Science

Alcohol and Ketosis: What's Their Connection?

Published on: September 10, 2019

Alcohol and Ketosis: What's Their Connection?

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Can you enjoy alcohol and still maintain ketosis? You may ask because most flavored beverages contain carbs. Read this guide to learn more about the relationship between ketosis and alcohol.

We’ll discuss how alcohol can hinder your progress and tips on how you can have it on the keto diet. Ready? Let’s dive right in.


ketosis-and-alcohol

How Does Alcohol Affect Ketosis?

Drinking alcohol on the keto diet has implications.

First, here’s what you should know:

Alcohol contains no nutrients - proteins, vitamins, and minerals [1].

But that’s just not it. Alcohol also prevents your body from absorbing and using important micronutrients. These micronutrients include the following [1, 2, 3]:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
  • Zinc

Here’s another interesting fact:

Your body treats alcohol as a poison or toxin. This is because when your body breaks down alcohol, acetaldehyde is produced. Acetaldehyde damages your DNA [4].

Because of this damaging property, your body tries to get rid of alcohol fast. The moment you swallow alcohol, it rapidly enters your bloodstream and passes throughout your body [5].

In fact, your body metabolizes alcohol first before other macronutrients.

how-the-human-body-metabolizes-alcohol

When it gets rid of alcohol, only then can it break down your stored fat into fatty acids and ketones. So as you can see, ketogenesis slows down with too much alcohol. This also happens if you drink alcohol that contains a lot of carbs.

Alcohol can kick you out of ketosis and promote weight gain in different ways such as the following:


alcohol-can-kick-you-out-of-ketosis

Increases your calorie intake

According to the NIH, a standard glass of wine or a pint of 5% strength beer is equivalent to about 150 calories, which is the amount of calories in one ounce of potato chips [6].

Remember that you need to balance the number of calories you drink with the calories you burn. If you’re not burning off excess calories, you become at risk for weight gain [7].


Lowers your inhibitions, making it easy to reach for unhealthy foods

Drinking more alcohol is linked to an unhealthy diet, as a 2010 study shows. Both men and women are more likely to reach for foods that are high in sugars and unhealthy fats after drinking alcohol [8].

Alcohol lowers your inhibitions. It amplifies social behaviors [9]. This will help explain why you cannot resist non-keto-friendly foods when under the influence of alcohol. Another research revealed that alcohol increases your hunger and appetite [10].


Packs hidden sugars

Some popular alcoholic drinks contain several teaspoons of sugar in just one serving. For example, Baileys Original Irish Cream contains 11.2g of sugar per ounce.

That is why if you consume alcohol on the keto diet, be sure to choose drier options. Your mixers need to be sugar-free as well.


alcohol-consumption-and-ketosis

Can you drink alcohol and stay in ketosis?

Quick answer: Yes.

You don’t need to feel left out even when you’re following a keto-friendly lifestyle.

After all, alcohol like red wine has some potential benefits such as the improvement of heart health [11].

But as with most things, too much of it presents more risks than benefits.

There are ways to enjoy alcohol while maintaining ketone production. (We’ll talk more about that later.)

In reality, you have a bigger motivation to maintain ketosis while consuming alcohol. And that’s the fact that those who follow a keto diet have a greater sensitivity to alcohol. This means that you will need less alcoholic drinks to relax and produce a calming effect [12].

drink-low-carb-alcoholic-drinks-to-stay-in-ketosis

Can you guess why ketosis increases tipsiness?

Here’s the principle behind it: Carbohydrates reduce blood alcohol levels.

Researchers had studied the effects of meal composition on blood alcohol levels. They recruited 51 male volunteers and subdivided them into two groups. One group ate a high-carbohydrate meal, while the other group ate a high-protein meal [13].

The researchers then provided the subjects with alcohol to reach a blood level of 60 mg/100 ml.

These were the researchers’ observations [13]:

The high-carbohydrate meal lowered the subjects’ blood alcohol levels within 2 hours after drinking. They concluded that carbohydrates reduce intoxication [13].

Bottom line?

