Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
7 Oct

Choose Your Booze: A Guide to Healthy Drinking

It’s the question every Primal adherent faces: how does alcohol fit into a low carb lifestyle? Maybe you’re out with friends, bravely resisting the assorted chips and fried concoctions in the center of the table. You don’t mind waiting patiently for the steak and salad you conscientiously selected, but must you be relegated to the likes of club soda and tap water? What would happen exactly if you ordered, well, a “drink-drink”? A nice glass of red wine perhaps? Hmmm…maybe that’s too much to ask at a place where onion blooms are a specialty…. A mixed drink? You begin reminiscing about those great sidecars your best friendused to make. Maybe a shot? That’s simple enough, isn’t it? How about those memories? Well, maybe we’ll fast forward through those recollections. Beer? Beer belly. What about a light beer? They’re low in carbs, right? Whatever the case, you presume there’s no Guinness in your future tonight. Or? Sigh. Now you really need something. What’s a Primal type to do when it comes to a simple social drink?

Indeed, there are some legitimate scientific reasons to enjoy alcohol in moderation. Alcohol as a blood thinner enhances vascular health, and the phenolic content (potent antioxidants) can pack a healthy punch. Research has compared alcohol abstention with moderate and “heavy” drinking. Moderate alcohol consumption appears (PDF) to lower the incidence of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, total and ischaemic stroke, as well as result in an overall reduction in mortality. And it seems older folks have the most to gain. Not only do they appear to benefit the most from a vascular health standpoint, research has linked moderate drinking in those over 65 with superior cognitive and memory function. It has also been linked to higher bone density in postmenopausal women. (There are still cautions, however, for those with a history or high risk of breast cancer or haemorrhagic stroke.)

Although we can likely obtain the same vascular benefits from fish oil and a low carb, high antioxidant diet (and through supplementation), there’s nothing wrong (and perhaps something to be gained) with the occasional drink, provided you’re someone who tolerates alcohol well. Not everyone does, and there’s nothing wrong with that. With that said…

When it comes to alcohol itself, there’s no reason a low-carber can’t indulge. Alcohol isn’t metabolized as a carbohydrate product, and it doesn’t send your blood sugar shooting upward. (It might actually lower it.) The body sends alcohol to the liver where it becomes first in line as an active energy source rather than stored glycogen. As long as you aren’t looking to lose weight, a modest drink here or there shouldn’t make much of a difference. If you’re looking to lose weight, however, we’d suggest avoiding alcohol all together. Alcohol doesn’t offer anything you can’t gain from a healthy Primal Blueprint diet, and you won’t have extra calories standing in the way of fat burning.

At the heart of the alcohol question, however, is a principle we often invoke: wise selectivity. In other words, not all drinks are created equal. Number junkies can check out the USDA’s breakdown of alcoholic beverages and brands (PDF) or scan a quick snapshot poster (PDF) put together by the Consumer Federation of American some years ago. It highlights several of the highest selling varieties and gives both calories and carb counts.

For our part, however, we thought we’d serve up our own PB-inspired alcohol hierarchy to assist you in the art of Primal indulgence.

Top Shelf

Red Wine

We’re not talking specially colored labels or price tags here of course. We mean the biggest health benefit with the fewest carbs and additives. The pinnacle, not surprisingly, is red wine. Research has supported time and again the impressive polyphenol power of red wine.

Another bonus with red? Resveratrol – that super antioxidant, able to combat cancer and reduce signs of aging, among other feats.

Any red (other than port) offers high antioxidant power with somewhere around 3-5 grams of carbs, however differences exist even in this top tier of Primal imbibing. Research has demonstrated that organic red wine boasts higher antioxidant and resveratrol content as well as lower OTA mycotoxin contamination (a common red wine contaminant defined by the European Scientific Committee for Food as “having carcinogenic, nephrotoxic, teratogenic, immunotoxic, and probably neurotoxic effects.”).

The same research showed that basic table wine had less antioxidant power than Controlled Denomination of Origin brands. In terms of USDA ORAC value research (PDF), Cabernet trumped red table varieties (5034 versus 3873 units per 100 grams), but red in general trumped white. Go for richer, higher quality reds, and seek out organic if you can.

Respectable Middling Choices

Wood Aged Spirits (particularly Whiskey, Brandy, Scotch and Cognac)

An underappreciated class, we’d say. Unflavored distilled spirits in general are a low-carbers dream. What could be better than zero carbs? Well, how about zero carbs with a kick of antioxidants? Research has found impressive antioxidant activity in Bourbon whiskey, Armagnac brandy and cognac.

In fact, whiskey contains more ellagic acid, a free radical fighter, than red wine. Wood aging, researchers believe, confer the benefits of high phenol and furan concentration.

The research has been less clear about the health benefits of other wood aged spirits, including dark rum and 100% agave tequila. Although agave itself has been linked with cancer-fighting properties, it’s disputed whether these properties are fully present or potent in the tequila form. Furthermore, one small study found that a daily serving of tequila during a 30-day period decreased insulin sensitivity.

