A recent study published by the BMJ confirms it: the keto diet is more than just a fad.
The study found that those who adhere to a low carb diet can safely lose weight and even reverse their type 2 diabetes after six months.
The cornerstone of the keto diet is using fats rather than carbohydrates for energy as your body’s primary source of fuel.
The star of the show – your liver – turns stored fat reserves into usable energy.
With the right mindset and a little planning, you should still be able to enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage while on a ketogenic diet.
This article contains:
Medical Disclaimer: this article is not intended as a substitute for sound medical advice. Please consult your physician before starting any new diet regimen. Secondly, ketosis affects the body’s ability to metabolize alcohol. Moderation is strongly advised.
Drinking on keto: important points to consider
I won’t sugarcoat things: if you’re looking to lose a lot of weight quickly, then you probably want to significantly cut back on your alcohol intake for the first month of keto.
Why? Because it takes time for your body to go into full-on ketosis. In the beginning, it’s possible you’ll feel tired, dehydrated, or craving carbs – in other words, probably not the best time to throw alcohol into the equation.
Once you’ve made it past the initial phase of keto dieting, here are some points to consider as you reintroduce alcohol.
- Alcohol = empty calories. While an 80-proof shot of vodka has 0G of carbs it still has 100 calories. This is the equivalent of half a cup of kidney beans. Which option is going to leave you fuller?
- Alcohol impairs REM sleep cycles, which can ultimately throw your appetite and satiety cues out of whack* for the next 12-24 hours.
- Your pancreas releases insulin when you drink. Even in small amounts, this increases your appetite and makes you more likely to reach for high-carb snacks.
- Alcohol impairs your inhibition, making you more likely to rip open that bag of chips you’re craving (see item #3).
- Your alcohol tolerance decreases in ketosis. Carbohydrates act as a buffer, reducing how much alcohol is absorbed into your blood stream. Without them, you’ll get drunk faster. Fruit juices – also forbidden while on keto – contain vitamins that help flush toxins from the body.
- Alcohol is a diuretic. This can worsen dehydration symptoms caused by ketosis. Plan to drink lots and lots of water!
- If you’re leaving your house to drink, have a buddy with you. Your nurse friend Erin thanks them in advance.
Will alcohol kick me out of ketosis?
Drinking alcohol pauses ketosis. Your liver stops burning fat to do the more important job of clearing toxins from your body.
It breaks down alcohol into acetate, which can be used as a form of energy.
If you consume a lot of carbs while drinking, ketosis will be further delayed because your liver will use those carbs for energy before it taps into the body’s fat stores.
Sticking with low-carb cocktail mixers ensures that ketosis will resume shortly after your body is done metabolizing alcohol.
What is the best alcohol to drink on the keto diet?
The best keto cocktail recipes use clear spirits 80-proof or 40 percent ABV. This includes gin, vodka, silver tequila, whiskey, and rum. Any 1.5oz serving of these liquors will net 0 grams of carbs and 100 calories.
Pair any of these distilled spirits with a club soda or sparkling water, and you’ve got yourself a keto-friendly highball.
Word to my lady friends who like super sweet cocktails: it may take time for your taste buds to “recalibrate” if you’re used to masking the taste of alcohol. But it’s totally worth it.
Are low carb beers and wines okay on keto?
Low carb variants have substantially improved in recent years thanks to the keto diet trend.
Here are a few low-carb options in case you’d like to try them for yourself. My personal favorite is the Kona Blonde Ale!
Low carb beers:
- Michelob Ultra – 2.6 grams of carbs | 95 calories per 12 oz
- Corona Premier – 2.6 grams of carbs | 90 calories per 12 oz
- Dogfish Head Slightly Mighty IPA – 3.6 grams of carbs | 95 calories per 12 oz
- Kona Brewing Co. Kahana Blonde Ale – 4 grams of carbs | 99 calories per 12 oz
When it comes to wine, your best options are dry wines. Brut champagne has less residual sugar than, say, a Moscato. Because more of the fermentation process has occurred in dry wines, you get the added bonus of a higher ABV.
Low carb wines:
- Pinot Noir – 3.4 grams of carbs
- Sauvignon Blanc – 3 grams
- Brut Champagne – 2.8 grams
- Sparkling White Wine – 1.5 grams
Diet sodas: yay or nay?
Many low carb cocktail recipes are dubbed “keto” simply by swapping out soda with its diet equivalent.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I consume a diet soda, I end up feeling hungrier in the end. Our bodies aren’t sure how to process artificial sugar.
Diet sodas have been repeatedly associated with adverse outcomes, such as a higher risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver. They can also be high in sodium, which is dangerous when your electrolytes are already in a state of flux.
Ditch the aspartame for stevia, erythritol, agave, monk fruit, or an allulose-based sweetener in your simple syrup recipe.
For a hit of carbonation, consider adding hard seltzer, sparkling water, or club soda.
Alternatives to juices and flavored liqueurs
Liqueurs are heavy hitters in the calorie department. An ounce of Bailey’s Irish Cream will set you back 20 grams of sugar, which is almost the entire daily allowance of carbohydrates on keto.
Juices are only slightly better health-wise, since they add essential vitamins to the mix.
Instead of liqueurs, juice concentrates, and thick syrups, consider swapping it out with its extract equivalent. Instead of amaretto (4 grams of sugar in one teaspoon!) try using almond extract (0.5 grams of sugar per teaspoon).
Here are a few more suggestions.
Ready to get cooking? Here are several recipes to get you started.
Starting a new diet can be hard, but ultimately worth the effort.
For the best possible end product, stick to high quality alcohol, fresh ingredients, and natural sugar sources.
Armed with this information you should be able to still enjoy the finer things in life.
BMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4743 (Published 13 January 2021)
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Robillard, Hunter. Vino Vest. Carbs in Wine (By Wine Type, Best Low-Carb Wines 2020). [14 September 2020].