Low Carb Alcohol Guide: What You Need to Know About Drinking on Keto
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Can you drink alcohol on a ketogenic diet, or are all adult beverages off limits?

You don’t have to stay sober because you’re following a keto diet, unless, of course, you want to. But that doesn’t mean you can choose anything behind the bar and stay in ketosis.

As you’ll see in this guide, some options can kick you out of ketosis while others may have little to no effect.

That’s not all we’ll be covering. You’ll also learn:

There are three specific downsides to consuming alcoholic drinks while following a ketogenic diet. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first.

Three Reasons to Reconsider Drinking Alcohol on a Keto Diet

You can certainly drink some types of alcohol on a ketogenic, low carb diet without guilt. But there are reasons why drinking alcohol can potentially sabotage your goals.

#1: You Turn Into a Bottomless Pit Hungry for Calories

Alcohol is packed with empty calories. The calories you get from alcohol — 7.1 per gram to be exact — offer no nutritional value.

You won’t feel full, and you’ll be more likely to overeat unhealthy foods since your inhibitions are lowered. This can make your stomach seem like a bottomless pit, scrounging for more calories as soon as you finish your first drink.

And, you’ll imbibe a large number of calories getting there. Alcohol has double the number of calories per gram compared to protein.

#2: You Turn Off Your Body’s Ability to Burn Fat for Fuel

Did you know your body treats alcohol as a toxic substance? When it enters your bloodstream, your body shifts gears and focuses all of its energy on processing the alcohol out of your system.

Everything else hits the pause button, including properly digesting your alcohol, including the carb-heavy meal you may have considered a solid base for drinking. When this happens, your body stores that excess energy of sugar and carbs as fat.

Since your body is busy filtering out alcohol, it stops using fat for energy like it normally does when you are in ketosis. It uses the empty calories you drank for fuel. This won’t help you reach or maintain ketosis — it has the opposite effect.

If you’ve been struggling to reach ketosis, start by reducing or eliminating your alcohol intake.

If you can avoid succumbing to high-calorie cravings and you don’t plan on drinking enough to kick you out of ketosis, there’s still one more aspect to consider before you order that drink.

#3: You’ll Get Drunk Faster and Your Hangover May Be Worse

Whether you have a glass of red wine or two with your friends after work or plan to drink beer through 18 holes of golf on the weekend, following a keto diet alters alcohol’s effect on your body.

When you’re in ketosis, alcohol hits your system faster and stronger than it did when your body was housing more carbohydrates. Your alcohol tolerance plummets to near zero when you’re in ketosis.

Typically, people have plenty of glycogen stored in their bodies thanks to carb-heavy diets, which serve as a cushion for metabolizing alcohol. Without this buffer, your body processes alcohol much faster and you’ll feel the effects sooner.

Those on a ketogenic diet also report experiencing harsher hangovers compared to when they ate a high carb diet. While there aren’t definitive studies proving why this happens, dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes seem to play a part. Both dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can occur when you drink alcohol and when you’re in ketosis, creating the perfect storm for intense hangovers.

But, can you minimize the downsides of drinking alcoholic beverages on a ketogenic diet?

Yes.

Follow These 6 Guidelines When Drinking Alcohol in Ketosis

Low Carb Alcohol Guide: What You Need to Know About Drinking on Keto

If you’re going to drink alcohol while on a keto diet, be smart about it and plan to take extra precautions.

#1: Eat a Keto-Friendly Meal Before Drinking

Carb-loading before a night of drinking is not your best option.

When you eat a meal heavy in carbs before drinking, you’ll kick yourself out of ketosis and jeopardize how your body metabolizes the alcohol.

Fat and protein are your allies before drinking. Reach for a keto-friendly meal abundant in healthy fats with some protein. This powerful combination helps slow the effects of alcohol, so it delivers less of a metabolic strike to your system.

#2: Watch Out For Heavy Pours

At the bar, it can be near impossible to know if your whiskey-based cocktail or champagne spritzer is mixed to exact proportions. Is that glass of pinot noir or cabernet an appropriate five ounces, or did the server over-pour and give you eight?

Unless you can watch the bartender make your drink or know the weight of the wine in different glasses, it’s difficult to know if your serving is within your macros.

If you enjoy alcoholic beverages at home, don’t let them damage your goals either. Develop a habit of measuring the alcohol as you pour it to keep your portion sizes in check. This will help you stay on track towards your goals, makes it easier to visualize accurate measurements when you’re at a bar or restaurant.

It’s easy to do with a digital food scale. Place your wine glass or a shot glass on the scale, reset the weight to zero and pour the alcohol as usual until you reach the proper serving size[*]:

Low Carb Alcohol Guide: What You Need to Know About Drinking on the Ketogenic Diet

Do this enough times and you’ll be able to gauge if that glass of white wine at your favorite restaurant came with a heavy pour. If it does, adjust the rest of your macros and account for it in your meal plan.

