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Your Guide To Drinking Alcohol On The Ketogenic Diet

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As we approach the festive season, we look forward to Christmas parties, drinks with the family, catch-ups over wine with friends who’ve returned home for the holidays. This is a fun part of the year which we should all embrace and enjoy. The catch is that drinking alcohol while on the ketogenic diet takes a little more planning and strategy.

Never fear, all it takes is a little reading and research to know which tipples to choose, and which to steer clear of.

A re-cap of ketosis

It’s important to be totally clear on what ketosis is, how it occurs, and the processes it goes through in our bodies. That way, you can make meaningful alcohol choices. Here goes: ketosis is a metabolic state where your body metabolizes fatty acids and produces ketones, which are molecules that can replace glucose as an energy source. When your body is running almost entirely on ketones, this is known as being in a state of ketosis and is the entire point of the ketogenic diet.

Now that’s out of the way, let’s turn to alcohol…

A little science behind alcohol and our bodies

Our livers like to work hard to cleanse and remove the alcohol from our systems after we consume it. The tricky part is that the ketosis process begins in the liver. When you drink, this shifts the liver’s priorities away from producing ketones to quickly attempting to metabolize and clear away alcohol.

When alcohol enters the body, the liver goes into superdrive to process it. This means that your ketosis may be disrupted by drinking alcohol. What’s more, alcohol can be very high in carbs if we choose the wrong ones, therefore ending ketosis.

This isn’t the end of the world, as there are things we can do to remain in ketosis, and party with a drink in hand as well.  

Choosing The Right Beverages

As we know, the ketogenic diet asks that we very carefully monitor the number of carbohydrates we consume; otherwise, ketosis will be out the window. Unfortunately, many of our favorite alcoholic drinks contain carbs, some in large amounts, making them out of bounds if we want to remain in ketosis.

keto beer

Beer

If you love a cold, frosty beer…I’m so sorry to tell you that it’s generally not a keto-friendly drink. For example, 1 pint of Guinness contains roughly 18 grams of carbs. If you drink more than one, you’ll probably end up drinking more carbs from those beers than you eat on a regular basis. Before you run and cry, I have a solution!  Light, low-carb beers are becoming more popular, thank goodness. A Michelob Ultra, for example, will only set you back around 3 grams of carbohydrates, which is totally fine as long as you have a couple, (or a few). Either stick to low-carb beers, or switch to something else, like a dry wine or spirit with low-carb mixer (more on that to come).

Wine

Ah, wine. The weakness of so many of us, and for good reason. A crisp glass of white is one of life’s better pleasures, especially with family, friends and a platter of keto-friendly snacks. But wine can be a bit tricky as some options contain high amounts of sugar than others.

Dryer white wines are the best to choose when on a ketogenic diet, such as:

  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Pinot Grigio
  • Champagne (yes please!)
  • Chardonnay

If you’re more of a red drinker, it’s best to stick with these dry versions as well:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Noir
  • Syrah

Opting for dry wines makes sense when using keto. Unlike sweeter variations of wine, dryer types go through the process of fermentation longer. This allows the amount of sugar present in the final product to be reasonably low, which is good news for ketosis.

Spirits/liquor

If you’re a keto-dieter who’s fan of drinking spirits instead of beer or wine, you’re in luck.  Most spirits have low calorie counts, and almost no carbohydrates at all, which is what we like to hear when trying to remain in ketosis.

The most popular spirit options include:

  • Tequila
  • Rum
  • Vodka
  • Bourbon/Whiskey
  • Gin

Remember that liqueurs (the syrupy, sweet, flavored liquors) should be avoided on the ketogenic diet. As tasty as they are, they’re very sugary and even a little bit might overtake your carb allowance for the day.

What About Mixers?

So you’ve chosen your low-carb liquor or spirit. Great. But what will you mix it with? Unless you’re into straight spirits, you’re going to want to dilute your liquor. Most common mixers contain lots of sugar and carbs. Imagine a rum and coke, or a vodka and lemonade…delicious, but full of sugar. No good. Take tonic water, (a favorite mixer for vodka and gin), but contains around 32 grams of carbohydrates per 12 ounce serving. If you drink 5 gin and tonics in a single night, you could be consuming upwards of 150 carbs without even knowing it!

Now that I’ve scared you away from ever touching a mixed drink again, let me ease your mind by reminding you that there are diet options for most popular mixers. Phew.

Tonic comes in a diet version which tastes almost identical, yet provides no calories or carbohydrates to ruin your ketosis. Diet sodas such as diet coke and diet sprite are also good choices if you like to mix your spirits with flavored sodas. To put it in perspective, just one 12-ounce can of Coke contains 39 grams of carbohydrates, while Diet Coke contains none at all.

I find that plain soda water made with a Soda Stream is actually one of the best mixers for spirits. I even like to mix my white wine with plain soda (which may sound outrageous to wine purists, but it’s yummy!). Add a slice of lemon, some ice, and some fresh mint leaves and you’ve got a delicious, very low-carb, mixed spirit drink.

Tolerance Concerns

Most of us have an idea of how much we can drink in a night without taking it two drinks too far. But when you’re on a ketogenic diet, the amount you can safely drink changes.

In addition to less food volume slowing down alcohol absorption, the ketogenic diet also acts as a diuretic, leading to dehydration. Dehydration is a concern when drinking and the combination of these two factors could be downright disastrous (i.e. the worst hangover ever, my head throbs just to think about it).

The good old “glass of water between drinks” is always a good method to ensure you’re staying hydrated as you drink. It also slows down the rate at which you drink alcohol over the night. If you’re drinking spirits, remember to measure each pour, as it can be SO easy to get a bit overzealous with the pouring as the night goes on.

Drinking Alcohol On The Ketogenic Diet

There’s no getting around the fact that drinking alcohol while on the ketogenic diet is a little trickier, and takes more planning. But it’s completely doable if you select the right alcohols and the right mixers. Stick to dry wines, low-carb beers, spirits, and diet sodas or plain sparkling water for your mixers.

Remember to stay hydrated as you drink, and eat a big keto-friendly meal before you party the night away. If you do happen to go a bit overboard and consume too many carbs through your drinks, don’t panic. It’s not the end of the world. You will get your ketosis back eventually. After all, you deserve to have fun during the holiday season, so try your very best but don’t beat yourself up.

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