Guess what’s the two questions I get the most? First is how much weight can I lose on keto, and the second is can I drink alcohol on keto? Hey, no judgement! I equally enjoy a good glass of red wine on weekends!
The long and the short is YES, you can drink alcohol on keto, but understanding which alcoholic drinks are low carb, which ones are the best to choose and knowing what happens when you drink alcohol on keto will help you make the right choices.
How alcohol affects your weight loss
Hopefully, you know what macros and calories are and that all food (and alcohol) contains calories.
Alcohol, just like protein, fat and carbs, is a nutrient. And alcohol contains seven calories per gram. A little less than fat (9 calories) and more than carbs and protein (4 calories). Alcohol, however, contains no nutrients.
Unlike protein and fats, alcohol is metabolized differently. The body cannot store alcohol like protein and fats. Alcohol places a major burden on the liver to remove it from the body.
Keto is a high-fat, low-carb diet. Essentially we’re eating a specific ratio of protein and fat and keeping our carb intake to below 20 grams per day. Keeping your carb limit below 20 grams per day is what keeps you in ketosis.
Does this mean I can’t have alcohol on keto?
Although drinking alcohol on keto can affect your weight loss efforts, drinking the right types of alcohol in moderation might not be an issue.
When you drink alcohol on keto, you should take the calories from the alcohol into account and know that your body may “pause” ketone production when you are drinking alcohol.
What I mean by “pause” ketone production has to do with something called oxidative priority. Oxidative priority simply means how your body processes or oxidizes (burns) nutrients. Take a look at the pyramid below to visualize the priority in which the body burns nutrients.
Alcohol cannot be stored in the body, so if you are drinking alcohol on keto, the body (or liver) needs to get rid of (burn) it first.
The second nutrient is protein. Without going into too much detail, just know that protein is slightly tricky. Protein takes a lot of energy to burn (TEE) and most protein is used for muscle protein synthesis and the body must work hard to convert it to energy.
The third nutrient to be burned is carbs, aka glucose. Unlike alcohol, glucose can be stored in the body. We store glucose in the liver, some in the bloodstream, and stored glucose in skeletal muscle is called glycogen.
Fat is the last nutrient to be burned.
In other words, if we are eating a high-fat diet and drinking alcohol at the same time, the body will use the nutrients in this order. Any excess nutrients will be stored as energy or converted to fat.
Choosing the best alcoholic beverages on keto
Alcoholic beverages contain different amounts of carbs, calories and alcohol.
Alcohol such as wine, beers, cocktails, sugary mixers, ports, and sherry are high in carbs as you’ll see in the image below. (Carb count as per Cronometer)
- The general rule for wine is usually the sweeter the wine, the higher the carb content. Red and white wines typically have between 3-4 grams of carbs per 100g.
- A vodka and orange juice drink contains approximately 25 grams of carbs. The vodka doesn’t have any carbs, but a glass of orange juice is where the carbs come from.
- Regular or even low-alcohol beers contain anything from 7 to 15 grams of carbs for a single bottle.
- Sweet dessert wines such as port and sherry contain approximately 14 grams of carbs per 103 ml.
Alcohol to Avoid On Keto
- Wine (especially sweet wines)
- Sugary mixers that contain soda, syrups or juices
- Ports and Sherry
Low Carb and Zero Carb Alcoholic Drinks
- Low Carb Beer
- Whiskey, Scotch or Bourbon
Alcoholic beverages such as tequila, gin, brandy, whiskey and vodka are all considered zero carbs.
Personally, I enjoy having a gin and drink it with sugar-free Indian Tonic Water. The alternative sweetener used in the “sugar-free” drink isn’t ideal, but having the zero-calorie sweetener instead of 7.4 grams of carbs from the tonic water (per glass), is way better for me.
Dry red and white wines generally have fewer carbs. Overseas, Dry Farm Wines are keto, low-carb friendly wines. They curate only the highest quality natural wines from small, sustainable family farms (mainly from Europe). Most of their wines have less than 1g of carbs/L.
Deciding whether you can drink alcohol depends on your health-related goals. If you have a lot of weight to lose, abstaining from alcohol for a while may be better.
It’s also important to consider that alcohol lowers inhibition and stimulates appetite. Alcohol is usually enjoyed in a social setting where food and snacks are served, which is not an ideal situation if you’re trying to stick to your diet.
I usually ask my clients to avoid alcohol for the first 6 weeks to ninety days of starting keto. This gives your body time to become fat-adapted.
The key takeaway from this post is alcohol in moderation is okay on a low carb diet. If you are in a social situation where alcohol is served, opt for low carb alcohol options instead. And, if you are struggling to lose weight, consider cutting out alcohol for a while.