alcoholic drinks on wooden table in glasses, mugs and shots with barrel in background
The keto diet and alcohol
If you’re reading this then I guess you’re wondering if you can enjoy a glass or two of your favourite drink while you’re on the keto diet without pushing yourself out of ketosis. You may even be wondering if the words “keto diet” and “alcohol” can be said in the same sentence!
Firstly, I have to say that here on this site, we are as much about being as healthy as possible as we are about following the keto diet. So it’s probably no surprise that in my opinion you should limit the amount of alcohol you drink. It’s true to say that there is some evidence that a drink or two is actually good for you and the occasional drop of alcohol probably isn’t going to harm you. However, if you find you’re wanting a lot more it might be time for you to reassess if this is going to be compatible with your goal of weight loss and/or living a healthier life.
A social drink can relax you, and play a role in getting you into the spirit of an enjoyable evening out, but if you actually need a drink, or many drinks to face your social life, you may need to be seeking some help with it.
One of the reasons for living a keto lifestyle is its ability to reduce inflammation in your body, and gaining you a lot of health benefits by doing so. Remember that alcohol causes inflammation, and too much can cause liver damage. There is no doubt that alcohol could undo the heath benefits you’ve been gaining by following the keto diet.
Give some thought to whether or not alcohol is bringing you some gains, or are the problems that it can cause just not worth it to you. I’m guessing you’re here because you want to lose weight and improve your health. Make sure that you plan to drink in a way that doesn’t compromise the goals you’ve set for yourself.
The main takeaway here is good for those of us who like a drink… this is completely possible on a keto diet. There are plenty to choose from, but just do your research and know ahead of time what you can drink while you’re out.
The science of keto and alcohol
Whether you’re in ketosis or not, your body will set about processing the alcohol you have just sent it in a surprisingly short amount of time. This is because generally speaking your body is no fan of alcohol and wants to deal with quickly.
Your liver does the vast majority of the processing of any alcohol you choose to send its way. Within 10 to 30 minutes of drinking, the alcohol is in your bloodstream and headed for your liver.
The liver uses two enzymes to process alcohol. Dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH). ADH converts alcohol to acetaldehyde which is toxic and is a risk factor for cancer. This is then converted into acetate by ALDH. Then your body either converts this into energy or rids itself of the acetate via your breath or urine.
Too much alcohol can overwhelm this process causing the feeling of being drunk as the alcohol crosses the blood brain barrier.
Due to the potential to cause harm, alcohol is metabolized by your liver before anything else as your body seeks to eliminate it as soon as possible. This leads to a loss of your body’s ability to burn fat while this process is taking place.
This will cause weight gain, which isn’t great news if you’ve been watching your diet and reaching your weight loss goals. There is also going to be an increase in your appetite as your levels of glycogen fall, leading to the all to familiar need to eat more than normal when under the influence of alcohol. I’ll bet this is something you’re already all too familiar with.
Also remember that if you are feeling the effects of your drink you are less likely to be able to use your will power alone to walk away from the high carb snacks that are now calling out to you. Your judgment is going to be impaired, and you won’t be in a position to be making your best choices.
There’s a solid scientific reason for why the take away food restaurants do great trade when people leave the bars and clubs after a night of drinking with their friends.
When you drink while you’re in ketosis, your body is much less able to deal with alcohol as well as it could before, and you will need a lot less alcohol to have the same effect on you. Nobody really knows why this is, but it is the same for everyone who is following a keto diet, or any other diet too. Forget this, and you’ll be face first on someone’s bathroom floor way before you thought you’d had enough to drink.
With some research and a bit of forward planning you will be able to go out and enjoy yourself with just a few adjustments to the way that you would normally enjoy alcohol.
The most keto friendly alcoholic drinks
The good news is that there are several zero carb alcoholic drinks and this list includes many of the most popular drinks, as long as only sugar free mixers are used. The first drinks that come to mind are Whiskey, vodka, gin, rum and Martini dry. Containing no carbs at all it looks as if they are the perfect drinks and a welcome addition to your keto lifestyle.
Generally, alcohol above 40% will have zero carbs. Remember that all mixers must be zero carbs too.
Some more good news
Champagne and dry sparkling wines contain few carbohydrates so you can certainly raise a glass during that special occasion. Cava and both red and white dry wines are low carb too.
Chardonnay is still acceptable at a reasonable 5g. Even some low carb beers such as Budweiser select 55 and Millar 64 are relatively low in carbs with both being under 5g carbs. Be very careful with beers however, as the worst ones for carb count can easily top the 20g carbs. Fullers Porter Beer contains almost a whole days allowance in a single drink.
But again, never forget that when you’re on the keto diet you may find that your tolerance to all alcohol is much lower than it used to be.
High carb alcoholic drinks
There are some drinks that should be banned from your keto food list, and you are better off ignoring them when choosing what to drink. The carb count is just too high, and there are plenty of lower carb alternatives as we have already seen.
Obviously this includes any drink that is mixed with a sugar filled mixer, but some drinks are very high carb even when served with nothing more than some ice or an olive.
These are most beers excluding the ones especially made to be low carb. Always check the carb content of any beer, some can be very high. Fullers Porter Beer has already earned a mention but there are a few others just as high. Guinness is 14g carbs and cider is a sugar filled drink that just can’t be a part of a keto diet.
Liqueurs are also very high carb, with one of the highest being Creme de Menthe which manages to beat even Guinness at 20.80 g carbs. As a rule of thumb, liqueurs should be avoided.
Tonic water is often thought of as low carbohydrate but it contains a huge 30g of carbs and if the bartender adds a little sugar you’re up to 40g -50g carbs even for a drink sounding as low as a gin and tonic does. Always make sure you have the diet version of Tonic water.
All diet drinks make low carb mixers, but be aware that not all sweeteners are considered to be healthy. From a health point of view, it’s still good to limit your intake of these, even though the carb count may be very low or zero.
If you would normally add some sugar to your drink then a natural sweetener such as erythritol should hit the spot for you without the huge carb hit normally associated with something sweet to drink.
So, can you drink alcohol on a keto diet?
The short answer is yes you can. Just remember that once you’re on the keto diet you will need many fewer drinks than you have had in the past to produce the same feeling. Your tolerance will be way down and you’ll pay the price if you forget this.
Keep any drinking to a minimum and always choose the low carb options. Fortunately, there’s nothing too painful about drinking champagne whenever you want a drink. However, if that’s a bit of a stretch then the spirits are all compatible with your keto lifestyle.
Remember to go for diet mixers and use a natural sweetener if you want that sugar taste.
Finally, factor in that when your liver is busy processing the alcohol you’ve just drunk, it will stop your ability to burn fat.
So, have a drink or two, keep a level head and go out armed with the information you need before you enjoy a night out with your friends.