This one can be a bit of a sticky subject, you can give up the bread, cakes and biscuits but struggle to let go of your favorite tipple
Put simply alcohol is not good for you it is toxic to the body and non essential, so you shouldn't drink it. I could stop there but I know you won't be happy with that.
Let's begin with what is alcohol?
Alcohol is a drug mostly made up of ethanol, it is a depressant meaning that it lowers the activity of neurotransmission. It slow down the heart rate and brain functions. We consume it in the form of wine, beer cider and spirits.
Everyone has a different tolerance to alcohol and other factors like when you last ate and if you are on any medications can affect the speed of the reaction it has on you. As you drink the blood concentration of alcohol increases and the effects worsen as time goes on. At first the effects are quite mild, confidence and mood improve generally along side people becoming a little louder than normal. Slowly fine motor control become impaired as levels rise followed by loss of balance, dizziness and vomiting. Beyond this people can become unconscious and in severe case go into a coma. Long term alcohol use is associated with heart disease , stroke, high blood pressure and liver cirrhosis and alcohol dependence is on the increase. Not sounding good so far is it?
There are some positive claims however based on moderate consumption.
Alcohol helps improve insulin sensitivity, can raise you good cholesterol level and reduce the chance of developing gallstones.
The risk of developing a common cold can be reduced by up to 60% with red wine consumption, scientist speculate it is down to the antioxidant properties.
Small amounts of alcohol might make brain cells more fit, according to to Edward j. Neafsey this can help prevent the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease.
The positives are all considered potential benefits, not conclusive, and all based on moderate drinking. (Are there really many people who drink moderately) The negative effects do outway the positives and it is also important to remember that the negatives are conclusive, you will be very ill if you drink too much, many of us have unfortunately been there!
I have said before that calories are not of any real concern when eating a Primal oriented diet, however I think it is important to point out that alcohol is only beaten on the calories score by fat. Alcohol has 7 calories per gram compared to 9 calories per gram of fat. Protein and carbohydrates only have 4 calories per gram. However the real thing to consider here is infact the carbohydrates. In a 350ml (a little over half a pint) glass of standard beer there can be between 10-15 grams of carbohydrates. Wine is a better choice with between 2-5 grams in a small glass. But spirits win with 0 grams, but it's the mixers that become a problem.
When we started drinking.
There is evidence of alcohol consumption dating back to the stone age, stone jugs have been discovered dating between 5,000 - 10,000 years old. Neolithic pottery has been shown to contain residues of alcohol made from grape, hawthorn and rice. Consumption has increased over the years, particularly in very recent times but it really was not part of our evolutionary past.
The best option really is don't drink at all, the potential benefits are minimal in comparison to the negatives, but if you do drink like all aspects of this lifestyle there are better options than others.
Spirits are the best choice, vodka, tequila, gin, whiskey all are lower in calorie and carbohydrates, you just need to consider the mixer, sugar filled soft drinks are a real no go, even "diet" options are not a good choice. Have them neat or over ice. Robb Wolf of The Paleo Solution fame came up with a drink called the Norcall Margarita to keep his clients happy. A drink made from tequila, lime juice and soda water with ice.
Wine is the next best choice, white and red are similar but red has a higher antioxidant profile so probably a better option, just avoid the rose' it's usually sweetened in some way that is not beneficial.
Farm produced or homemade scrumpy/hard cider has a lower sugar than many commercial ciders but generally higher in alcohol so be careful. They are usually still ciders and with the rise in craft ales we are seeing an increase in craft ciders too.
Unfortunately beers come in last place, they are usually made with grain, have a high carbohydrate level and gassy adding to bloated beers bellies. Craft real ales are probably going to be better than commercial brands but only due to the quality in the ingredients and less chemicals added.
To conclude, alcohol is really not great for you, there may be limited benefits but the reality is it's best not to drink. It can be nice to partake on occasion with wine over dinner or a few beers in a social setting, it can help you relax after a busy day, just don't let it become the only way you de-stress. The 80/20 rule can be useful in these occasions just keep the food 100% and enjoy your drink that comes with it.
Alcohol can be included in a Primal lifestyle, but as with all the other choices you make keep to the best options that suit you. If like me you like a beer then have it, just accept the potential consequence that comes with it. It can impede your weight loss, performance and can have long term health effect, it's not optimal but if it gives you some pleasure in life then it's your choice just like any other.