Berry Daiquiri (Primal Style)

Surprise! What do you get when you add alcohol to berries? Try a thirty percent hike in antioxidant activity!Researchers stumbled upon the finding while trying to find alternative means of preserving fruit. Note: they happened to use strawberries and blackberries. For a true Primal version, skip the sugar and syrup, and go easy on the lemon/lime juice. Add crushed ice to the pureed berries and liquor, and you’ve got yourself a respectably healthy dessert drink. (For an even bigger boost, make brandied berries.)

White Wines

Sure, red wines generally contain about five to ten times more phenols than white wines. And as for resveratrol? Nada. If you’re a diehard white wine lover, don’t sweat the occasional glass. You’ll still enjoy a healthful dose of antioxidants for around 3-5 grams of carbs.

Light Beers

Beer, like wine, offers polyphenol power. According to research, beer seems to hold its own with white wine in terms of antioxidant activity. As for carb content, light beers vary generally between 3-6 grams (although a few like Michelob are more than 11) and contain around 90-100 calories.

Bottom Shelf to Bottom of the Barrel

Other Spirits (Vodka, Gin, Clear Rum)

As mentioned, unflavored spirits don’t come with carbs, and the alcohol content itself can boost vascular health. Nonetheless, these varieties don’t offer much in the way of antioxidant benefit either.

Hard Cider

Hard cider offers an impressive and healthy antioxidant boost, but the carbs typically measure around 15 grams per glass. As good as hard cider is, we’d suggest skipping the Strongbow and eating a heftier salad.

Regular Beer

As mentioned, beer offers an antioxidant boost, but at 10-15 grams of carbs we think there are better choices to be had. (And, by the way, the basic Guinness variety falls into this category. The calorie and carb count for beer can often be deceiving. Darker and heavier doesn’t always equate to more calories and carbs, and vice versa. It might be worth looking up if you aren’t sure.)

Creamy/Dark/Stout or Rich Microbrew Beer

We know it’s tasty (especially a good microbrew), but those 15-25 grams of carbs just aren’t worth it.

Sugar Swill

All right – this is admittedly the fun one, but did anyone really expect us to promote the likes of Jello shots and mudslides? Let’s see what else we can add here: hard lemonade, packaged or otherwise sweetened hard liquor drinks like Smirnoff Ice, Fuzzy Navels, etc. (This is reading like a bad Spring Break story.) And then there are the cordials. And the liqueurs: Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Irish cream drinks, Kahlua (sorry Lebowski fans), Frangelico. You could be looking at at least 15 grams all the way up to a whopping 40-some grams of added sugar. (No wonder The Dude spent so much time in that wrap around robe.) Add to that American schnapps varieties. (The Germans, Czechs and others do true schnapps without added sugar.) Finally, keep your distance from any packaged mixers. The labels say it all: high fructose corn syrup, colorants and all manner of preservatives and stabilizers. (Now there’s a recipe for a hangover….)

A word about mixers…

You know to skip the 7Up, Coke, etc., but even much beloved tonic water sets you back nearly 90 calories. Keep it simple, and drink straight up. If you need water, go for a light tasting mineral water, seltzer or club soda.

However Primally compatible any beverage might be, we don’t intend this as an endorsement to drink on a regular basis. As mentioned, a good diet can offer the same nutritional benefits and then some. You aren’t missing out if you choose to abstain, and we’d recommend it, in fact, if you’re in weight loss mode. For an otherwise healthy individual, red wine or – more occasionally – other low carb drink choices can certainly fit into the Primal 80/20 principle. It’s ultimately about making an educated choice among the many options and then being perceptive to your body’s response. It’s that good old Primal lens at work. For all of you who have been looking for an excuse to enjoy, bottom’s up!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions. Have questions or want to share how alcohol fits into your Primal practice? If you enjoy the occasional libation what do you usually reach for and why? Thanks for reading.

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You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. We know it’s tasty (especially a good microbrew), but those 15-25 grams of carbs just aren’t worth it.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one Mark. If I’m drinking a beer, it’s going to be some thing I really enjoy and that means some thing dark and microbrewed. I’m pretty sure doing this a couple of times of month isn’t going to derail me to much.

    one_eye_mike wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Sure, one_eye_mike. I hear you. It’s all about individual choices, and even I will go for the occasional microbrew time and again. Generally speaking though I try to avoid them.

      Mark Sisson wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • Hi Mark,

        Just got your book…loving it so far! I was under the impression that a high quality ale such as one that is organic and unfiltered has a much higher nutritional value (range of b vitamins, etc.) and is better for heart health than even red wine. Anti-aging doctors such as Dr. Al Sears, Dr. William Douglass, and others have stated this in their writings. Are carbs the only real concern with occasionally imbibing? Also, I have a preference for Scrumpy’s Organic Hard Cider (purely fermented apples with nothing added). It doesn’t have a sweet taste. Wouldn’t the fermentation process eat up a lot of the sugars/carbs? Thanks for any advice.

