Many people believe that adherence to a ketogenic diet means avoiding alcohol altogether. Ketogenic.com does not condone the consumption of alcohol and while it may be true that strict ketogenic dieting may entail refraining from alcohol, the everyday ketogenic connoisseur not following the diet for therapeutic reasons may choose to enjoy the occasional drink. It is interesting to point out that alcohol itself can actually be ketogenic! In short, ethanol (alcohol) is broken down in the liver to acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl-coA), free acetate, or broken down through various condensation reactions. As we know, acetyl-CoA can either be utilized in the Krebs Cycle, used for ketogenesis, or to produce ketone bodies, acetoacetate (AcAc), or in peripheral blood increases about 20 times the normal level when ethanol is present; n (1)! Along with the rise of acetate, we also see a considerable increase in AcAc and BHB (2). While it is true that alcohol consumption could result in ketogenesis, Ketogenic.com certainly does not condone this method of inducing ketosis for obvious reasons.
I know what you’re thinking… you didn’t click on this article to read about the biochemistry of alcohol metabolism – and if you did – check back soon for a much more detailed article on this topic and the science behind alcohol! Odds are you came here to learn how to have a drink or two while remaining in ketosis. The main thing to remember when drinking is alcohol does contain calories – approximately 7 calories per gram. More importantly to the ketogenic dieter, most alcohols contain a significant amount of carbohydrates, which can not only blunt fat metabolism but also prevent ketogenesis from occurring (3,4,5). It goes without saying that it is critical to always drink responsibly. I want you to enjoy yourself, but be safe while doing it. Here are some tips for limiting the damage that alcohol could wreak on your state of ketosis:
Whether you plan on enjoying a single alcoholic beverage or several, what you do before you drink can be the deciding factor to not only your night out but also how you feel the next day. Make sure not to drink on an empty stomach and always go into your night out hydrated. Taking these precautionary methods are crucial to the health and well-being of anyone, not just the ketogenic-dieter.
Although the tailgating season is coming to an end, beer is still a fan favorite for many. Whenever you decided to make the lifestyle shift towards a ketogenic diet, I am sure you cast away the idea of enjoying an occasional beer but this does not necessarily have to be the case. Of course, some beers such as IPA’s and Stouts contain high amounts of carbohydrates; however, there are some lower carb options that are more keto-friendly. In fact, some low calorie light beers contain as little as 1.9 grams of carbohydrates! Unless you are prescribed a strict low-carb diet, a ketogenic lifestyle does not mean that you cannot enjoy these lower carb options every once in a while. My advice is to just be conscious about the beer you choose and the carbohydrate content in each drink.
Whether you are going out to dinner or enjoying a cozy night in with friends and family, wine is always a nice addition to the party. However, for some, this glass or two of wine can turn into a bottle and bring with it 300+ grams of carbohydrates and a nasty hangover! For this reason, it is important to do your homework on wine and find which choices are better for the ketogenic lifestyle.
Wines such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay can contain as little as 3 carbs per 5 ounce serving. Certain red wines are typically great low carb options and a lot of Champagnes can even contain less than 2 grams of carbohydrates (just make sure to hold on the orange juice). The moral of the story is you can still enjoy a nice glass of wine, just make sure to be conscious about the type and amount you are consuming. Recently, a great company called Dry Farm Wines launched with a low carbohydrate, keto-friendly wine that can serve as a solid alternative for those looking to be a little stricter on their ketogenic diet!
For some of you drink connoisseurs, beer and wine aren’t a preference and thus you may opt for a little stronger cocktail. Traditionally, I have always preferred a nice whiskey and Coke on the rocks with a lime but since adopting a low carb lifestyle, I have had to find alternatives.
When deciding on a liquor, be wary of the carbohydrate content. Certain liquors can be chalked full of sugar such as flavored alcohols! However, when enjoying mixed drinks this is only half the battle. The next step is looking at your mixer. Whatever your drink of choice is, try and find a low carb mixer substitute. Full sugar sodas, juices, and even tonic water contain absurd amounts of sugar that can harm your state of ketosis. Try mixing with a diet pop or club soda. Or choose water with a splash of zero calorie flavoring like MiO®. This can be a great way of making sure you get enough water in while drinking. The you of tomorrow will thank you! Don’t forget also to avoid the fruit used in some mixed drinks!
The Day After
If your occasional drink turns into a few extra than originally planned, you may experience some not so friendly feelings the next day. This may include a pounding headache, an upset stomach or worst of all…both! Depending on the severity of your actions, this can last anywhere between 12 and 48 hours. If proper precautionary methods aren’t taking, nights of drinking alcohol will likely lead to dehydration which is why you may be feeling that nasty hangover. Here are a few tips for reducing your hangover.
Getting a nice big meal in following a night of drinking may be just what the doctor ordered. Whether you decide to do this at 3 am or when you wake up the next morning, it is important to remember your stomach may not be able to tolerate certain types of foods. Luckily for the ketogenic dieter, greasy foods tend to be a hangover favorite so a couple extra pieces of bacon may do just the trick.
Making sure that your body has the essential electrolytes it needs will make the difference between a miserable next 12 hours and a bearable one. It has already been mentioned that we may be electrolyte depleted when adhering to a ketogenic diet and drinking alcohol just makes it worse. Supplementing with electrolytes before and after a night out on the town will be essential for restoring your healthy state. One of my go to strategies is to eat some salty pickles before bed chased by a large bottle of water to replenish some lost fluid and electrolytes.
As mentioned earlier, dehydration is a fundamental feature of alcohol consumption. Couple this with increased water excretion from the ketogenic diet and you have a recipe for disaster! Be sure to drink plenty of water before going to bed and the next day! This will not only improve your health but also your feelings of wellbeing.
While some jokes are made throughout this article, I want to make it known that by no means do I condone the unsafe overconsumption of alcohol. Alcohol intake should always be monitored and done safely. Additionally, not everyone will be interested in consuming alcohol on a ketogenic diet and that’s great! However, it is important to note that no diet is sustainable if someone feels restricted and if you want to enjoy a drink then you should. Using the tips provided in this article, you can enjoy a couple cold beverages without setting yourself back too far. Remember to always drink responsibly and stay safe!
- Certain alcohol choices can be more keto-friendly than others.
- When it comes to beer, stick to the light beers.
- Avoid sugary, fruity wines that contain added sugars.
- Stay away from sweet mixers and opt for a diet soda, zero calorie, or low calorie flavor substitute.
- Drink water, eat food, replenish electrolytes.
- Lundquist, F., Tygstrup, N., Winkler, K., Mellemgaard, K., & Munck-Petersen, S. (1962). Ethanol metabolism and production of free acetate in the human liver. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 41(5), 955.
- Forsander, 0. A., and Riihi, N. C. R. Metabolites produced in the liver during alcohol oxidation. J. biol. Chem. 1960, 235, 34. 5. Seligson, D., Waldstein, S. S.
- Korsten, M.A. Alcoholism and pancreatitis: Does nutrition play a role? Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):232-237, 1989.
- Feinman, L. Absorption and utilization of nutrients in alcoholism. Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):207-210, 1989.
- Thomson, A.D., and Pratt, O.E. Interaction of nutrients and alcohol: Absorption, transport, utilization, and metabolism. In: Watson, R.R., and Watzl, B., eds. Nutrition and Alcohol. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1992. pp. 75-99.