You don’t want to destroy all the hard work you’ve put into your diet and lifestyle. You really don’t.
On the other hand, you have a life. You need to hang out with friends and family. And who could possibly do that without having an alcoholic drink or 5?
I’m not going to sugar-coat the facts – alcohol isn’t really Paleo and – more importantly – alcohol is not helping you reach whatever health goals you want to achieve.
But! There are ways to make alcohol less toxic, to keep your Paleo diet more intact, and…gasp…to reduce hangovers.
10 Ways to Ensure that Drinking Doesn’t Derail Your Diet and Leave You Hungover
As a quick aside, people argue all the time about whether alcohol is healthy and whether it’s Paleo. On both accounts, it’s mostly just wishful thinking.
The studies showing that alcohol is potentially healthy are almost always confounded by not taking into account the effects of a stronger social network and social life (which are very hard to measure, but very important).
All that said, I still drink sometimes. Right now, I’m not drinking at all because I’ve randomly decided to be incredibly strict about my diet for the next four months.
When I do drink, though, I follow the tips below (and suggest that you do also). First, here’s a quick video I put together with 7 of the tips:
Do These Things All the Time Anyway
- Eat Less Polyunsaturated Fat. Yep – avoiding Omega-6 fats is important not only for decreasing inflammation but also because Omega-6 fats make it much more likely that alcohol will damage your liver. Here’s one study (courtesy of Paul Jaminet) showing that a diet high in corn oil (high in Omega-6) and alcohol led to both liver disease and metabolic syndrome, whereas a diet not high in Omega-6 fats did not.
- Eat More Saturated Fat. This tip is also by way of Paul Jaminet and is very related to the prior tip. Both this study and this study clearly demonstrated (and acknowledged) that a diet high in saturated fats was significantly protective against alcohol consumption. And if you want a more specific suggestion, eat more coconut oil, as this study shows just how protective coconut oil is against fatty liver disease.
- Drink the Right Alcohol. Or at least don’t drink the wrong ones. Beer, although many of the toxins are broken down by fermentation, is still highly toxic and still has some gluten in it. Avoid at all costs. And, as sad as it makes me, red wine is high in mycotoxins, sulfites, and phenolics, as Dave Asprey points out. If you’re going to drink, do it with distilled liquors like vodka, brandy, rum, tequila, or whisky, or with a dry white wine.
- Skip the Mixers! This should be pretty obvious, but just about anything that normally gets mixed with alcohol is not Paleo at all and is not healthy. From juice to soda to diet soda to sweet and sour mix, they all have some form of sugar or artificial sweetener, as well as a bunch of other additives. Use Club Soda/Soda Water, which has no sugar. Beware of tonic water, which has added sugar.
- Add Lemon or Lime for Insulin Sensitivity. Alcohol is going to spike your blood sugar. There’s no way around that. But you can make yourself a little bit more insulin sensitive just by mixing in some lime or lemon. Plus, the acidity tastes great with most liquors.
- Detox as You Go and Avoid the Hangover. This is something that has been known and then forgotten for a very long time (here’s a 1975 study), but there are certain supplements that will protect your body against alcohol. They’ll help you detox more quickly, prevent hangovers, and minimize the damage. If you want the full explanation, see this old article from Steven Fowkes. The way to do it is to take a little bit of Vitamin C, a little bit of Cysteine, and a few B-Vitamins with each drink. You can make your own concoction, or you can buy a ready-made one.
- Activated Charcoal. If you’re drinking something that is dark, such as some rums, most brandies, or many tequilas, make sure that your body has some extra ability to clean up the mess inside your body by taking some activated charcoal, either while you’re drinking or immediately afterwards.
- Have a Meal or Snack Ready. One of the worst things that happens when you drink is actually that you tend to binge eat. I’m sure you have fond memories of pizza and other incredibly unhealthy meals after a night of drinking. Next time, don’t kid yourself into believing that you’re going to make better decisions at the end of the night. Have a meal or snack lined up, so that you’ll be able to avoid the late-night pizza, sandwich, or whatever-other-non-Paleo-food you might eat.
- Stop Drinking Early. Alcohol disrupts your sleep a little no matter what time of day you drink. However, if you drink during the 2-3 hours before you’re planning on going to bed, then it disrupts your sleep even more. And we all know how important sleep is. Get your drinking done early.
- Limit to 1-2 Drinks. No matter what research you look at, all bets are off once you start drinking more than 1-2 drinks in a day. With 3 or more, diseases and lots of bad things become much more likely. Plus, you start making incredibly bad decisions. I don’t really think telling you this is a big shock to you, and it probably won’t make you drink that much less, but you should know…
When You’re Drinking….
Advice You Probably Won’t Follow
Here’s to Your Health!
This post deserves to be ended with a toast, I think, and what’s more appropriate than to your health?
Alcohol isn’t going to make you healthier, but with a little planning, it can make you happy without completely throwing you under the bus at the same time.
Do you have additional tips? What are your favorite Paleo versions of cocktails? Let me know in the comments!
Images (in order): Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos.