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Best of a Bad Situation

By Marcus | In Health & Lifestyle, Nutrition | on November 11, 2010

Rodney recently asked me about what you can drink when following the paleo diet. Technically, nothing — however there are better choices you can make if you absolutely must indulge. I’ll start off with the disclaimer that alcohol can harm your training, in addition to putting you at risk for a host of diseases. If you are able to completely abstain, you (and your liver!) will benefit. However if that’s not the most realistic option, you can still imbibe in moderation and not completely trash your efforts in the gym.

Now technically you could mash up some apples and allow wild yeast from the air to ferment the juices, creating alcohol in a crude version of hard cider. But now that you’re trying to avoid gluten, what about beer? Are the potatoes in vodka, sugar cane for rum or the grains in whiskey going to cause your careful diligence to otherwise be derailed? Over at PaNu they had a post on “approved booze”.

The benefits of moderate drinking are likely grossly exaggerated. That said, a few non-driving drinks a week won’t kill you – so here is how to do it while avoiding gluten and the lectin nasties.


My sources who are experts on celiac disease say that distilled spirits, even if derived from gluten grains like wheat or rye – do not have gluten grain proteins or peptides in them.

Apart from the alcohol content and its effects on insulin response, hepatotoxicity, etc. whiskey is safe. Alcohol can affect the lining of the stomach and could in binge amounts cause a leaky gut, but used minimally is OK from a dietary standpoint, IMO.


I have mocked modern fruit as a candy bar from a tree. One fellow asked, “does that mean red wine is just candy-bar-juice?”.

The fermentation of the sugar is what makes the alcohol.

So the alcohol, some might call it “yeast shit”, is there in lieu of the sugar.

There are some putatively beneficial phytochemicals in red wine, like resveratrol, but no lectin nasties that I am aware of.

On a per-ounce-of-alcohol basis, red wine would be much better than beer for your insulin metabolism.

So red wine is good (consumed in moderation, blah, blah blah…)


Beer is loaded with maltose, a disaccharide sugar composed of two molecules of glucose this gives you a massive rise in blood glucose and concomitant insulin response when you drink it – not too good for you.

As beer is fermented and not distilled, it will have some nontrivial amounts of lectins from whatever grain(s) the yeast ate in order to crap out the alcohol that people drink it for.

It’s good to remember that many of the nutrients in grains are located in the same part of the seed that the antinutrients which the seed has developed as a defense mechanism are found. (Gluten is proteins found with the starchy part of seed however) Therefore, attempts to keep the “good” part of the seed, by emphasizing whole grain consumption, for instance, necessarily increase your exposure to the lectins (antinutrients).

So in closing, it looks like beer is the one to be most careful with. Luckily, even the big breweries are getting on the gluten-free bandwagon. Anheuser-Busch has introduced their offering called Redbridge and I’ve seen that Whole Foods has a few other gluten-free varieties. However, one of the most popular mixes that Robb Wolf mentions in his book is the NorCal Margarita: 2 shots of tequila, juice of a whole lime and soda water. He recommends having a couple of those early in your evening to get your head change, then follow it up with a protein and fat rich meal. This is a way to make the best of a bad situation or as he calls it — better living through chemistry.

See also: How to Choose Booze by Ruth

WOD 11.11.10

Make Up Day

7 Comments to "Best of a Bad Situation"

  • melissa says:

    November 11, 2010 at 9:14 AM -

    so… much… to say… brain… cannot… compute…

    i think, in the interest of not having a “special” workout named after me, i’ll shelve my comments about beer and liquor. i’m drinking water right now, and let’s just leave it at that. :)

  • Nick says:

    November 11, 2010 at 1:39 PM -

    If coors light is 99.8% water with .2% beer flavoring (not to be mistaken with real beer), does that count as paleo?

    1. Marcus says:

      November 11, 2010 at 1:46 PM -

      @Nick – Does that .2% contain gluten? (Answer: yes) Does it contain alcohol? (Answer: again, yes) Then no, not remotely paleo and if you feel you must drink alcohol, you can make better choices that will take you less off-track.

      I like the logic attempt though!

  • Brian says:

    November 11, 2010 at 2:05 PM -

    1. Melissa, judging from the timestamp on your comment which reads 9:14am…. AM… on a Thursday i HOPE you were drinking water. I mean dont get me wrong.. i love an eye opener from time to time myself, but you at least give it until 10am.

    2. Marcus, yeast “sh*t” really? which would imply a solid form? Ive never had a “solid” alcoholic beverage, except for that one day where i made beer-sicles… (which still stands today as one of my proudest achievements)

    3. Nick, the 100% feeling of invincibility you get from drinking a dozen of those bad boys should overcome the 0.2% of puny gluten marcus points out is in every can of that delicious elixir

    1. Marcus says:

      November 11, 2010 at 2:14 PM -

      @ Brian – 1. It was 10am SOMEwhere in the world, so I’m sure she was covered.
      2. Not necessarily solid, I’m sure at some time in your life you’ve experienced less than solid sh*t. (You went there first with the potty humor, I’m just sayin’)
      3. The fact you declare Coors Light to be a “delicious elixir” undermines your credibility.

      1. ruth says:

        November 11, 2010 at 4:02 PM -


  • Alex says:

    November 12, 2010 at 7:16 PM -

    I’ve been drinking woodchuck hard cider and its gluten free. Its pretty damn good, but it will take a lot to get you drunk :p They sell it here in upstate ny, assume they sell it in LAhttp://www.woodchuck.com/validator.php?url=/

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