Keto diet followers possess reduced muscle glycogen stores. Therefore, they are more likely to feel the effects of alcohol by drinking less amounts of the beverage.

Therefore, limit your carbohydrate intake and your alcohol consumption for an optimal healthy lifestyle.

And if you do drink alcohol, try not to choose a high-carb alcoholic beverage that could sabotage your keto-friendly lifestyle.


how-much-alcohol-to-consume-to-stay-in-ketosis

How much alcohol can I consume and still stay in ketosis?

Here’s the answer:

It depends on the type of alcoholic beverage you’ll be drinking.

Some alcoholic drinks contain more carbohydrates than others. It’s best to steer clear of high-carb drinks. Choose low-carb alcoholic drink options instead.

We’ll dive into that in a while, but as a general rule, stick to one alcoholic drink per occasion. Having too many drinks in one sitting will surely knock you out of ketosis.


ketosis-and-alcohol-consumption

What Alcohol Should I Drink and Avoid to Stay in Ketosis?

Like we mentioned, some drinks are better than the rest because they contain fewer to no carbs. If you’re wondering which drinks to choose and avoid, we’ve prepared a list for you.


KETO-FRIENDLY ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES (YOU CAN DRINK):


Hard Liquor

Most hard liquors have 0 grams of carbs, which means that they’re safe for keto dieters. Be careful with what you add into them though. Adding soft drinks and juice will quickly boost their carb content.

Type

Serving

Total Carbs

Cognac, Hennessy

1 serving (1oz)

2g [14]

Vodka

1 fl oz (no ice)

0g [15]

Rum

1 fl oz (no ice)

0g [16]

Whiskey

1 fl oz (no ice)

0.03g [17]

Scotch, Dewar’s

1 shot (1oz)

0g [18]


Wines

Dry wines contain fewer carbs. One glass of a dry wine is fine if you have a carbohydrate limit of 20-50 grams per day. There is no sugary sweetness in dry wines. You won’t need to worry about increasing your insulin levels with just one glass.

Type

Serving

Total Carbs

Pinot blanc

 5 fl oz serving

2.85g [19]

Merlot

 5 fl oz serving

3.69g [20]

Riesling Wine

5 fl oz serving

5.54g [21]


Beers

You have to be more careful with beers. Beers with the label “light” contain fewer carbs than their regular versions.

Type

Serving

Total Carbs

Bud Light, Anheuser-Busch

1 can 12oz

7g [22]

Miller Lite

1 bottle (12oz)

3.2g [23]

Ultra Pure Gold, Michelob

1 bottle (12oz)

2.5g [24]


AVOID THESE NON-KETO-FRIENDLY DRINKS:

Type

Serving

Total Carbs

Margarita

1 cocktail

10.67g [25]

Bloody Mary

1 cocktail

4.88g [26]

Sangria

1 drink

22.59g [27]

Piña colada

1 cocktail

29.65g [28]

Regular beer

1 can

12.64g [29]

Cosmopolitan

1 cocktail

12.04g [30]


How about mixers?

Mixers are non-alcoholic ingredients that you add to your beverage. They’re meant to enhance the flavor of your drink. Be sure to choose low-carb, sugar-free mixers such as:

  • Diet soda
  • Soda water
  • Sugar-free iced tea

A general rule:

If a drink tastes sweet, there’s a huge chance that it has more carbs. Therefore, it’s best to stay away from it.


7 Tips on Drinking Alcohol While in Ketosis

Should you choose to enjoy a bit of alcohol in your low-carb keto-friendly lifestyle, keep these things in mind:


tips-on-drinking-alcohol-in-ketogenic-diet

1. Have a “one drink only” rule.

Alcohol interferes with fat metabolism because your body tries to get rid of alcohol first.

Adopt a rule where you only get to drink one serving of alcohol. This is especially true if you have a daily carb limit of 20-50 grams per day on keto. Again, beers and mixers are likely to pack more carbs and sugar.

And just because you can enjoy one drink, doesn’t mean you get to have it on a daily basis. Limit your alcohol intake to three drinks per week. No more than that.


