Alcohol and the Paleo Diet – How Hard Can (and Should) You Hit the Bottle?
Being in your 20′s and living by the Paleo diet is almost oxymoronic. We are made to believe that in our youth we can live with reckless abandon in every sense of the word – alcohol, sex and food included. We are conditioned to believe that it is acceptable to make all of the mistakes that we want to now because “with age comes wisdom” and we in turn hold tight to the “there is always tomorrow” mentality. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that the Paleo way of living can be difficult to follow no matter how old you are, I am just able to directly relate to the younger generation that is living in a very fast-paced, party-focused era. College kids go on booze-benders every weekend and young professionals accept business meetings over drinks to secure their desired career. Living Paleo and passing up parties? Obviously a problem.
How then can the young generation and everyone for that matter have their cake-flavored vodka and drink it too? Let’s look at the 3 most widely consumed forms of alcoholic beverages and see why exactly they conflict with this lifestyle.
The leader in alcoholic beverages, it is the 3rd most popular drink after water and tea. It is produced by converting starch into a sugar liquid and fermenting it with yeast. The starch is often derived from grains such as barley and wheat. (Sound the alarm, we have Paleo problem numero uno!) It is mostly flavored with hops but herbs, fruit and other flavorings can be added. The average estimate of calories for a 12 oz pint of beer is 150-250 (Empty calories? Paleo problem 2) and can range in color from very light and crisp to very dark and heavy.
Verdict: I think it is pretty obvious why we must ignore the cute little dancing irish men holding the frosty mug. Beer contains gluten and cereal grains which are in direct violation of living Paleo. I’m sorry, even gluten-free beer just like gluten-free french toast is simply not allowed. It’s a big, tall glass of stomach pain and gut irritants with hundreds of extra calories to sweat off.
Wine is produced from fermented fruit juice most commonly from grapes. Grapes are able to ferment without the addition of sugars, acids or enzyme which means it is usually less processed. The color of the wine is indicative of the fruit that it is derived from. Red wine specifically contains polyphenols as well as other antioxidants and is thought to help protect against cardiovascular disease. Apparently, sipping slowly is the best way to reap the benefits of the wine as it is most easily absorbed through the mucous membranes in the mouth. (Mindful consumption? Do I hear a Paleo plus?) The average estimate of calories for a 4 oz glass of wine is around 100, depending on the varietal. Keep in mind, however, that most wine glasses can hold up to 4 times that amount so a full glass of wine could potentially be 1/4 of your projected daily calories.
Verdict: Between wine and beer I would have to go with wine being the lesser of the 2 evils. Being conscious of the type of wine you select will help you avoid ingesting excess sugars and you could potentially help your ticker at the same time! I would also recommend measuring your 4 oz and putting the rest away for another day. Adding another splash of club soda is a trick I have used for those days when seeing a fuller glass just makes you feel better!
Ah, and now we have reached the ‘hard stuff’. Spirits, liquor and liquers are alcoholic beverages that are distilled and contain ethanol. They are consumed as shots, martinis, on the rocks, with mixers and as cocktail ingredients. The 5 most common types of liquor are vodka, gin, rum, tequila and whiskey and in their natural form contain a much higher alcohol content then brother beer and sister wine. The average amount of calories in a 1.5 oz shot of pure liquor is 90 (Least amount yet!) The biggest reason why liquor drinks are at fault for weight gain are actually from the calories and high amount of added sugars found in the mixers.
Verdict: In my opinion, clear liquor is the way to go if you want to safely enjoy your alcohol without seriously affecting your overall goal to live Paleo. Vodka or gin and soda water, as plain as that sound can be really delicious if you add a slice of fruit or some muddled mint. I’ve made gin martini’s with crushed basil, muddled cucumber, lemon and lime and pleased many a-palate! My personal favorite is a variation of a ‘Cadillac Margarita’: Shot of tequila, splash of fresh OJ or a muddled orange slice, soda water and fresh lime juice.
The biggest problem with overall consumption really comes down to it’s affects on our bodies. It is a depressant and lowers our inhibitions. When sober, staying on the straight and narrow caveman path can at times seem effortless but our sugar monster can choose to strike after one too many brew-skies. This can lead to overeating, overly-stimulated insulin production and the list goes on. In relation to our inherited bio-chemistry, did our ancestors really sit around and drink cadillac margaritas all day? Well of course not, just like they didn’t enjoy a game of poker with strippers dancing in the background. All of those things simply didn’t exist. It is believed that they did most likely partake in fermented fruits which would produce a similar result of your glass of Rose but with a much less significant affect.
Whether you’re a tequila-loving-twenty-something (like me) or a dude who just wants to grab a drink with his other dude friends, my advice is to keep it simple, smart and safe – everything in moderation. Cheers!