A common question that many people have when they’re on, or considering starting, the Ketogenic Diet is, “Can I drink alcohol while on Keto?”
To answer that question, I created this video which explains absolutely everything you need to know about drinking alcohol while on Keto.
One of the biggest questions people have when it comes to the Keto Diet is, “Can I drink alcohol while on Keto?”
It’s a question I get asked all the time, and it’s definitely something I wondered when I first started on Keto almost 10 years ago.
Over 80% of American’s drink alcohol, so if this includes YOU then you probably have this question, as well: Can you drink alcohol while following a keto diet and STILL be successful?
That’s why I created this video — to answer the question once and for all: Are keto and alcohol compatible? Can you do both at the same time?
I’m going to explain everything you need to know about drinking alcohol on Keto — exactly what you can drink and what you absolutely must avoid — so you can be super successful losing weight on Keto.
A couple of quick points before I begin though:
First, I’m not going to argue the “rights” and “wrongs” of drinking alcohol. The majority of American’s drink alcohol, so if you’re watching this video, odds are you may indulge in an alcoholic beverage from time-to-time.
I’m not here to shame you because I’m some “health” guru.
Is Alcohol the healthiest thing in the world? NO.
But at the end of the day, if you’re of drinking age, it’s your life and you decide whether or not to drink alcohol — it’s entirely up to you.
Also — sometimes we can set ourselves up for failure. We decide we want to make a change and improve ourselves, but can overdo it — maybe something like, I’m not only going to go on Keto, I’m also going to eat 100% organic, I’m going to get up every day at 5:00 a.m. and exercise and, on top of all that, I’m going to give up alcohol entirely.
All of these things can be important, but setting the bar that high for ourselves — especially when starting a new diet — that we have to be absolutely perfect is going to be tough.
And, by going to that extreme — we’re probably setting ourselves up for failure.
So, while I’m a big fan of eating and living as healthy as I can, I also know I’m not perfect.
I know situations are sometimes going to come up that involve drinking and I’ll want to join in the fun — within reason.
For me, it’s just unrealistic to say I’m 100% giving up alcohol on Keto. That’s just setting myself up for failure.
So, I think it makes more sense to have a plan for when those situations do come up — so I know what I can, and can’t do.
That way I either don’t completely blow up my Keto diet efforts or have to commit to living like a monk and never having another drink.
One final quick point — Just because we’re discussing alcohol in this video, I’m absolutely not encouraging anyone to drink. And, if you’re under the legal drinking age, you know you shouldn’t be drinking alcohol!
All right, let’s get into it…
As you probably already know, the keto diet gets its name from the word Ketosis, which is an adaptive state your body goes into when lacking carbohydrates.
To survive, your body switches from burning carbohydrates for energy, to fats for energy. This is a drastic metabolic change and is exactly what makes the keto diet so effective.
When you’re on keto, your body continues along in a state of ketosis until something “kicks” it out, such as if you consume too many carbohydrates in a day.
BUT did you know that there are also certain things you can consume that don’t knock you OUT of ketosis but rather puts it temporarily on hold? That’s right! And alcohol is one of these unique things which can put ketosis on hold.
But what do I mean “puts ketosis on hold?”
Well, let’s look at what happens inside your body…
When you’re in ketosis, your liver is converting fat into ketones for energy. Since your body doesn’t have carbohydrates for energy, it relies on these ketones as the major energy source to keep you alive and moving.
But when Alcohol is entered into the equation, something dramatic takes place!
By itself, alcohol is not very toxic and can be easily processed by your body, however, the byproducts of this process produces something that IS very toxic to your body.
I’m talking about a chemical compound called “acetaldehyde.”
Acetaldehyde is a poison and is, in fact, a close relative of formaldehyde. (Yes, formaldehyde, the same nasty-smelling gas used in making building materials and many household products.)
To avoid serious harm, or even death, your body must deal with the acetaldehyde fast, before it wreaks havoc on your body, so, it converts the acetaldehyde into acetic acid radicals, which can then be converted into energy for your body in the citric acid cycle.
Notice I just said the word, “energy?”
Yes, alcohol is an energy source — and it turns out, a very readily available energy source. The energy is so available, in fact, that your body will actually prioritize alcohol over fats and even carbohydrates, meaning it will derive energy from the alcohol first, before anything else.
To paint an even clearer picture: let’s assume you are in ketosis. You’re out with your friends, it’s Saturday night, and out of nowhere Karen suggests karaoke, and next thing you know, you’re ordering shots at the bar because you sure as hell won’t get on stage without a little liquid confidence first.
That liquor enters your body at Mach 10 and your body immediately begins processing it. But in doing so, your body will temporarily hit the “pause button” on ketosis until all the alcohol is broken down and dealt with.
Only after all the alcohol has been processed will your body switch back into ketosis. Continue adding more alcohol into the equation, and your body will just indefinitely postpone ketosis until all the additional alcohol is processed.
A good example I like to use to describe what’s happening is this:
Under normal circumstances, alcohol alone will not kick you out of ketosis. It just simply puts ketosis “on hold” — unlike adding carbohydrates to the equation which can completely knock you out of ketosis, causing you to start all over again and setting your weight loss goals back days or even weeks!!
So, it’s possible to drink an alcoholic beverage and only lose an hour of fat burning while your body is processing the alcohol.
But again, the amount of time your ketosis is on hold, will depend upon the amount of alcohol you consumed. After all, one glass of wine can have a much different impact on your body than 5 or 6 beers will.
