Alcohol & the Keto Diet

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Can You Drink Alcohol on the Keto Diet? 

The keto diet, short for ketogenic diet, is a low-carb, high-fat diet. Many people follow the keto diet to lose weight and improve their health. 

The keto diet typically involves careful planning. This is so you can stick within your daily carb intake and keep your body in ketosis.

Following a strict keto diet means giving up:

  • Sweets
  • Snacks
  • Soft drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Other high-carb indulgences

However, there are low-carb alcoholic beverages that some people may choose to enjoy in moderation, even on a keto diet.

It is possible to drink alcohol and follow a ketogenic diet. However, it is essential to understand how alcohol and the keto diet interact and affect your body.

Ketosis is a metabolic process that occurs when there are not enough carbohydrates available for your body to burn. Instead, it burns fat. 

The liver converts stored fat into ketones. This refers to a buildup of acids that are usable forms of energy for your body.

On a keto diet, your body burns fat in the form of ketones instead of carbohydrates. Weight loss happens through a caloric deficit. This is when you consume fewer calories than your body needs to maintain your current weight.

When someone follows a keto diet with a caloric deficit, weight loss will occur. However, long-term use of the keto diet has not proven to be more effective than other diets with similar calorie counts.

Alcohol calories count toward your total daily intake. However, even when alcohol accounts for your daily calories, weight loss can still happen with a caloric deficit. 

Potential Side Effects of Drinking on the Keto Diet

There are various low-carb, keto-friendly alcoholic drinks available. However, that does not mean drinking alcohol should become part of your keto diet routine. 

Even low-carb options of alcohol are still high in empty calories. 

This means they supply calories with little to no essential nutrients, such as: 

  • Protein
  • Fiber
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals

Not only can heavily consuming alcohol increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies over time, but it may also contribute to unwanted weight gain.

In an eight-year study with 49,324 women, drinking at least two alcoholic drinks a day was linked to an increased risk of significant weight gain compared to light or moderate drinking.1

Drinking alcohol can also reduce fat burning and increase body fat by storing additional calories as fat tissue in your body.2 

Heavy drinking may also contribute to other severe health conditions, like:3

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Liver problems

Even when drinking keto-friendly alcohol, it is best to keep alcohol intake moderate. This is defined as one drink per day for women and two per day for men.4

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Will Drinking Kick You Out of Ketosis?

Sweet mixed drinks and beer containing sugar and carbs can immediately kick you out of ketosis. However, other alcoholic beverages like pure liquor and dry wine can also cause problems for some people.

When drinking on a keto diet, you must consider the processes your body takes to metabolize alcohol and how that can interfere with your body being in ketosis.

Your body and health are unique to you. It is essential to understand that even if you consume an alcoholic beverage containing very few carbs, your reaction will be different from another persons. Listen to your body and adjust your diet accordingly.

When you consume the occasional low-carb drink, alcohol is unlikely to derail your keto lifestyle. 

If you find yourself consuming high-carb beverages or drinking often during the week, you will slow down your body’s fat-burning process.

What Alcoholic Drinks Should You Avoid?

Many alcoholic drinks are full of carbs. Some varieties contain over 30 grams in a single serving

Some of the worst alcoholic beverages to consume on the keto diet include cocktails and mixed drinks. 

Cocktails and mixed drinks often contain high-carb, sugary ingredients. These include: 

  • Fruit juice
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Soda
  • Syrups

Beer is also among the worst drinks to consume when following a keto lifestyle. 

Regular beer is produced from starch. It may contain more than 12 grams of carbs in one can. It is even known as ‘liquid bread.’

The carb content in beer varies depending on the type and brand. However, most beers contain too many carbs for a keto diet. Even on a more liberal low-carb diet, it may be best to keep beer-drinking as an occasional treat.

The exception is ultra-light beer which contains fewer carb counts than other varieties. 

Best Keto-Friendly Drinks 

There are many low-carb alcohol options available if you follow a keto lifestyle. 

Pure forms of alcohol have zero carbs. 

For example:

  • Gin
  • Whiskey
  • Tequila
  • Rum
  • Vodka

These pure spirits can be drunk straight or with low-carb mixers.

Wine and keto-friendly beers are also relatively low in carb content. These options usually contain three to four grams per serving.

You can probably still have a glass of wine reasonably regularly as long as you watch your carb intake, even on a keto diet. On a moderately low-carb diet, wine should not be a problem as long as you drink responsibly.

Dry wines typically contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per glass. Fermentation byproducts in wine, such as glycerol, should have little effect on blood sugar or insulin levels. 

However, while dry wines may fit in a keto diet, sweet dessert wines contain more sugar.

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Best Keto Mixers

Choosing a suitable mixer when you consume alcohol is as important as the alcohol itself. 

Avoid standard mixers like:

  • Orange juice
  • Soda
  • Energy drinks

These mixers can quickly turn a drink with zero carbs into a high-calorie beverage.

Instead, choose low-carb mixers like:

  • Diet soda
  • Diet tonic water
  • Powdered flavor packets

These mixers can keep your carb intake low while improving your drink’s taste.

Considerations When Drinking on a Keto Diet

When following a keto diet, be aware that some people become intoxicated from significantly less alcohol than those not eating a keto diet. You may only require half as many drinks as usual to enjoy yourself.

The reasons for this are not fully known. But one possible reason is that the liver is busy creating ketones or glucose and has less capacity to burn alcohol. 

Be very careful when you consume alcohol on a keto diet. Impairment could increase the risk of accidents and injury. Plus, it may make your hangover worse.

If you use a keto diet to treat metabolic syndrome and fatty liver disease, understand that alcohol can harm liver health.5 Heavy drinking acts as a liver toxin.

Updated on November 16, 2021
6 sources cited
  1. Wannamethee, S Goya et al. “Alcohol intake and 8-year weight gain in women: a prospective study.” Obesity research vol. 12,9 : 1386-96
  2. Shelmet, J J et al. “Ethanol causes acute inhibition of carbohydrate, fat, and protein oxidation and insulin resistance.” The Journal of clinical investigation vol. 81,4 : 1137-45
  3. Rehm, Jürgen. “The risks associated with alcohol use and alcoholism.” Alcohol research & health : the journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism vol. 34,2 : 135-43.
  4. Gunzerath, Lorraine et al. “National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism report on moderate drinking.” Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research vol. 28,6 : 829-47
  5. Weng, Gong, and Winston Dunn. “Effect of alcohol consumption on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.” Translational gastroenterology and hepatology vol. 4 70. 17 Sep. 2019
  6. Masood W, Annamaraju P, Uppaluri KR. Ketogenic Diet. [Updated 2021 Jun 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan

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