2. Take salt and drink more water after consuming alcohol.

Alcohol is considered a diuretic, which means that it makes you pee more. Study also shows that alcohol with higher percentages increase your urine output [31].

take-salt-and-drink-more-water-after-consuming-alcohol-while-in ketosis

If you’re still in the process of adjusting to a ketogenic lifestyle, you could be at risk for electrolyte imbalances. Remember that at this point, your body is burning through its glycogen stores. You don’t want to lose more electrolytes as a result of boozing.

Counteract the diuretic effect of alcohol by taking salt (which contains sodium) and drinking more water.


3. Remember to go slow.

People recall feeling more euphoric on alcohol when they used to be carbohydrate eaters. When they go on keto, alcohol makes them more intoxicated and sleepy. This is the brutal truth when you’re drinking alcohol on keto.

Those on a standard American diet don’t get intoxicated easily because their glycogen stores are full. And when you have more glycogen, your body processes alcohol much slower.

If you’re a keto dieter, drink alcohol as if you’re completely new to it. Slow down the rate at which you’re consuming alcohol and pay attention to how you feel.


4. Research an alcoholic drink beforehand.

Like researching keto-friendly and non-keto-friendly foods, it’s also good to know if a drink can be bad for you. There are a lot of alcohols and mixtures that contain sweeteners and flavorings.

As a rule, beers tend to pack more carbohydrates. When it comes to wine, choose drier varieties. If a drink has fruit in it, avoid it.


have-a-keto-meal-before-drinking

5. Have a low-carbohydrate, keto-friendly meal first.

Eating a high-carbohydrate meal minimizes the impact of alcohol. But when you’re on a keto diet, you shouldn’t have carbs or else you get kicked out of ketosis.

Here’s what you should do to reduce tipsiness:

Eat a meal that supports your ketogenic lifestyle. Consume foods that are rich in fats and protein. Great options include eggs, meat, and fatty fish.

Aside from delaying alcohol absorption, fats and protein also keep you satiated. As a result, you’re less likely to crave high-carbohydrate and sweet foods after drinking alcohol.


6. Be careful with your food choices after you drink.

Even if you choose a zero-carb or low-carb drink, what you eat afterward could put you off ketosis. When you’re tipsy, you lose some of your inhibitions, such as self-discipline in eating.

Stick with keto-friendly options and watch your daily carb target. For example, that late-night pizza is a no-no as is that slice of chocolate cake or hamburger and fries.


home-made-low-carb-alcoholic-drink

7. Make your own low-carb alcoholic drink!

Last but not least, consider making your own drink at home. Why not? Use your knowledge on low-carb alcohols to create a flavorful drink.

In our Keto Drinks section, you’ll find various options such as our Low-Carb Daiquiri which has only 3.5g of total carbs per serving or our Kamikaze Shots that contains just 1.9g of total carbs per serving.

Conclusion

Ketosis and alcohol may not seem like the perfect match. But the truth is, you can consume alcohol without sabotaging your keto diet goals.

The key? Choose a low-carb option. Sweet drinks contain more sugar. If you can, avoid alcohol altogether!

Remember that alcohol contains many calories with no nutrients. Too much alcohol can increase your desire to munch on something unhealthy.

Choose just one drink on a special occasion.

We hope this guide helps!


Takeaways

  • Your body gets rid of alcohol first before it processes other nutrients.
  • Hard liquors, dry wines, and low-carb beers are fine for ketoers.
  • Occasional drinking on keto should not slow down your progress.
  • People who follow a keto diet get intoxicated faster because their glycogen stores are depleted.
  • If you pair alcohol with a mixer, opt for sugar-free ones.

References:

  1. Firth G, Manzo LG. How Alcohol Affects Nutrition and Endurance. https://wellness.ucsd.edu/studenthealth/resources/health-topics/alcohol-drugs/Pages/alcohol-nutrition-endurance.aspx
  2. American Physiological Society (APS). Chronic drinking interferes with absorption of critical vitamins by pancreas. 2016 May 12 - https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160512085348.htm
  3. NIH. Alcohol Alert. 1993 October - https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa22.htm
  4. ... View all references

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