We get asked all the time about how to honor all your hard work and improved health with the Paleo lifestyle on a night out with friends. We do have to say first that any alcohol isn't really Paleo, as it all gets turned into sugar in your body, can lead to poor food choices, and will most certainly be working against any efforts you're making to improve your health. That said, we understand that you have a life! You're human, and you are bound to have a happy hour or a party every so often- you should enjoy it!
Here are a few tips to help you choose the right alcohol, drink smart, and recover easily.
BEFORE THE PARTY
To be sure you're doing all you can to sidestep a hangover, try these methods to allow your body to process alcohol to the best of it's ability and limit damage (and headaches).
Keep your body's inflammation level down, which means avoiding polyunsaturated fats (vegetable, seed and soybean oils) in particular, since a diet high in Omega-6's can create liver damage that is exacerbated when consuming alcohol. Next,
Add in healthy saturated fats, like lard, butter, avocado, and especially coconut oil. These healthy fats are not only anti-inflammatory, but can aid in alcohol absorption and digestion.
Be sure you have a well rounded meal at least two hours before drinking, and be sure to include some protein on your plate. Another suggestion would be to take a Vitamin C supplement before you drink.
AT THE PARTY
Alcohols that you'll certainly want to avoid are mostly the ones that are made from grain. In order of worst to best:
Whiskey, bourbon & scotch, since they are literally made with all the grains! We do not recommend any of these dark grain distilled spirits.
Beer, as it's made with wheat and barley. Another one to avoid completely.
Gin is also made with barely, corn and wheat, and can therefore aggitate those who are particularly sensitive to grains, though it doesn't bother everyone.
Vodka can be made from either grain or potato, so opt for the potato derived vodka if you can (Ciroc is actually distilled from grapes!). Vodka can be an ok choice depending on it's source and your personal sensitivites.
Be sure to remember that juices, mixers, and sodas (even tonic water!) are all just sugar, which may give you a vicious stomach ache, make your hangover more intense, and bump your blood sugar off the grid when combined with the sugars in alcohols.
So now that you know which alcohols to avoid, let's talk about alcohols that are paleo-friendly!
Tequila. Choose a high quality 100% agave tequila (if it doesn't say this on the label it can be up to 51% sugar and additives!). Opt for silver or blanco, and enjoy it with soda water and lots of limes, or add a splash of grapefruit if you are adjusting to the taste. Or if you're making a drink at home, add a splash of pure lime juice for a great, clean, tasty margarita.
Tip: In my own personal...er.. research, I have found tequila to be the cleanest buzz out there. (I opt for Herradura, Don Julio or Milagro). No hangovers, drowsiness, headaches, and no stomach aches, since tequila is actually the spirit that is most easily metabolized by our bodies. (That is all, of course, if the tequila is being consumed with just soda water and a squeeze or splash of citrus. Add sugar to the mix and it can get ugly! Beware of specialty margaritas, as they are mostly sugar). It can be an acquired taste, but I find it to be much cleaner than other paleo-friendly drinks!
Wine. Red, white and champagne, in order from lowest sugar content to most, respectively. Be sure to opt for organic and even locally produced wines if you can!
Hard cider is another paleo-friendly drink, as it's made from fermented apples or pears, and can be a great gluten-free alternative to beer.
AFTER THE PARTY
Plan ahead and have a fridge full of yummy snacks to come home to! If you know you have a tendency to order pizza or grab whatever that food truck might be selling when you've had a couple drinks, just be aware of it. While it's more than ok to enjoy that pizza every once in a while if that's what you want, avoid putting yourself in a situation where you are regretting your not-so-thought out choices from the night before.
Toss a couple Epic Bars, a bag of almonds, or a banana in your purse and munch on that when you think you're getting hungry, and do your best to really think twice when you find yourself standing in that food truck line. Is this really what you want, and are you prepared to deal with the consequences of how it will make you feel for the next couple days? If so, then by all means, enjoy it!
Keeping ingredients in the house for a morning green smoothie (or even making one in advance!) will do wonders as well, giving your body a hit of nutrients, water, electrolytes and other goodness right when you wake up will help to snap you out of any haze you may be in. Coconut water will also give you a great boost of electrolytes, so try adding that into your smoothie or sip it on it's own. Dandelion root tea can also be great the morning after, as it naturally supports liver detoxification.
While frequent alcohol consumption can work against your efforts for improved health, it is more than ok to get out there and enjoy yourself every once in a while! Remember to plan ahead, avoid alcohols that are distilled from grain, stay away from sugary mixers and sodas, and most importantly, have fun!