Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alcohol and Evolutionary Nutrition

File:Tequilas.JPGA primer on alcohol.
Alcohol is a beverage that contains ethanol. Ethanol is the molecule that makes all the fun effects when you drink some booze, and is a byproduct of bacteria during the fermentation process. Fermentation is one of the oldest organic reactions that has been used by humans. According to the book "Origin and History of Beer and Brewing: From Prehistoric Times to the Beginning of Brewing Science and Technology", alcohol has been produced by most cultures of the world, including hunter-gatherers.

Alcohol can be divided into two broad categories: Distilled and non distilled. Non distilled alcohol includes beer and wine- beer usually from a cereal grain and wine from grapes. Distillation is the process of concentrating the alcohol content of a fermented beverage. Distilled alcohol can further be divided in to liqueurs and spirits. Liqueurs are distilled and sweetened alcoholic beverages whereas spirits are the unsweetened distilled drinks.

Alcohol in an evolutionary diet - minimizing damage.
One of the most common questions I hear from other college students is about alcohol, what kind is best, how much, etc. This post will attempt to address some of these questions. 
  • How much.
    First off, consuming alcohol in large quantities in not beneficial for physique, performance, or health. However, nearly everything I've seen indicates that moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with positive health outcomes, particularly red wine. I consider a glass or two of wine with dinner as fine, a bottle is probably not. If your drinking to party or get drunk, drink as little as you can to get the desired effects.
  • Types.
    When drinking, the number one thing to avoid is gluten-containing drinks (beer) and sugary or sweetened drinks. These types of alcohol are by far the most destructive to health and physique. I recommend using red wine or spirits such as tequila, vodka, gin, etc. I'll share my favorite drink recipe later in this post.
  • Timing.
    Try to start early in the night, preferably not on a full stomach. This means it will take less alcohol to feel the effects. Also try to finish early and have some protein and fat afterwards as drinking too close to bed time will impact sleep quality.
As far as overall diet recommendations on days you plan to party, I think Martin Berkhan's recommendations are the best. His post on alcohol, fat loss, and muscle is very good.

Here's my favorite drink- my athlete friends and I have found that this is the best way to minimize the negative effects of alcohol. Credit goes to Robb Wolf on this one:

NorCal Margarita
  1. 2–3 shots of 100% agave tequila.
  2. Juice and pulp from one lime.
  3. Shake it all up with some ice.
  4. Add soda water to taste. Update: Lime-flavored soda water gives it an extra kick.
Here's why this drink rocks:
  1. Tequila is fermented agave juice, which makes it gluten and starch-free.
  2. Insulin release is blunted by lime, helps maintain insulin sensitivity.
  3. Alkaline kidney load from limes
  4. CO2 bubbles help ethenol enter blood stream more quickly, so you can drink less for same effects.
If your going to a bar, you can get this drink by asking for a well drink with tequila, club soda, and the juice and wedges of a lime.

Did I forget anything? Leave any suggestions or ideas in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed a few Norcal Margaritas this evening with some friends. What a refreshing drink compared to the sugar overload of the house margaritas served at the restaurants/bars in town. I suggest lime flavored mineral water to give it that extra kick of citrus with less limes. Cheers!