        Uncle_Bulldog wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Try one a day… I’m still losing weight and wind down well with my daily treat. I definitely agree, that last category or it’s just natty-ice and a game cube(ref-derrick comedy).

      WD wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • There is still hope for the microbrew drinker!

        Thanks for this post

        Chris wrote on September 6th, 2012
    • I’m with you, one-eye-mike. If it’s not a micro brewed porter, stout or sour, it’s not worth drinking at all.

      “Light beer?” Please! That is an oxymoron.

      crunchysue wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • My heart sank when I read that part about the guiness too

      Nelter wrote on October 8th, 2009
      • FYI on Guiness. Just found this on chowhound:

        Guinness is brewed in fifty-one countries and the carbohydrate count for this product varies from an anecdotal 5.20 grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounce serving (from Stout by Michael J. Lewis; Brewers Publications, 1995), up to a documented 17 grams or so, depending on where it’s brewed.

        The home office for Guinness (Diageo) says a 12-ounce serving comes in at 10 carbs and 125 calories. The Guinness in Australia, however, hits the high end, though with no understanding as to why. A recent check was just done with the Lion-Nathan Brewery for their version of Guinness Draught for New Zealand—5.50 carbs in a 12-ounce serving. In Nigeria, Africa, where three Guinness breweries are located, local grains such as maize and sorghum are used in the dark brew. Analyses of Guinness Stout done in 1995 and 1998 at the lab services division of the Siebel Institute of Technology, puts the carb count for a 12-ounce serving at 13.79 and 09.98 respectively.

        caroline wrote on October 9th, 2009
    • I have to agree with you! I am up every day at 5 for a work out and eat according to paleo standards 6 days a week..when it comes time to have a beer I’m not wasting it on a crappy, macrobrewed light lager. For that matter, most of the big light beers have things like corn, high fructose corn syrup and rice added to them in order to produce alot of product for little cost. Meanwhile, craft/microbrews focus on QUALITY of ingredients. Many of the unfiltered beers (especially wheat beers like Allagash) have live yeast in them which provide protein and vitamins. On another note, they usually have a higher ABV (most common light beers are about 4.2%, while many craft beers are at least 5.5-6) so if you’re aiming to catch a bit of a buzz, one great craft will do the trick instead of numerous nasty light lagers.

      If you’re going to have a beer, have something worth while!!

      Kristin wrote on June 23rd, 2011
  2. living in France it isn’t hard to make red wine my alcohol of choice, though I confess to drinking some chilled rosé too in the summer :)

    Jedi (France) wrote on October 7th, 2009
  3. But jello shots have protein right? :)

    This is very apropos as I am going wine tasting this weekend! I’ll focus on the reds…

    Very interesting about the wood-aged spirits. Though I personally prefer anejo tequila and dark rum to whiskey.

    Yummy wrote on October 7th, 2009
  4. Alcohol does not metabolize like a carb? Way wrong! You need to watch SUGAR: THE BITTER TRUTH on UCTV. It metabolixes EXACTLY like fructose in the liver and body. Both ethanol and fructose are metabolized in the liver primarily and 30% turns into FAT. Other byproducts are uric acid(gout and hypertension) and insulin resistance in muscles. Delude yourself all you want about alcohol…its not primal and NOT good for the body.

    Gordon wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Gordon, thanks for stating the facts about metabolism of alcohol. I have Type 1 diabetes and the break down of alcohol to fat and then to glucose raises my blood sugars. Everyone is unique and alcohol may not raise their blood sugars but beware. I do enjoy a glass of wine occasionally and take a little extra insulin to cover.

      PennyMounce wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • As a type 2 diabetic i watch everything i eat, and avoid sugar like the plague. My blood sugars are very controlled. I also enjoy a glass of red wine almost every evening and it is the one thing that consistently lowers my blood glucose, that’s a fact. Furthermore it has not contributed to weight gain for me at all. Cheers!

        Mike wrote on October 7th, 2009
        • I think it is worth noting the following:
          a, red wine and certain spirits with very little carbohydrate content ie starch, sugars (ignoring alcohol content as it is metabolised differently) will tend to lower blood glucose as they seem to impact the ability of the liver to release glycogen into your bloodstream. This fall in blood sugar in your system may lead to a moderate or severe case of the “munchies”

          b. There is a lag between the alcohol being processed by your liver and its availability as “energy” therefore be mindful of that.

          I bought a lifestyle libre embedded glucose monitor and the results with spirits were the same every time at least in my body, a bottle of beer would cause a rise in blood glucose and drinking vodka/ single malt whisky , a fall in blood glucose between 3 to 4mmol/litre causing severe munchies lol.

          some alcohol with a low carb meal is probably a good idea, you get the benefits of getting pissed and at the same time your digestion releases carbs and you feel satiated.

          Right_Mr wrote on June 27th, 2016
    • Thank you. I was baffeled when i read that.

