Can I Drink Alcohol on Ketogenic Diet?

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.

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.

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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

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.

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AlcoholApprox. carbohydrate content per can (360 g)Approx. calories per can (360 g)
Higher alcohol beer
1 g209 kcal
Low-carb beer3 g97 kcal
Light beer6 g104 kcal
Regular beer13 g155 kcal
Sweetened alcoholic malt beverage37 g245 kcal

Wine

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.

AlcoholApprox. carbohydrate content per glass (180 g)Approx. calories per glass (180 g)
Wine spritzer (wine and club soda or seltzer water)3 g88 kcal
Light wine3 g88 kcal
Wine (white, rose, and red)5–7 g150 kcal
Rice wine (sake) 9 g241 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.

AlcoholApprox. carbohydrate content per shot (42 g)Approx. calories per shot (42 g)
Rum, Whiskey, Gin, Vodka
none 97 kcal

Cocktails

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.

AlcoholApprox. carbohydrate content per 100 gApprox. calories per 100 g
Gin and tonic7 g84 kcal
Whiskey and cola8 g89 kcal
Vodka and energy drink8 g90 kcal
Vodka and lemonade9 g93 kcal
Rum cooler10 g68 kcal
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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.

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