Friday, June 14, 2013

Alcohol, dairy and paleo (yeah, again)

I am not a paleo absolutist. I don't care if a food is "paleo" or not. I care how it makes me look and feel.

While you are doing a 30-day paleo challenge, you will be refraining from some foods that, perhaps, you hope to reintroduce into your life once the challenge is done.

Leading that list every time seem to be alcohol and dairy.

So what's up with reintroducing those foods?

Well... There are two kinds of people for the purposes of this discussion: people with ongoing fat-loss/weight-loss goals and... everyone else.

(And I am excluding people with actual illnesses from this conversation entirely. You need a medical professional, not casual food conversation with me.)

If your body composition and weight are where you want them to be, you have almost completely free reign to experiment away. Try stuff. See how you feel, and how you look, and how your clothes fit and how you perform in the gym. I'd advise you, as I have said before, to hesitate a lot before trying something with gluten, but otherwise, see how it goes. Take notes. Figure it out. You have some leeway, because your goal is not fat loss. (Oh, and you undoubtedly will have better luck with high-quality foods of whatever sort you are reintroducing).

But then... Then there are the fat-loss folks. A *lot* of people lose weight and body fat during a paleo challenge. A lot of those people are very happy with that change and want to keep that up. They are still not satisfied when the challenge ends, and they want to *continue* to lose body fat.

I have what is probably bad news for you fat-loss people: if you add alcohol or dairy back into your life, you probably will stall out your fat loss. You may even (begin to) reverse it.

A simple analogy: two runners, equally fast, line up for a 400m race. I tell Runner A that, like he expects, he just has to run 400m as fast as he can. Runner B gets the bad news: he has to run 400m as fast as he can too, but every 100 meters he has to drop and do five burpees.

Who is going to win that race? (If you can't answer this question, you need more help than either of us anticipated).

The same thing happens in your body with alcohol, and, very often, dairy. Your digestive system is probably humming along at the end of a challenge a lot like Runner A. You have liver, intestinal and and pancreatic function in tip-top shape. But.... Throw some alcohol or dairy into the mix and suddenly your body gets busy processing that stuff (like Runner B having to do burpees) and it can't do what it is supposed to be doing (zipping along efficiently in hormonal balance much like Runner A).

Drink alcohol with any regularity/frequency and your fat loss will stall. Often, it will even reverse itself. The same is true of dairy (possibly to a lesser degree.... Possibly not).

And, by the way, the same thing may very well be true about a number of technically "paleo" foods. Nuts often stall fat loss. Sweet potatoes and plantains and other starchy roots and tubers can too. Overall, you will likely find that they don't derail/occupy the body (in a burpee-ish fashion) from performing its normal function like alcohol does, and, hence, their negative effect on fat loss can be less dramatic. But it still may hurt your fat-loss efforts to eat those things.

It's all about goals. Certain goals don't mesh with one another, and they force a choice. You would laugh at a guy who told you he wanted to gain 30 pounds of muscle while simultaneously becoming a faster marathoner. But, somehow, the absurdity of mixing those two goals is obvious while the equal absurdity of trying to simultaneously drink alcohol (or eat certain foods) and lose body fat isn't so evident for you.

Look, I don't care if you drink or not. Hell, I don't care what you eat at all, but make sure your goals aren't competing with one another. And when they are, you are going to have to pick one, or else be "surprised" when you suddenly can't meet one of those goals that you once had in your sights.

So, to recap: if your goal is to drink alcohol, then I can't think of a better way to get there than by drinking alcohol. Bottoms up, dude. If your goal is sustained and progressive fat loss, I can't think of a worse way to get there than by drinking alcohol. It's a choice.

"Life is unfair? Compared to what?"
-- Edward Abbey

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