consuming certain supplements that will counter the harm that ethanol inflicts on your body.
The most obvious one of these is vitamin C—as you probably know, it’s an essential nutrient that is required for negating the effects of oxidative stress, particularly in the brain. Not surprisingly, consuming alcohol depletes it, which is why you are recommended to supplement with two grams (2,000 mg) of it on the day of going out and the day after. Similarly, drinking dehydrates you and exhausts intramuscular magnesium, which is required for serotonin production and thus well-being. Consider supplementing with magnesium citrate (200-800 milligrams) in pill or capsule form, or drink high-quality mineral water like Gerolsteiner or San Pellegrino. When choosing a dosage, keep in mind that the amount of physical activity you do will influence your magnesium needs.
As already mentioned, alcohol severely damages cell membranes in two very important organs—the brain and the liver. This process is called lipid peroxidation, and vitamin E can block it and may prevent damage caused by alcohol in the brain and the liver. Consider a dosage of ten milligrams. Under regular conditions, the liver produces its own antioxidant called glutathione—it binds to toxins that can then be excreted in the bile or urine. Unsurprisingly, chronic alcohol consumption depletes it, so you may find it advantageous to take lipoceutical glutathione, grape-seed extract, or N-acetylcysteine, which is a supplement that has been shown to restore glutathione levels back to normal.
Drinking depletes thiamine, also known as vitamin B1. The symptoms of this particular deficiency include lethargy, tiredness, memory loss, and others. Although the biochemical process behind it is complex, thiamine prevents proteins in the body from reacting with glucose to form advanced glycation end products, which harm brain cells. Even if you are not planning on drinking, make a note to research vitamin B1, as it is the most underrated nutrient I have come across so far.
Finally, focus on the fun of the night instead of ruminating on the negative side effects of drinking. Obsessing over the details of your health regimen has the devious effect of leading your mind off of things you need to pay careful attention to—your safety and security. Stay out of fights, don’t drive, and enjoy your time out.
Anthony Simola is CEO and Chairman of Simola Technologies Inc., an engineering consultancy. Educated at Columbia University and Vanderbilt University, he is the author of “The Roving Mind: A Modern Approach to Cognitive Enhancement,” published in the March of 2015.