#3: Calories Matter Just as Much as Carbs

Counting net carbs is more critical than counting calories on a ketogenic diet, but alcohol is the exception to the rule.  Alcohol contains 100 percent empty calories and you can easily drink a meal’s worth of calories without realizing you are over your limit.

Repeat this too often and your weight may start tipping in the wrong direction. Familiarize yourself with low carb, low-calorie options and stick to them.

#4: Follow the “One Drink Max” Rule

While you can enjoy low carb alcohol on a keto diet, you need to practice moderation to hit your goals. It’s hard for your body to process alcohol and it can disrupt your fat burning potential.

Not at your goal weight yet? Having difficulty reaching or maintaining ketosis? Cut out alcohol entirely for two to four weeks to determine if it’s holding you back.

You can also try practicing the “one drink max” rule. Limit yourself to one drink per sitting and one to three drinks per week. Once you’ve reached your goal weight, or you’ve been able to reach and maintain ketosis, you can imbibe a bit more to find what works for you.

Until you do, avoid alcohol or practice moderation.

#5: The Role of Non-Alcoholic Mixers on a Keto Diet

When it comes to mixed drinks, choosing the right combination is everything.

While vodka has zero net carbs, pairing it with sugary lemonade, soda or tonic water defeats the purpose of choosing vodka for its low carb content. The majority of mixed drinks have at least one ingredient that’s not keto friendly, such as fruit, juice or sour mix.

Here’s the carb count in the most dangerous cocktails on a ketogenic diet[*]:

Low Carb Alcohol: What You Need to Know About Drinking on Keto

Opt for drinks without mixers or choose spirits mixed with seltzer or soda water and a splash of sugar-free lemon or lime. These drinks have zero carbs.

For variety, try low carb cocktails that are keto friendly when you don’t have too many[*]:

Low Carb Alcohol: What You Need to Know About Drinking on the Ketogenic Diet

#6: Choose the Right Alcohol

Quantity isn’t the only factor in choosing alcoholic drinks on a keto diet; quality matters just as much.

Some alcoholic beverages, like many beers, hide loads of carbs. Others are keto friendly as long as you practice moderation. There are certain types of alcohol to keep on your bar cart and some you should steer clear of at the bar.

Perfect Keto founder Dr. Anthony Gustin (@dranthonygustin) chooses Mezcal over most drinks because it’s keto-friendly. Follow him for more keto tips:

The Verdict: You Can Enjoy Alcohol on a Ketogenic Diet

Now that you have a better idea of how alcoholic beverages affect you in ketosis and know which low carb alcohol choices are better than others, you can decide if it has a place in your meal plan.

If you’re new to practicing a keto diet, or you haven’t reached ketosis yet, consider taking a break from alcohol to help you get there. If you decide to imbibe, take it easy. Your alcohol tolerance will be much lower once you’re in ketosis.

For seasoned keto veterans — you should have no trouble enjoying your favorite adult beverages, provided you account for the carbs in your daily macro budget.

Friendly reminder: Don’t consume too many drinks each week or in one sitting. Always have a designated driver and practice responsible, safe drinking.

Download your free keto-friendly alcohol guidelines e-book!

Dr. Anthony Gustin is a board-certified sports chiropractor, functional medicine practitioner, entrepreneur, podcast host, and founder of Perfect Keto.

After growing his sports rehab and functional medicine clinics to six locations in San Francisco, he shifted his mission to help as many people as possible achieve optimal health and well-being.

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Responses (51)

  1. can you use dutch processed unsweetened cocoa powder in heavy cream to make ganache with stevia as sweetener

  2. Depends where you are starting from. If you are at 1.5 mmol ketones, drinking 7g carbs, by itself won’t “throw you out.” How many carbs do you eat for the entire day? Entire week? These will be more indicative factors. It would be good to test your levels if you are curious.

  3. most info says for wine drinking stick with dry reds, however the list above actually shows some white wines with less carbs.. I like both and want to have a small glass with dinner. so… which is “ultimately” the best for keto ? Savignon Blanc/ Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Noir?

  4. Hi Sipho, avoid anything that has a high carb/sugar count :). Seltzer water, coffee, and tea are great options.

  5. Hey Kim, Sauvignon Blanc has the lesser carb count (2.7g) although it’s still not much less than the others which are both around 3-3.5. Also, these numbers are just a general breakdown and they could be slightly different depending on the brand or type. I would advise sticking with the dryer ones and keeping it in moderation depending on your goals.

  6. Curious about starting the keto diet, as I have a wine tasting 5 days in and another function 7 days later. Am I ok to dive into the keto and have my planned booze cheats or wait to 2 weeks to start?
    I’m anxious to start and do feel that there is always something in our social lives that we will have to challenge ourselves with. I do plan to quit drinking altogether for 6 weeks.

  7. Hi Fern, wine is okay in moderation but to see best results, you’ll want to limit it as much as possible, especially in the beginning!

  8. So, if he had a glass or two or three of no carb wine in my first week of Keto, be why I’ve not lost any weight?..But still kept mynet carbs below 25

  9. Can someone please direct me to the best page where I can find easy answers to the Keto Diet? Like a list of does and donts? and what it means to be in Ketosis? Thank you for your help.

