Keto Diet and Alcohol

The ketogenic diet is a great way to lose weight, but it is also a lifestyle change that will stay with you for life. While you won’t be eating the extremely low levels of carbs you eat while you are losing weight once you reach your goals, you will need to restrict carbs in your diet permanently to keep those results. Of course, there are some things you have to give up during the strict, initial induction phase (which makes up the first ten to twelve days of your ketogenic diet plan) that you may not want to commit to giving up for the rest of your life. A key one of these, for many people, is alcohol.

How does alcohol affect ketosis?

Alcohol does have an impact on weight loss through a ketogenic diet, even when you drink low carb or carb free alcoholic beverages. This is because the body can use alcohol as a source of fuel. It isn’t stored as glycogen, like carbs, so once it is burned off you will go straight back into ketosis, however this does mean you are losing some fat burning time when you drink. How much this affects your weight loss varies between individuals. Some people find their weight loss stalls if they drink anything alcoholic, whereas others find they can drink responsible amounts of wine, hard liquor or a low carb beer (they do exist) and keep losing weight.

Can I drink alcohol on a Ketogenic Diet?

If you enjoy alcohol then as long as you have finished induction, you can try incorporating some low carb alcoholic drinks into your ketogenic diet, and monitor the results. Some people find they can drink vodka with no problems but their weight loss stalls if they drink wine. It is a case of experimenting and seeing what works for you, and then weighing up the pros and cons of having a drink when you want to. If it is a special occasion, you might accept a potential weight loss stall to have some champagne, but you may not be prepared to accept the stall for a quick drink after work with your friends. Once you know the impact of alcohol on your own progress, you can make educated decisions and take control of what you do.

Just as a word of warning, remember that one effect alcohol can have is reducing your willpower, so make sure that if you do drink, you don’t allow yourself to fall off the wagon with what you eat. If your drinks are suitably low in carbs then the effects of the ketogenic diet will not be interrupted by any glycogen getting stored in your muscles, however if drinking makes you think that some snacks won’t hurt, you are on a dangerous path!

Will my alcohol tolerance be affected by being on a Ketogenic Diet?

YES! You will find that your alcohol tolerance is dramatically decreased while following a ketogenic diet. This is caused by two factors: (1) As mentioned earlier, alcohol will be burned off before your body resumes burning fat for energy, so the alcohol you intake will start to be metabolized immediately. (2) You will not be eating pizza and other delicious, but carb-laden foods that drunk people normally eat, which typically help to soak up alcohol in the stomach and slow down the intoxication process.

For some, this decreased tolerance is an annoyance. The amount of liquor you could once drink casually without feeling any intoxicating effects will now leave you with a solid buzz. The amount of liquor you could once drink before feeling a solid buzz will not get you full-on drunk. Some of the more (how do we put this…) enthusiastic drinkers, that are typically imbibing in order to feel the full effects of the alcohol, may be quite pleased with their reduced tolerance, and will find that it saves them untold number of dollars at the bar each weekend.

What are the best kinds of alcohol to drink on a Ketogenic Diet? And how many carbs are in different kinds of alcohol?

While there is no best kind of alcohol to drink while following a Ketogenic Diet, there are certainly kind of alcohol that are carb-free or very low in carbs. Check out a few ideas in the lists below:

Zero-Carb Liquors

  • Brandy
  • Cognac
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Scotch
  • Tequila
  • Whiskey
  • Vodka

Please note, the list above includes unflavored vodkas, rums, and whiskeys. Flavored vodkas (Pinnacle, Ciroc, Smirnoff, etc.), flavored rums (Captain Morgan, Bacardi Coco, etc.), and flavored whiskeys (Fireball, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, etc.) may include carbohydrates, so it is best to check the nutritional label before indulging.

Low Carb Beer

Beer is not a particularly carb-friendly alcohol choice, but there are some low(-er) carb beer options. While your Coors Lights and Amstel Lights of the world weight in at ~100 calories and 5g net carbs, and something like Bud Light fares even worse at 110 calories and 6.6g net carbs, there are definitely a few brands that can be accommodated in small amounts:

  • Bud Select 55 – 55 calories, 1.9g net carbs
  • MGD 64 – 64 calories, 2.4g net carbs
  • Rolling Rock Green Light – 92 calories, 2.4g net carbs
  • Michelob Ultra – 95 Calories, 2.6g net carbs
  • Bud Select – 99 calories, 3.1g net carbs
  • Miller Lite – 96 calories, 3.2g net carbs
  • Michelob Ultra Amber – 114 calories, 3.7g net carbs

Low-Carb Wines

There are obviously far too many brands and styles of wine to build a comprehensive list of carb counts, but there are a few general rules you can use to determine how much wine you can drink without going over your carb limit:

Red Wines

  • Merlot – 120 calories, 3.7g net carbs
  • Pinot Noir – 121 calories, 3.4g net carbs
  • Cabernet – 120 calories, 3.8g net carbs

White Wines

  • Chardonnay – 118 calories, 3.7g net carbs
  • Pinot Grigio – 122 calories, 3.2g net carbs
  • Riesling – 118 calories, 5.5g net carbs
  • Champagne/Sparkling Wine – 96 calories, 1.5g net carbs

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