The popular story of how low-carb diets work goes something like this: Reducing your carbohydrate...
Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...Tell Me More
I’ve been on a bit of an alternative sweetener kick these past few weeks, for good reason: people want and need to know about this stuff. While a purist shudders at the prospect of any non- or hypo-caloric sugar substitute gracing his or her tongue, I’m a realist. People are going to partake and it’s important to understand what’s entering your body and what, if any, effects it will have. Whether it’s diet soda, artificial sweeteners, stevia, or the mysterious sugar alcohols, people want the sweet without worrying about a big physiological effect – an insulin surge, a blood glucose dip, even a migraine. So I’ve been covering the various types and have tried to be comprehensive about it. As a whole, it all seems fairly safe. Alternative sweeteners might mess with some folks’ adherence to a low-sugar diet, and they might induce or fortify cravings, but the research doesn’t suggest that they’re going to give you cancer or diabetes. The potentially negative effects are all fairly subjective, so it’s safe to play around with them and determine their role in your life based on how they affect your appetite, state-of-mind, and any other subjective health markers.
The hangover is an interesting beast. Like Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and any other huge, hirsute crypto-hominid, nearly every culture and every nation has an extensive literature (whether it’s entombed in writing or not) on the subject of hangovers. After all, alcohol is the universal intoxicant, and hangovers are the inevitable consequence of overindulgence.
Or are they?
Mike, a reader, recently wrote to me with the tale of the missing hangover:
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?
With the holiday season upon us, we thought it might be helpful to perform some healthy rationalizations for our alcohol consumption. Yay!
Now, obviously, people have been getting intoxicated for many millennia (animals will seek out fermenting fruit, too, so it’s not an “unnatural” desire by any means), and that includes our beloved Grok. Neither a teetotaler nor a raging drunk, Grok probably limited his consumption to very rare occasions: namely, whenever he happened across a stash of fermenting fruit. See, all evidence suggests that the purposeful production of alcoholic beverages didn’t begin until around 10,000 BC – pretty much in line with our estimations of the advent of agriculture. Indeed, the process of purposeful fermentation could be said to run against Primal ideals – our commitment to fresh, whole foods, free of artificial additives or manmade machinations – especially nowadays, with enormous industrial factories dedicated to churning out millions of gallons of beer and liquor. That said, fermentation itself is a wholly natural occurrence; beer factories and whiskey mills simply exploit and amplify the process.
What can we say? We love our vices: those delightful, scrumptious, indulgent little morsels of gratifying transgression. O.K., this isn’t really how we look at it, but it’s kind of fun (and relatively harmless) to linger for a moment in imagined decadence.
In reality, our vices are simply healthy pleasures, satisfying and rather sensible indulgences. More Tom Hanks than Steve McQueen. More Jane Austen than Candace Bushnell. (Whatever floats your boat – you get our meaning.) The point is, these are vices that come without the guilt. What a deal! 100% satisfaction with no self-imposed penitence. Sign us up!
I keep hearing news stories about how alcohol is good for you, but I wonder how that figures in with the Primal Blueprint. What’s your take? Can I have that beer when I come home from a long hard day at work and not feel guilty?
It’s true that we tend to hear a lot about a given piece of advice publicized again and again with a slightly different spin from varied studies. While researchers will often pursue subjects that are “timely,” I sense the media (popular and even medical journals to some extent) is more the influence in this case.