  10. Please be aware. I can attest that while in ketosis your tolerance will change. Drinking while in ketosis and/or fasting state during your diet needs to be understood and done with caution. If you have not drank recently, and/or like me lost alot of wieght, while in a ketosis diet what was once a tolerable amount of alcohol may have changed. Consuming 3 units of alcohol may cause a much greater impact on you. You may feel the sensation of inebriation sooner or in my case not identify it until you are past you are tolerance. I am not talking about partying and heavy drinkers but caution with even a few drinks in a short period as your body will process this immediately.

  11. If you drink say Vodka and diet coke or diet sprite. Then chase that with water. Each and every drink. Would the effects be less bad?

  12. Lookup Thomas Delauer on YouTube. He has lots of very good videos and has a solid technical background from clinical testing and personal experience.

  13. I do that all the time when I want a dessert – Heavy cream, organic 100% cocoa powder and some stevia or erthynol =yum
    and my keytone levels remain unchanged

  14. I’ve been on keto for almost 3 months now. While I usually do not drink alcohol during the week, I have not really changed my drinking habits on the weekends. I have switched to more low carb beers and dry wines. I have actually experienced the opposite effect. I do not feel that I get drunk faster, my hangovers have actually gotten better, and I still am losing weight. I’d say on average if I drink I will consume 4-6 drinks in a 24hr period. I dont know if its throwing me out of ketosis or not, but the weight still comes off. I do maintain decently strict food intake. I still will also enjoy a diet soda from time to time, maybe 3x a week. I will also use a no carb protein supplement after ive lifted weights. These things are all cautioned on the keto diet but I seem to be continuously losing weight still. What’s the thought here? If it’s not broke dont fix it?

  15. Brent, it appears from the implication in your comment, that it’s ‘normal’ for you to get drunk every weekend? Is this because you’re with friends who also habitually get drunk, or for some other ‘social’ reason? It appears you actually have an alcohol ‘problem’, but you’re oblivious to it, as it’s been going on for years now and has become ‘normalised’?

  16. Chris – don’t you think you’re being a little judgemental (and/or) rude saying that Brent “clearly has an alcohol problem”??

    He clearly states that he doesn’t drink in the week and IF he drinks at the weekend – he has 4-6 drinks in a drinking period which I think is pretty normal for a night out. How is that a “problem”? He also says that he maintains a healthy diet, works out and balances his intake and output.

    As someone who works with people who actually have alcohol problems – I am constantly having to answer questions to people like you who think they know best and tell people they have drinking issues when they don’t….

  17. Brent I am on the same page as you. I have a very busy social life and weekends are when I have drinks and still continue to lose weight. My only concern is if this is safe on our liver.

  18. Thank you Emma!! i’ve just started researching a Keto lifestyle and am trying to determine if it is a good fit for me. i’m still fairly young and single, i do plenty of things that so not include alcohol… but i don’t want to loose this aspect of my social life either. Brent and Deb, I’m with you.

  19. So what I’m understanding is if I’m staying within my allotted calories and carbs for the day and staying well-hydrated, a few drinks once a week isn’t going to do a whole lot of damage to my ketosis? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  20. I’m in my second week of keto. My husband and I are doing this together we are 51 years old and have done a lot of reasearch. We have made commitments to live better. Sorry for rambling lol. We have a birthday celebration this weekend I would like to have a drink. My choice is usually Jack Daniels. Would this be ok?

  21. Sorry but anyone that has to get drunk regularly has a problem. I was married to an alcoholic and my sister is one also. I use to drink too much wine. Then I got breast cancer and stopped that habit!! Sugar drives cancer PERIOD. Ketogenic is the way to go for many health reasons.

  22. The thing about fluid ounces is that it’s not actually the weight (referring to the “heavy” pour section) that is being measured by ounces in this case, but volume. The real way to test this is by measuring out 5 oz in a measuring cup intended for liquids and pour it into a wine glass.

  23. I know there are some folks out there that are afraid to ask so I will. If I drink a fifth of vodka a day mixed with sprite zero, will I stay in Ketosis or would I ramp up into comatosis? Asking for a friend!

  24. I found that brut sparkling wine is any where from 1-3 carbs. I am new to Keto, so guess I’ll give it a try!

  25. If I consume 6 to 8 vodka sodas every Saturday and doing keto…. Would I be causing more health problems then if I was drinking and eating by the old food pyramid guidlines? Like I want to live. Like is a dangerous shock to the body?

  26. Vodka with club soda and lime…wow, really tasty -lime water almost! (not big alcohol drinker, like sweet things and this was perfect for me!)

  27. Lots of great tips here for anyone looking for tips on alcohol and staying in keto. Which is why we are all on here, correct? Comment from Chris was way out of line. Not a place for negative comments like that. Shame on you!!

  28. I have just recently started the keto diet I am struggling not to drink alcohol I enjoy 1 or maybe 2 with dinner will try to cut down to see some improvement on this diet

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