Keto and Alcohol

Alcohol is often classified as the fourth macronutrient (it has about 7 calories per gram), but it’s not an essential nutrient. You don’t need it to survive — even though after a long, hard day it can almost feel that way. And while drinking on a keto diet won’t necessarily derail all your progress, it will slow things down a bit.

Alcohol — even red wine — isn’t good for you. If you do drink, choose highly filtered and distilled drinks that are low in toxins.

If you maintain a ketogenic diet, your body uses your stored fat for energy. When alcohol enters your system, your liver will default to using the byproducts of the metabolized alcohol instead of fat, which means fatty acid oxidation (the process of creating ketones) is slowed until all the alcohol has been processed.

If you’re a very occasional spirits drinker, this will probably not cause any long-term issues. But if you find yourself drinking often during the week or every weekend, you could be slowing your fat-burning process down.

Carbs can reduce that tipsy feeling because they help reduce blood alcohol levels. This is because the body processes glucose in things like pasta, pizza, and bread quickly, slowing down the metabolization of the alcohol. But when you’re living a ketogenic lifestyle, you have a very small amount of stored glycogen, which means that the alcohol is processed faster.

This leads to feeling tipsy or drunk much quicker, which can lead to a few other issues if you’re not fully prepared for the alcohol to hit.

 

HARD LIQUOR

Most clear liquors that are around 40 percent alcohol (vodka, whiskey, gin, scotch, brandy, rum, and tequila) contain zero carbs and sugars on their own, which means they’re keto-friendly (besides the part where alcohol is metabolized in place of fats). The issue arrives if you want to mix your liquor with something to make it more palatable.

Mixing your spirits with straight water or seltzer is perfectly acceptable on keto, but tonic water (which is a bitter soda made from quinine) contains 32 to 33 grams of carbs per 12 ounces. Likewise, when you mix hard liquor with things like fruit juice, sodas, or behind-the-bar “mixers” (which are usually full of sugar), you’re opening yourself up to a lot of liquid carbs.

If you’re really craving a little something more than just plain tequila on the rocks, you can still enjoy keto-friendly drinks that swap out sugary mixers. 

Keep in mind that flavored alcohols (coconut-flavored vodka, for instance) can and often do contain extra sugar. Avoid them whenever possible

WINE

While most cheap wine (think the stuff under $10 or that comes in a box), can come with residual sugars, if you stick to very dry red or white wine, you can still have a glass with dinner. Typically, dry wines have about 1g or less of sugar per ounce, and the usual serving is 5 ounces, so pour accordingly.

Typical wine contains up to 76 different additives that aren’t disclosed on their labels. Think Artificial coloring, ammonia, defoaming agents, metals, and all kinds of other odd chemicals. They often carry carcinogenic mycotoxins from moldy vats or poor fermentation, too. 

A few keto-friendly, dry white wines include:

  • Sauvignon blanc (0.6g carbs per ounce)

  • Pinot blanc: (0.57g carbs per ounce)

  • Italian pinot grigio (0.6g carbs per ounce)

A few keto-friendly, dry red wines include:

  • Cabernet sauvignon (0.75g carbs per ounce)

  • Pinot noir (0.68g carbs per ounce)

  • Merlot (0.74g carbs per ounce)

BEER

Because of its ingredient list (barley, hops, yeast, and water), beer is something to be avoided when on a keto diet. The barley is broken down into sugar maltose, which is what the yeast acts on, creating a much higher carb count than straight liquor.

Beer contains gluten, yeast, ochratoxin A, and other mold toxins. If you’re going to drink beer, know that it’s not keto-friendly, and at least make it gluten-free.