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A Ketogenic Diet and Alcohol: Can they Mix?

AlcoholKeto

Trying to stay on a ketogenic diet while partying is something that nobody finds easy to do, there’s carbs pretty much everywhere you look when you’re in a bar. Cutting out all the beer and wine is a great start, but sticking with hard liquor can actually be helpful. Even though hard liquor is made from natural sugars, grains, potatoes, and fruits – during the fermentation and distillation process that sugar is converted into ethyl alcohol.

I’ve read a lot of articles that mention drinking light beers and very dry wine to avoid carbohydrates, but don’t kid yourselves. Light beer can contain anywhere from 7g – 20g net carbs and dry wine, as much as their websites want to push, can average at about 6g per glass.

Keep in mind, though, if you are trying to lose fat – then try your hardest to stay away from alcohol. While you can drink and stay in ketosis, alcohol will be burned by the body in preference of all other nutrients consumed. In other words, alcohol will slow down the fat loss process because a smaller amount of the free fatty acids will be converted into ketones.

Always be wary of the things that can have carbohydrates in when drinking:

  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Mixers (Soda, Juice, Syrups)
  • Flavored Liquor
  • Cocktails

Here’s my go-to list of hard liquors that have zero carbs in. They’re great for a ketogenic diet, but they aren’t great for fat loss. They contain plenty of calories, so keep that in mind. You can also read the chart below on the calorie counts of each.

Vodka

vodka
Vodka is usually made from a gain base such as potatoes, rye, or wheat, and runs around 35 – 50% alcohol by volume. When you’re grabbing a bottle from the liquor store, try to get straight vodka – nothing flavored.

If you must have flavored, there are a number of them that are zero carbs, but do your research online first! Many of the flavored vodkas have syrups and sugars added to them.

Whiskey

Whiskey is made from fermented grain, usually combining rye, wheat, corn, or barley and comes in around 35 – 50% alcohol by volume. Even though it’s a dark liquor, all whiskeys do not have any carbs (or sugars) added – making it a great drink for someone on a ketogenic diet.

Depending on where the whiskey is from is where the name is derived. Scotch, whiskey, and bourbon are similar forms of this alcohol. Some don’t like the taste of whiskey for the pure harshness, so if you’re that type of person I suggest you stick with good ol’ vodka.

whiskey

Tequila

tequila
Most tequila is made from the agave plant and is commonly made at 40% alcohol per volume. There are not too many flavored tequilas on the market, so you don’t have to worry so much about added sugars or carbs. Just be careful when drinking this stuff, it’s well known to make you do crazy things!

The agave plant is grown in many places, but depending on where it is grown will affect how the tequila tastes. In highland areas, you may have a sweeter and more aromatic form of this alcohol.

Rum

Rum is generally made from sugarcane or molasses, and comes in a variety of styles. It’s also zero carbs and zero sugar, but you need to watch out for flavored rums also. Normally, the darker the rum the more rich the flavor is, and the older it is. On average, rum comes in at about 35% alcohol by volume.

When rum is first distilled, it comes out as a clear liquid. It’s then normally placed in bourbon barrels to pick up the oaky flavor and dark color that you’re used to seeing.

rum

Gin

gin
Gin is made from a grain base and typically runs about 35% alcohol by volume. It is normally made with citrus such as lemon, orange, or lime – but be aware of flavored.

Sloe gin is a common flavored gin that’s made in England and flavored with sloe drupes. These have added sugars, and therefore added carbs in them. Most people think of a gin and tonic when they hear gin, but the mixers that go into most cocktails have carbs, so you should stay away and go only for the straight stuff.

Drinking alcohol can in fact deepen your level of ketosis, of course if you are drinking hard liquor that is. Ingestion of alcohol has effects on liver metabolism, in which more ketones are produced as you drink more. When your liver is taking care of the alcohol you just downed, it’s being converted to a triglyceride which can also positively affect the production of ketones.

Be aware that many people (including myself) realize that you get drunk faster and quicker than usual when in ketosis. While that may be a great thing for some, you need to be careful. There’s plenty of people that also experience worse hangover while on a ketogenic diet, so make sure you stay hydrated. The typical advice is to drink 1 glass of water per 1 shot of alcohol you drink.

