Food & Wine Thursdays: CrossFit Liquor Myths

I live in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles. Recently, the neighborhood has become the CrossFit and Coffee District. In addition to three premium coffee roasters and another half-dozen gourmet coffee shops in a five block radius of my loft, there are also literally three CrossFit gyms within two blocks. Well, technically two CrossFit gyms and one gym that more or less does CrossFit but didn’t want to pay to license the name.

Beyond the weird cult-y vocabulary, potentially dangerous exercise techniques, and the most frequent use of the word “WOD” since the days of John Holmes, I’ve noticed that CrossFit is perpetuating weird pseudoscience about alcohol, particularly liquor.

Here’s the thing about alcohol: it’s all made more or less the same way. Sugar is converted into alcohol by yeast. Sometimes that sugar is from juice, sometime it’s from brewed grain starch, sometimes that sugar is from, well, sugar, whether that be maple syrup, agave nectar, or plain ol’ sugar beets.

When that sugar is just fermented, you have your “soft” alcohols like beer, wine, and cider. If you take fermented sugar and heat it up in a still so you get rid of the solids and much of the water and then capture and condense the alcohol vapors, you have a neutral spirit which can then be filtered and bottled (vodka, white rum, silver tequila), flavored with herbs and extracts (gin, flavored vodka), or aged for months or years in wood casks (rum, aged tequila, whiskeys of all types).

Despite what that unlicensed “nutritionist” who monitors your squats says, all of these spirits have, more or less, the exact same amount of sugar. That amount? None. None sugars. Zero grams of sugar. 100% of the calories in distilled spirits come from alcohol. Whiskey has as much sugar as vodka and tequila isn’t “better for you” because it’s made from agave, not sugar. Agave is sugar. It just tastes sweeter so, theoretically, you can use less of it to achieve the same level of sweetness.

(I should also point out the dry wine, that is to say wine which is fermented until all the sugar in the grape juice has become alcohol, typically contains fewer than 2 grams of carbohydrates per 5 ounce glass–less even than a bottle of Miller 64–and is probably a healthier choice than tequila shots if you want to keep alcohol a part of your CrossFit lifestyle.)

Now it is possible that aged spirits contain trace amounts of sugars, but this would be wood sugars coming from the barrels, not anything that originates from the spirit itself. The effect of these trace sugars on the caloric or carbohydrate content of the spirit will be negligible.

The wild card in all of this, of course, is that alcohol doesn’t have an ingredients label and no doubt there are flavorings and other additives put into cheaper, mass-market spirits and that may affect the sugar content. If you’re a Winner’s Cup gin aficionado, I can’t be 100% certain that your beverage is sugar-free. Premium, boutique spirits will, however, all be sugar-free.

So go ahead! Enjoy whatever liquor makes you happy. Your butt still looks great. Now give me 50 burpees and a couple dozen power cleans.

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About David D.

I'm a wine professional. Like a real one who makes most of his living in wine and have for most of my adult life. I also write, but you can see that.
This entry was posted in Dispatches From Academia, Food, I'm Just Sayin, Wine & Cheese and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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