Is alcohol keto-friendly? Ketogenic diets consist of very-low carbohydrates and high fat. To achieve ketosis, carbohydrate intake should be limited to 50 grams daily, equivalent to less than two bananas. Keto dieters worry about alcohol consumption because some alcohol is high in calories and/or carbohydrates. Keep reading to learn about alcohol's effect on ketosis and drinks with lower carbohydrates.
Ketogenic diets require below 50 grams of carbohydrate consumption daily to achieve ketosis. Because alcohol is high in carbohydrates and calories, it may negatively impact ketosis.
Spirits and liqueurs have zero carbohydrates if they're drunk without mixers, such as tonic water, fruit juices, and carbonated drinks, which are high in sugar.
Some light and dry wines, as well as light beers, have lower carbohydrate content compared to other beers and wines.
Cocktails are high in sugar and alcohol. They should be the last option for ketogenic dieters.
What is a ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet consists of high fat, moderate protein, and very-low-carbohydrate. The diet severely restricts carbohydrate intake to below 50 grams per day. When the body lacks carbohydrates, it breaks down fats. In the liver, fatty acids are metabolized into ketones, then released into the bloodstream.
Ketogenic diets result in nutritional ketosis, an increase of ketone bodies (acetoacetate, β-hydroxybutyrate, and acetone) in the blood. The heart, muscles, kidneys, and other tissues use ketones to function in the absence of glucose.
Can I drink alcohol on a ketogenic diet?
The liver has many vital functions, including metabolizing alcohol and maintaining blood glucose levels. However, the liver prioritizes alcohol detoxification. Therefore, drinking alcohol suppresses the liver's glucose production, which may result in low blood glucose levels and hypoglycemia.
Hospital admission due to hypoglycemia was reported in people following a ketogenic diet. A woman aged 69 years who followed a ketogenic diet for a year was admitted to the hospital after consuming alcoholic beverages. The patient's results showed hypoglycemia, increased beta-hydroxybutyrate (a ketone body), and low insulin levels. Drinking alcohol on a ketogenic diet may affect your metabolism in a few different ways. You should be aware that:
- Alcohol may worsen hypoglycemia. People on a ketogenic diet generally have lower blood glucose levels. In addition, while your liver metabolizes alcohol, glucose production is suppressed in the liver, which can even lower blood glucose levels.
- Most people who follow a ketogenic diet aim to lose or maintain weight. Although low-carb alcohol may not break your ketosis, alcohol is high in calories and suppresses fat oxidation.
- There is a lack of studies showing the effects of nutritional ketosis on alcohol metabolism and tolerance.
Alcohol consumption can hinder ketogenesis. If you'd like to consume alcohol, try choosing ones with lower alcohol and fewer carbohydrates and calories. So, let's look at alcohol's carbohydrate content and calories.
Beer is made from fermented barley. Alcohol content, carbohydrates, and calories vary from beer to beer. Beers usually contain 4% to 12% alcohol. However, regular beers contain more carbohydrates compared to light and low-carb beers.
|Alcohol||Approx. carbohydrate content per can (360 g)||Approx. calories per can (360 g)|
|Higher alcohol beer||1 g||209 kcal|
|Low-carb beer||3 g||97 kcal|
|Light beer||6 g||104 kcal|
|Regular beer||13 g||155 kcal|
|Sweetened alcoholic malt beverage||37 g||245 kcal|
Wines contain approximately 12 to 24 % alcohol, and their taste, color, and smell vary broadly based on grapes and the winemaking process. Light and dry wines have lower carbohydrates compared to other wines.
|Alcohol||Approx. carbohydrate content per glass (180 g)||Approx. calories per glass (180 g)|
|Wine spritzer (wine and club soda or seltzer water)||3 g||88 kcal|
|Light wine||3 g||88 kcal|
|Wine (white, rose, and red)||5–7 g||150 kcal|
|Rice wine (sake)||9 g||241 kcal|
|Dessert wine||14 g per glass (105 g)||168 kcal per glass (105 g)|
Spirits and liqueurs
Spirits and liqueurs do not contain carbohydrates without the addition of common mixers such as cola, fruit juices, sweeteners, energy drinks, tonics, and lemonade. Despite their no carbohydrate content, spirits and liqueurs are higher in alcohol.
|Alcohol||Approx. carbohydrate content per shot (42 g)||Approx. calories per shot (42 g)|
|Rum, Whiskey, Gin, Vodka||none||97 kcal|
Cocktails should be the last choice for someone trying to restrict carbohydrates. Cocktails are a mix of spirits, liqueurs, and flavoring ingredients such as juices, carbonated drinks, and tonic water, which are high in sugar. Therefore, that's why cocktails are high in carbohydrates and not keto-friendly.
|Alcohol||Approx. carbohydrate content per 100 g||Approx. calories per 100 g|
|Gin and tonic||7 g||84 kcal|
|Whiskey and cola||8 g||89 kcal|
|Vodka and energy drink||8 g||90 kcal|
|Vodka and lemonade||9 g||93 kcal|
|Rum cooler||10 g||68 kcal|
Sizes of shots and glasses may vary, which makes it challenging to control carbohydrate or calorie intake while drinking. For reference, US standard drink sizes are:
- 12 ounces of 5% alcohol beer
- 8 ounces of 7% alcohol malt liquor
- 5 ounces of 12% alcohol wine
- 1.5 ounces for 80-proof, 40% distilled spirits or liquor
Limits on alcohol consumption
Keep in mind that heavy alcohol consumption harms health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heavy drinking is defined as consuming eight or more alcoholic drinks for women and 15 or more alcoholic drinks for men per week. Excessive alcohol use can cause heart, liver, and other diseases such as cancer.
Consuming alcoholic beverages won't necessarily hinder your ketogenic diet, but you do have to be more selective about what and how much you drink. Avoiding specific drinks and mixers will help your body stay in ketosis. Therefore, if you enjoy an alcoholic beverage occasionally, cheer up because a ketogenic diet doesn't mean giving it up.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. What is the Ketogenic Diet?
- Journal of the Endocrine Society. A Case of Hypoglycemia Associated With the Ketogenic Diet and Alcohol Use.
- Frontiers in Psychiatry. Nutritional Ketosis as a Potential Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. U.S. Department of Agriculture, FoodData Central.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Use and Your Health.