Many people believe that adherence to a ketogenic diet means avoiding alcohol altogether. While Ketogenic.com does not condone regular alcohol consumption as part of a well-formulated ketogenic diet, and while it’s true that strict ketogenic dieting may entail refraining from alcohol, the everyday ketogenic dieter not following the lifestyle for therapeutic reasons may choose to occasionally enjoy low-carb drinks. It is interesting to point out that alcohol itself can actually be keto-friendly! In short, in the liver, ethanol (alcohol) is broken down 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! Along with the rise of acetate, we also see a considerable increase in AcAc and BHB. 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 probably thinking. . . you didn’t click on this article to read about the biochemistry of alcohol metabolism. Odds are, you came here to learn how to have low-carb drinks while remaining in ketosis. The main thing to remember when drinking is that 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]. It goes without saying that it is critical to always drink responsibly. We want you to enjoy yourself, but be safe while doing it. Here are some tips for limiting the damage that alcohol can wreak on your state of ketosis, by consuming these low-carb drinks:
Before Getting Started
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 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 is crucial to the health and well-being of anyone, not just the ketogenic dieter.
Beer is a fan favorite for many, but most cast out the idea of enjoying it when they start the ketogenic lifestyle, and this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. Of course, some beers, such as IPAs and Stouts, contain high amounts of carbohydrates; however, there are some low-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, as well as 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 or more grams of carbohydrates, not to mention a nasty hangover! For this reason, it is important to do your homework on wine and find out 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 great low-carb options as well, and a lot of Champagnes can even contain less than 2 grams of carbohydrates (just make sure to hold the orange juice). The point is that 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 a low carbohydrate, keto-friendly wine that can serve as a solid alternative for those looking to be more on the strict side of their ketogenic diet!
For some, beer and wine aren’t a preference and, thus, you may opt for a 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 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 to avoid the fruit used in some mixed drinks as well!
The Day After
If your occasional low-carb drinks turn into a few more 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 taken, 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 a.m. 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 few 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 day 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, as well as the next day! This will not only improve your health, but your feelings of wellbeing.
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 low-carb drinks then you should. Using the tips provided in this article, you can enjoy a few cold beverages without setting yourself back. Remember to always drink responsibly and stay safe!
- 1. 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), 955–961.
- 2. 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.
- 3. Korsten, M.A. Alcoholism and pancreatitis: Does nutrition play a role? Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):232-237, 1989.
- 4. Feinman, L. Absorption and utilization of nutrients in alcoholism. Alcohol Health & Research World 13(3):207-210, 1989.
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