      Aaron wrote on January 6th, 2011
  5. Man, I really miss those dark stouts. I am somewhat required to avoid them now b/c the gluten. Even though they had carbs, one or two pleasurable stouts per week were probably much better than pitcher upon pitcher of the light stuff.

    eero wrote on October 7th, 2009
  6. Hi Mark – We don’t talk about light beer in the UK so I’m not sure what it means. Is it just low alcohol? Or is it special low-calorie beer?

    PaleoMum wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Ah, yes. Light beer means different things around the world. Outside of the US light beer, as I understand it, generally means beer that is lighter in color only. In the US light beer refers to beer that is reduced in alcohol content, in calories (mostly be reducing carbs) or both.

      Mark Sisson wrote on October 7th, 2009
  7. I have to agree with one_eye_mike… go for the good stuff… If you’re gonna drink beer, might as well go for the stuff that tastes good… i know it’s subjective… but c’mon… do people really like low carb beers?

    Also here are some interesting links to the benefits of beer and why it’s probably just as decent a choice as wine according to some studies…

    Some could even argue that it’s even “healthier” than wine since it doesn’t raise your homocysteine levels as wine can… either way, I love it all so I’m glad to incorporate all alcohol into my diet as a sensible vice in moderation. Thank you 80/20!

    Christian Chun wrote on October 7th, 2009
  8. Hooray about Bourbon but Boo about Microbrew beer. I cant help but enjoy some good beer once in a while. Good timing on this post though, it being football season and all.

    Muldoon wrote on October 7th, 2009
  9. People are always surprised that I’m a bourbon on the rocks gal. Being so near Kentucky you just come to appreciate it :)

    hannahc wrote on October 7th, 2009
  10. I am trying not to let this (very useful) post be a license to engage in bibulous habit, but I do enjoy a glass of red wine almost every night. Sometimes I go for a nice glass stout — but typically a glass of red wine unwinds me before a meal of grass-fed steak with sauteed squash and mushrooms!

    Ogg the Caveman wrote on October 7th, 2009
  11. Ultimately, I probably agree with Gordon about alcohol not being good for the body, not primal, etc. But you know what? Who cares! It’s enjoyable and what I’d call a reasonable indulgence for those that are into it. You won’t win the “more primal than thou” of the year award but you might find that a slight alcohol buzz feels much better than the feeling of superiority.

    Ever since I went “primal” I have cut back on the cream stout I love so much (read: stopped drinking beer altogether)and have placed my choices in the wine and whiskey categories. I’ve always been a fan of good single malt Scotch whiskey and now that I don’t buy beer, well….there’s more money for Scotch! If your interested in sipping Scotch, I recommend both neat and rocks. Definitely choose a single malt. Each one is different but a good place to start is with Glenlivet 12 yr as a benchmark. Sherry cask varieties are also very good and I highly recommend The Macallan 12 yr. Both are available relatively inexpensively at Costco. Also a good source for red wine.

    Ted wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • And when you really want the smoky peatyness, go for an Islay!

      Aaron Blaisdell wrote on October 7th, 2009
  12. I am SO thirsty all of a sudden!! and have a craving for olives!!!

    I might have a “how do you do” tonight!

    James wrote on October 7th, 2009
  13. What about this:
    Paleo Colada
    1/4 can coconut milk
    1/4 cup pineapple
    1/4 strawberries
    1oz dark rum
    1/4 cup crushed ice
    Blend and make it last…
    high in good fats, healthy fruit. Meet your body halfway…

    Robbie Craig wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • This sounds delicious! Would have been perfect in the hot summer months. Guess I’ll just have to try it anyway, you know so I’m ready for next summer! :)

      Krys wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Are you kidding me? I did a similar drink mix for a BBQ-swimming-pool party over the summer, and half of the crowd was frightened by the saturated fat in the coconut milk! It was more drinks for the rest of us. :)

      Ogg the Caveman wrote on October 7th, 2009
  14. That being said, I’m a single malt neat kinda fella.

    Robbie Craig wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Amen to that. If you get some extra scratch, try Balvenie single barrel (15 years). Very nice.

      Big T wrote on August 12th, 2011
      • I have hated Scotch for most of my life. Then a friend brought over some 12-year-old Balvenie Doublewood…..YUM. No kerosene or burnt cork taste, just smooth deliciousness in every sip. A little on the rocks would be good right now :)

        wolfwoman1st wrote on December 28th, 2011
  15. Not sure which of the Michelob’s you are referring to in saying it has more than 11g carbs, but their Ultra line has the lowest carb count that I know of, coming in at 2.6g. It is my beer of choice when I “have” to have one. Coincidentally, the AP announced today that Lance Armstrong will be Michelob Ultra’s spokesperson.

    Great article, Mark! I was never aware of the benefits of wood aged spirits, and it’s always nice to learn something new.

    Maria wrote on October 7th, 2009
  16. As an avid homebrewer (but not much of a drinker…I know, weird) I am setting my sights of developing a good tasting lower gravity beer that will (1) satisfy my demands for tasty brew and (2) not kill my weight loss momentum. As I only drink 2-5 beers a month it really isn’t much of a problem, but I’m taking this challenege up for my fellow Primal brewers!! :-)

    freudhawk wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Interesting… I’m also an avid homebrewer and aspiring microbrewer but I love drinking beer which is why I’m starting this diet in the first place.