So then, back to our original question — is it possible to drink alcohol while on the keto diet? Well, as you probably guessed already, the answer is YES! It is possible.
BUT, if your goal of following a keto diet is to lose weight as quickly as possible, you should know that drinking alcohol can postpone ketosis, costing you valuable time. Doing the two together just isn’t the most efficient way to diet.
On the other hand, if you’re one of the majority of Americans who enjoys alcohol from time-to-time, it can be difficult to change too many habits at the same time and still find success.
By following the keto diet, you’re already making a major change to your daily habits. If you feel that to enjoy yourself you need a drink, don’t stress about it. In regards to the keto diet, it’s not the end of the world.
Now, before you march down to the local liquor store, you should know that not all alcoholic beverages are created equal.
Some drinks have additives, along with alcohol, that can in fact kick you out of ketosis. It isn’t the alcohol’s fault, but rather the ingredients that are included with the alcohol that are the culprits.
Let’s take beer for example, which is a combination of ingredients added during the brewing process.
The final product, the product that you drink, can be a combination of hops, grains, alcohol, water, and even spices or berries for flavoring. There is SO much more going on in your glass of beer than just alcohol — which is probably why it tastes so good.
But because of all these additives, a standard lager beer can have 150-200 calories in a single bottle or can. I’ve seen craft beers that have had nearly 300 calories in a single glass!
Not only that, but beers are absolutely loaded with carbohydrates. I’m talking 10 — sometimes forty — grams of carbohydrates in a single bottle or can. That means having only one or two beers could possibly kick your body out of ketosis.
Beer is probably the absolute worst alcoholic beverage you can drink while trying to stay on your keto diet. All the wheat, rice, or barley is simply not going to do you any favors in the weight loss department.
How about wine?
Wine is enjoyed by millions and often praised as having life-extending benefits. One day scientists are saying to drink a glass every day, then next they’re saying to abstain from alcohol altogether.
The argument goes back-and-forth almost daily it seems — and we’re not going to solve it here — but how does wine fit within a keto diet?
Wine is created from grapes, which yeast converts to alcohol. A single glass of wine can have 140 to 170 calories, depending on the wine — and of course there are thousands of varieties of wine.
What about the carbohydrates in wine? A typical glass of wine will contain around 4-6 grams of carbohydrates. Not too bad compared to beer, which we just talked about.
So, you’re probably okay having a glass or two of wine without having to worry if it’s going to kick your body out of ketosis. As long as you haven’t met your daily allowance of carbohydrates already from other food and drinks you’ve consumed.
Next, let’s look at vodka — maybe the favorite liquor to have as shots or with mixers!
Vodka is basically water and ethanol — aka alcohol. It’s pretty pure as far as additives go so it’s going to be low-ish calorie.
A one ounce shot of vodka can contain 64 to 70 calories and usually doesn’t contain any carbohydrates — again because it doesn’t have many additives like wine or beer does. It’s almost pure alcohol.
Vodka is usually a safe bet when it comes to drinking on the keto diet.
A BIG caveat though: if you mix vodka with fruit, soda, bloody Mary mix, etc., you’re going to add a ton of additional calories and possibly more carbohydrates and sugar.
So, be very careful how your mix your vodka lest you want to end up with a drink that’s a recipe for keto disaster. When in doubt, stick to shots, martinis, or mixes of water, diet tonic, or diet soda.
Now, let’s look at another clear alcohol: Gin.
I’m a fan of gin because, in my opinion, it has a more appealing flavor than vodka, which it gets during the distillation process from juniper berries. Gin pairs nicely with an assortment of low-calorie mixers.
Its calorie content is roughly identical to vodka, as is its carbohydrate content, which is zero.
If you want to mix a gin drink, follow the same suggestions I gave you for vodka: stick to shots, martinis, or mixes of water, diet tonic, or diet soda and you shouldn’t have a problem with getting kicked out of ketosis.
Now, let’s take a look at whiskey.
Even though its appearance is nothing like vodka or gin, whiskey shares an almost identical calorie count of 70 calories per shot and zero carbohydrates.
Perhaps you’ve heard that if you’re trying to lose weight, to stick with clear alcohol options, such as vodka or gin.
But when you compare the nutritional information of vodka or gin to whiskey, you’ll see there is no evidence to back this advice. There are no hidden carbohydrates in whiskey — no sugars, no vitamins — nothing!
Like most forms of hard liquor, whiskey is basically just ethanol alcohol with nutrition-less coloring that it took on somewhere along the distillation process.
Stick to mixing whiskey with diet coke or drinking it on the rocks and you’ll have yourself a relatively low-calorie drink without the carbohydrates.
To recap, yes, if you want to drink alcohol while on the keto diet it’s most likely not going to be the ruin of your weight loss goals.
Alcohol will however, cause your body to pause temporarily ketosis until all the alcohol is processed, so it’s definitely not the most effective way to lose weight, especially if you’re looking to lose lots of fat in a short amount of time.
Additionally, some alcohols are made with ingredients that can give them hidden carbohydrates and sugars. These are BIG no, no’s if you’re on any diet and if you have enough of these types of drinks in a single sitting, they can certainly kick you completely out of ketosis, setting you days or weeks behind.
I created this list, ranking “good” and “bad” alcohol options, based on their likelihood to disrupt your diet.
Hopefully, this video helped dispel some myths and shed some light on your own keto journey!