There is a condition called alcohol ketoacidosis which can be deadly. It usually happens to people who haven’t eaten any food in a long period of time, and are drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. This can lead to dangerous levels of ketones in the blood, which can encourage deadly results.

Alcohol
Calories (1.5 Oz.)
Carbohydrates (g)
Vodka
96
0
Whiskey
105
0
Tequila
96
0
Rum
92
0
Gin
102
0

shoppinglowcarb

Cuisinart CSB-75 Smart Stick 2-Speed 200-Watt Immersion Hand Blender
Spectrum Expeller Pressed Organic Coconut Oil
Sunbeam 76893.05 Kitchen Bake 5-Piece Bakeware Set
alcoholcheatsheet2014redo

All in all, alcohol can be consumed on a ketogenic diet because the production of ketones in the liver increases, but it is best kept to a small amount to avoid any health complications.


There are 16 comments

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  1. Olivia Arizaga

    I blog quite often and I truly appreciate your information. This article has really peaked my interest. I’m going to take a note of your site and keep checking for new details about once per week. I opted in for your RSS feed too.

  2. Todd Fasenmyer

    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been conducting a little research on this. And he actually ordered me lunch simply because I stumbled upon it for him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this matter here on your site.

  3. Percy Sanmartin

    This is a great tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

  4. Aevin

    For the cheat sheet, did you make that yourself, or find it somewhere else? A lot of the numbers are off. For instance, Maker’s Mark is typically 45% ABV and Jack Daniels 40%. Also, Malibu is certainly not 0g carb, there is quite a bit of sugar added to it, at 5.3g / 1 oz.

    • Craig

      Jack Daniels black label is produced around 45% ABV, according to Wikipedia on Jack Daniels.

      The newer bottles of Maker’s Mark are being tested from 40% to 43% ABV.

      The Malibu Coconut Rum has some newer 0 carb bottles they released, but the original is still around 5.3g of carbs per oz., you are correct.

      Hope that clears things up!

  5. Gustavo Prada

    Hey, thanks a ton for this article! I never really could get the hang of drinking beer anyways. Something I dont see in your article though is natural lemon juice, in the case of Rum, Vodka and Gin along with some club soda it could do the trick. According to the livestrong web page 2 tablespoons of lemon juice have about 2.1 grams of carbohydrates (2.6grams for a lime). What do you think?

    • Craig

      2 tbsp. of lemon juice is about 3g of carbs – but it certainly could be used to make a cocktail, especially with vodka or gin. With Rum and tequila I would do lime, but that’s just a personal preference. By the way, you’re very welcome for the article!

  6. Yabbi

    Great info, thanks. Booze is the toughest thing to skip.

    PS. Use ‘wary’ when warning people. ‘Weary’ means tired. Mental trick is wary and warning both start with ‘war’.

    • Craig

      Thanks – and sorry about that! I know there’s a number of spelling mistakes mixed throughout some of the articles. I don’t always catch them so it always helps when people point them out :) (fixed it by the way)

    • Craig

      Judy,

      It can be eaten in moderation. It also depends on what type of cabbage you use. You can always check google for the nutrition information of cabbage from the USDA nutrition and judge whether it’s okay for keto or not :)

  7. Christina

    I thought the reason you want to avoid alcohol while in ketosis is because of our brain & it’s need for fuel. Ketosis happens in the liver. In that state along with using fat stores for energy another important thing that happens is creating an energy source for our brains (because we’re not eating carbs we’re not able to fuel it with glucose). Before ketosis our livers primary function is to detoxify. When we consume alcohol the liver goes back to detoxifying thus it stops producing ketone bodies, thus no fuel for the brain. It’s very easy then for people’s blood sugar to get too low & for them to get lightheaded, faint or even become unconscious. I’ve actually heard several MD’s talk about & strictly discourage alcohol while in ketosis so now I’m confused. Could you please speak to this? Thank you very much!

    • Craig

      Christina,

      Well alcohol can be processed into ketones so your brain is able to use it as energy, it’s just extremely “useless” in the terms of actual nutrients. Alcohol has none. But if you’re just spending 1 night drinking, your body will have enough ketones in it to feed your brain, along with the alcohol’s conversion into ketones. I’d be worried about hitting a state of ketoacidosis during long binge drinking periods, rather than worrying about the energy.

      Hope that helps!


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