      I’ll continue to brew beer, I guess I’ll just have to enjoy less of it.. :-/

      Anyways, good luck with the low gravity homebrew let me know how it goes.

      Chris wrote on September 6th, 2012
  17. I am a homebrewer too… now I have more of an incentive to try my hand at making wine!

    But a quality microbrew (Dogfish Head, New Belgium), that’ll fall under the 80/20.

    Ridgeback Runner wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • I know…barleywines and my Imperial IPAs are no longer an option!!!

      I think I am going to be doing some wine as well.

      freudhawk wrote on October 7th, 2009
  18. I had no idea that alcohol can increase the antioxidant activity of berries. Nice!

    Hiit Mama wrote on October 7th, 2009
  19. There is NO WAY Grok would ever have consumed any alcohol. Just like he never would have consumed cheese. So if you want to include this as an “occassional treat” go nuts. But I don’t think alcohol has any place in a healthy diet. You could live your entire life without any alcohol and not be missing out on any health benefits. I mean come on… If your whole premise is “What would Grok do?” Alcohol is CLEARLY out. You can’t argue in one post that sugar free chewing gum is not primal, but alcohol is. I disagree with you on this one. Everybody has non-primal things in their 20%. I like the occasional slice of cheese pizza. But I’m doing it purely for taste. I know it’s not primal or healthy. Be clear alcohol is NOT primal, and should be in that 20% column, not the 80% column. Just because it’s overwhelmingly present in society doesn’t mean it’s healthy. …or primal.

    Fixed Gear wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • FixedGear,

      You may have misread or misinterpreted the intent of this post. As the Worker Bee stated:

      “However Primally compatible any beverage might be, we don’t intend this as an endorsement to drink on a regular basis. As mentioned, a good diet can offer the same nutritional benefits and then some. You aren’t missing out if you choose to abstain, and we’d recommend it, in fact, if you’re in weight loss mode. For an otherwise healthy individual, red wine or – more occasionally – other low carb drink choices can certainly fit into the Primal 80/20 principle. It’s ultimately about making an educated choice among the many options and then being perceptive to your body’s response. It’s that good old Primal lens at work.”

      Whether Grok would have consumed alcohol if it was available to him is debatable, as is whether or not he did in fact consume alcohol by chance (fermented fruit, for example).

      I agree with you that “You could live your entire life without any alcohol and not be missing out on any health benefits.” Read the quote above again.

      The intent of this post was to help readers pick among the varieties of alcoholic beverages that exist if they are going to choose to do so. Again, this post isn’t so much an endorsement to drink, or to suggest that drinking is healthy, but an admission that people do drink, and that there are more healthy ways to do it than others. In other words, if you’re going to drink drink this, not that.

      Mark Sisson wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • A few things I’m sure of…

        I’m sure I get all the benefits of alcohol in my highly fermented homemade foods which are largely absent from western diets.

        I’m sure Grok ate whatever was laying around without much discrimination.

        I’m sure that meant a diet high in fermented fruits during the fall season. He may have even figured out how to ferment them further.

        I’m sure Grok was a lot more in tune with his environment than most people could ever imagine. Grok was extremely efficient, resourceful and not stupid. That’s why we’re here today.

        I’m sure Grok didn’t have a fridge or an igloo cooler with ice, so fermentation was probably a large part of his food preservation.

        I’m sure I don’t remember my point of writing this now 😉

        Oh yeah… While he didn’t have bottles of Jack laying around, there were probably Groks in some areas of the world with diets containing more alcohol than we think.

        Grok wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • I’m positive Grok would try alcohol if presented to it.

        Beer was discovered in pre-Neolithic days which is what some historians believe created such a huge desire to cultivate grain.

        I’d like to think this community of followers wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for beer. :-)

        Chris wrote on September 6th, 2012
    • Many animals have and do get inebriated off fermented fruits. It is a natural part of life and it is more than highly likely that Grok would have partaken in some natural ‘spirits.’ This would have of course only occurred on a very limited basis. Here’s a very simple explanation: but you can look further by taking a social anthropology or social psychology class. Humans began their love affair with alcohol long before they began harvesting grains. Enjoy!

      theVault wrote on October 9th, 2011
      • And…. just think about this: who didn’t (or doesn’t) spin around in circles till they get dizzy, as a child? The need to alter our consciousness is as old as… dare I say it? Yes, I do: Grok.

        This is an opinion piece, but if you really want to research it, go right ahead and “gts” (our family acronym for google that sh*t, due to a 2-year-old in our midst).

        wolfwoman1st wrote on December 28th, 2011
    • I bet Grok ate some berries he carried around for awhile. Blackberries kind of make their own alcohol after being squished and sitting. Grok would have liked the sweetness.

      Lisa wrote on January 1st, 2015
  20. Mark,

    What about tequila ?

    Since it doesn’t suffer as a grain based alcohol wouldn’t it be a decent choice for a night out ??

    Kevin B wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Yes, I’d probably put a fine tequila right below a good red wine and maybe below a few other wood aged spirits in light of some of the evidence listed above.

      Mark Sisson wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • Hi Mark,

        Happy to see a little revision in that:
        re: GRAINS
        My rigorous Elimination diet revealed that re-introduction of grain based alcohols creates immediate negative effects in the body (just like grain fed animal products do).

        The symptoms are hard to recognoze when you’re ingesting a low-level toxin all of the time, but elimination and reintroduction allows the body to get a break and then be ADAMANT about there being a problem.

        Celiacs are told to avoid gluten based alcohols for a reason: 1 mg introduced into a human system causes an autoimmune, inflammatory reaction.

        Wenderful wrote on May 24th, 2011
        • Yep. I’ve noticed the same thing since having to go gluten free. Where I would only get a small reaction before, now my immune system kicks in and keeps kicking in. There’s no way I can drink any kind of beer or malt product. Guess I will go back to cider, which was my first choice when I was much much younger. Not a fan of wine and whiskey disgusts me. For the two or three drinks a year, though, I guess I won’t obssess about it!

          BAP wrote on January 27th, 2012
      • Oh, goody! I like a shot of tequila with salt and lime. Who needs margaritas?

        JM wrote on June 22nd, 2011
      • “a fine tequila” for those of us with a few less bucks is 1800. Yum. Thanks, Mark! you always tell it like it is.

        wolfwoman1st wrote on December 28th, 2011
  21. I’m all for alcohol – with Primal and Crossfit I hover around 10% body fat and drink wine EVERY day. It’s awesome, I love it, and bottom line: if your life isn’t enjoyable, it’s not worth living.

    That being said, I understand for many people, enjoyment comes from pointing a finger at others versus celebrating the many ways we find happiness.

    To those who need to judge – I salute you! Bravo! And good luck!

    barry napier wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Its not about judging..its about balance. Alcohol is Not healthy..a little bit may be ok but millions do Not stop with a little bit. Alcohol has major implications in breast cancers as in other cancers as well as many serious diseases. It is a mycotoxin(poison) and thats why people feel badly after drinking too much. It metabolizes to 30% fat in the liver and many inflammatory factors.

      Can we drink in moderation? Maybe but too many people take license to overindulge. The life expancy of Russian men is about 58 because of excess alcohol consumption. I think people can intelligently choose but celebrating a health hazard is not encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

      Gordon wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • Russian’s starved to death because of communism. Alcohol has very little to do with it.

        JAK wrote on October 3rd, 2012
  22. It’s so painful to be confronted with the carb content of some of my favorite regular beers.

    Flying Dog Gonzo 19g? Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 32???? There has to be some hope for beer drinkers other than Michelob ultra light…

    SerialSinner wrote on October 7th, 2009
  23. Alas, microbrews are the alcohol I do enjoy most. Just gotta cut down on the quantity (which I suppose means that I can spend more on quality!)

    I have no idea how many carbs and empty calories Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops or Stone Imperial Russian Stout or Double Bastard Ale has, and I don’t want to know!
    But it’s not like I’m drinking those every week anyway.

    Shazkar wrote on October 7th, 2009
  24. Why is it about alcohol that you recommend not having if you are trying to lose weight? Considering the low carb content, say of wine.

    Rita wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Alcohol is bad for weight loss for at least two reasons:
      The body preferentially uses the alcohol for energy, which delays burning your fat stores.
      Alcohol is a stress on the liver, which must clear the toxins while processing the alcohol. That leaves less “processing power” for fat-burning, so to speak.

      Cate wrote on October 7th, 2009
  25. Nice to see that my beloved scotch and bourbon do well on the scale.

    I have to take issue with one statement though. Regarding heavy/dark/craft beers: yes, it really is worth it. Living Primal isn’t worth eliminating the basic pleasures of life, which for me includes fine local craft brewed IPAs, stouts, and porters. I won’t nix cheese for the same reason. Moderation always; but prohibition of basic pleasures is no more sustainable than constant indulgence.

    Avdi wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Very well Put.

      Brad wrote on October 7th, 2009
  26. I reserve at least 50% of my 20% for Red Wine, or the ocasional Beer and make no apology for it. Being happy, and having a positive additude are very important to overall health and wellness, so if a glass of wine or an ocasional beer makes you feel good, and has some health benifits I say give er! Not to mention for most people it would add stress, and potentialy restrict socialization to not drink at all.

    It may be to tempting to have a drink if I go out with the boys so I’ll just stay home…..I’m just sayin…

    And yeah we all know you dont need booze to Blah Blah Blah…And don’t kid yourself Grok would have drank himself to death given the chance.

    Brad wrote on October 7th, 2009
  27. My drink of choice is plain vodka, sparkling water, fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, and stevia. The sugars in almost all alcohol set me up for skin problems, hangovers, and an upset stomach the next day. I find plain vodka to be least offensive. It may not have any health benefits, but it’s definitely a lesser evil.

    Emily wrote on October 7th, 2009
  28. Your timing is perfect, Mark. I went mostly primal last November, except for one cheat day per week. I take that one day, and sit in my hot tub, and drink beer. Lotsa beer.You see ,I’m also a Primal, Ultra Running, Ironman Triathlon, Beer drinking guy, and after a long training run, or 50k, or triathlon, I need my beer.Actually, I need beer to celebrate having gone primal for 6 days with no beer.I normally try to take in 100 calories/hour of gels while running/biking,starting after the first hour.
    I know you think Grok never ran all day to chase down food.But Grok ran on trails with no shoes, my theory is marathoners injuries are caused by running on pavement, in shoes that don’t let the foot react naturally to running, as you do.And what about endorphins?
    Anyhow, I get all my carbs from beer on the day after the big event. I think that lets me have about 10 beers,and still stay in the 100-200 grams of carbs zone.I have eggs and cottage cheese for breakfast,a chicken breast and a piece of Asiago cheese for lunch, and then it’s beer and meat for dinner, usually ribs or chicken, no vegatables.After dinner, more beer.
    As an aside, I can’t drink red wine, although I love it, because I have gout, and the tanin in red wine sends the uric acid levels off the charts. I wonder if Grok ever had gout?
    Also, I weighed 216lbs 17 years ago, got down to 185 using CW, but couldn’t lose any more. Now, I’m 155 since November, thanks to MDA.I could probably lose another 10lbs if I wanted to.Not bragging, but since going primal, I usually win place or show in my age group, which is 50-55 years old.

    Dave Reid wrote on October 7th, 2009
  29. I’m skeptical of the claim that moderate drinking enhances health. I think there’s an argument to be made that moderate alcohol consumption is often a symptom of health, not a cause.

    That is, healthy, financially secure, and vivacious 65 year olds who have no addiction problems are more likely to enjoy one, and only one, glass of wine with dinner on some days.

    On the other hand, sick older people either drink pathologically (several drinks a day), or else they are teetotaling because they have addiction problems, or perhaps they are are too poor to afford alcohol or are forbidden to drink due to health problems.

    Jon wrote on October 7th, 2009
  30. I LOVE that you can put alcohol on the ‘healthy’ list! I’m not sure my primal ancestors were fermenting prior to domestication, but I do enjoy my wine.

    Wendy wrote on October 7th, 2009
  31. Yay for the red wine!

    Jackie wrote on October 7th, 2009
  32. I would forgo every other carb source in existence just so I could have my brew!

    Beach Bound wrote on October 7th, 2009
  33. There are a lot of primitive people who drink alcohol. Leave something with sugar(i.e. fruit) outside sometime.It ferments.It’s not hard for me to imagine Grok discovered,and drank, booze.

    Dave Reid wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Which primitive people are those? I don’t believe any modern hunter gatherer societies use alcohol. In fact when alcohol is introduced it causes havoc as happened to Native Americans. The introduction of wine and beer was probably only a few thousand years new. Beer and grain liquors are products of agriculture and wine is also for a few thousand years now. The introduction of alcohol, sugar, and processed grains into hunter gatherer societies is followed by rapid deterioration of health.

      Gordon wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • The Tarahumara for one;

        The consumption of alcohol plays a key role in Tarahumara society. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that almost every social activity that the Tarahumara engage in includes tesgüino. From organizing communal labor to performing marriage ceremonies, the role of tesgüino in Tarahumara culture is crucial. In fact, the use of alcoholic beverages is often cited as the defining characteristic of Tarahumara culture. Kennedy (1963:635) states that, “it is no exaggeration to estimate that the average Tarahumara spends at least 100 days per year directly concerned with tesguino and much of this time under its influence or aftereffects.” The creation of tesgüino is a simple process that all households perform on a regular basis. The Tarahumara call tesgüino batári, sugíki, or paciki depending on how the brew is prepared. Sugíki is the general term for alcoholic beverages made from fermented maize, while batári is maize beer made with a particular catalyst of the same name; paciki refers to tesgüino made from fresh corn stalks (Pennington 1963:149-150). The varieties of tesgüino made from maize are the most important, but the Tarahumara also make similar drinks from agave hearts or stalks, cactus fruits, berries, peaches, apples, crabapples, wheat, and Mesquite seeds (Pennington 1963:149-157).

        Dave Reid wrote on October 8th, 2009
      • Mead (delicious fermented honey drink) has a history that goes back 20,000-40,000 years.

        “Wine has been part of human culture for 6,000 years, serving dietary and socio-religious functions. The history of mead dates back 20,000 to 40,000 years and has its origins on the African continent.”

        Kyle wrote on October 21st, 2009
      • The Kalahari bushmen drink plenty of alcohol. How many modern hunter-gatherer societies do you actually know about?

        Nathan wrote on September 24th, 2013
  34. I have heard/read…and I’m sorry for not having the exact facts…that if you compress the whole existence of Mankind into a day, beer was brewed within the first 20 minutes.
    Alcohol has played a very small part in my own life, but I don’t believe for one second that Grok didn’t do a few Irish jigs when he discovered the joy of barley, hops, and wheat.

    Marie wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Love of beer was always my biggest conflict with living primally. I think I found a compromise.
      Ultra running is my second love that is apparently in conflict with the PB, I just try to consume the proper amount of carbs while running so that they are all used by the time I am done.
      So far, so good!

      Dave Reid wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

        Benjamin Franklin

        Dave Reid wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • Grok used none of those things. He was a hunter gatherer not a farmer.

      Gordon wrote on October 7th, 2009
      • And his life expectancy was at the most twenty years or so. The big question is, Has the human life expectancy gone up or down with the advent of agriculture? Show your work…

        skunkbear wrote on October 3rd, 2012
      • What makes you so sure about that? You do realise that “hunter-gatherer” most certainly does not of necessity mean “nomadic”. What convincing reason is there to believe that Grok didn’t brew alcoholic drinks?

        Nathan wrote on September 24th, 2013
  35. Very informative article. Thanks for writing it. How about champagne ? Does it contain resveratrol ? and anti oxidants ? Thanks. I have trouble drinking warm beverages like wine.

    Steven wrote on October 7th, 2009
  36. I really doubt alcohol is part of a healthy social life, maybe to fit in because everyone else was doing it to make you feel like you belong, but alcohol is pretty much the demise of healthy social events.

    Anyways. If we look at the massive alcohol industry like we do with the vegetable oil and grain industry, we might have to take some of the claims with a grain of salt(excuse the pun).

    Combine that with all the things we know that are negative about alcohol, socially, environmentally and on health, I don’t really understand how you can go so leniant on it.
    You wouldn’t go telling people to have a couple of slices a bread a night, sure you’ll be fine, but it defeats the whole purpose.
    Sure everyone does it, but I think the most positive thing you can do is to not support it, or strongly reccomend against it, you never know, it may be the catalyst for some positive change. You’re the one who controls so many people’s lifesstyle habits, and you’re shaping them so positively already, you may be able to give more positive influence.

    Jack wrote on October 8th, 2009
    • To give Mark the job of “controlling so many people’s lifestyle habits” is to give him a job I’m guessing he wouldn’t want. Give people credit! We can think for ourselves and are not mindless followers.

      JulieD wrote on October 8th, 2009
      • Thank you!!

        Toolman wrote on October 12th, 2009
    • I agree. You put into words what i struggled to do without sounding pissed off.

      I really cant think of anything worse to put in my body.

      Aaron wrote on January 6th, 2011
  37. I can imagine how a lot of the people that post on these articles are real “life of the party” types…Not.

    What’s scary though, is how similar many here sound to the aggro-hyper guys I used to be in the military with…the “fighting elite” – they considered themselves superior, and how “civilians” were idiots and just in the way. They “knew it all” and anything other than their way was wrong. It was scary then, and it was one reason I got out of it.

    Sorry Mark, while I like the basic tenets that you espouse, I have to leave it at that. The aggro attitudes& comments here ruin for me whatever positive gain you’re trying to achieve with the general public. I know if I came across the comments like the ones on this page and others when first learning about this way of living, I’d roll my eyes and move on.
    Signing off,

    Dukes909 wrote on October 8th, 2009
    • Which comments are you referring to, Dukester?

      Mark Sisson wrote on October 8th, 2009
  38. As a fan of good micros and a homebrewer this has been a hard thing for me too. First two light beer that actualy have flavor in my opinion are Amstel Light and Sam Adams Light. Also I’m a huge hard cider fan. Most comercial brands taste like apple soda.
    Yuk! Go out to your local cider mill and grab a gallon, put it in a glass jug, throw in some white wine or champagne yeast and let it go for a month(higher alchohol, drier taste, less residual sugar) Cant think of a better thing to serve with thanksgiving dinner. Also apples/pears come from trees while barley from massive monocrops. Cheers! This guys vids are great. This one will help you make your cider.

    warren wrote on October 8th, 2009
  39. I seriously think I’m the only white person in the world who shares the Asian trait of flushing when drinking alcohol. Asians are aparantly deficient in a particular enzym that helps break down alcohol on consumption, so they suffer from flushed faces, sweating, dizziness and nausea – just like me.

    I cannot handle alcohol, it makes me hot, flushed and sick as a dog. I really marvel at you who can sit and enjoy a whisky without sweating from the face and feeling like the room is moving.

    Does anyone else suffer while drinking?

    Natalie wrote on October 8th, 2009
    • I know it’s a very late reply but no Natalie you are not the only white person with the enzyme deficiency to process alcohol. The deficiency is most common in southeast Asia with Vietnamese being 90% likely to lack the enzyme. The percentage decreases as you move north in Asia and if I remember correctly is under 10% in Japan. The least likely to lack this enzyme are Norse and Fins, with Norway and Finland having almost no reported examples. For Europeans and their diaspora the rate is generally under 2% but there are in fact other ‘white’ people who lack the enzyme.

      Paul wrote on April 15th, 2014

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