Can you drink alcohol on a keto diet ?
Please forgive me if I am a bit controversial here. And upfront I am not a dietitian or an expert of the keto diet but I have personal experience of both. Can you drink alcohol on a keto diet comes up a lot as a question on the blog.
By the way the keto diet can be great so I am not knocking the diet, far from it!
In fact even though no-one would formally agree with me that it’s one of the reasons I probably ended up with liver disease and no I am not saying the keto diet caused it, clearly alcohol stress and genetics played a big part.
My diet was key though,
However, with the keto and low carbs, high protein, high fat diets any alcohol you consume even if you are like me and just a social drinker well it goes straight to your system.
Think of a big runaway rain rolling down the hill hitting your bloodstream, other organs and of course your liver. The train driver’s accelerator is stuck and there is no taking it off the peddle when you are on the tracks.
So the answer for me is “yes and no” as I have benefited from these diets in terms of energy and weight loss but the alcohol issue still taps me on the shoulder every so often and I just think “ I wonder?”
So I will do my best to give you my take and I would love to get yours? Please do leave a comment at the end?
What is the keto diet?
So there is a lot of stuff out there about keto diet but just think high carbs are big no-no. Its more fat than pasta.
What is high carb ? Think of anything that spikes your blood sugar. Bread, Pasta, rice, baked potato, chips are all up there.
If you look at the food labels on the back of a packet you will see the listed protein, carbohydrates including the percentage of sugar that makes up that figure.
And of course the fat!
So I guess the key with keto diet don’t just think about calories, but think about the type of calories.
So is a glass of wine OK on the keto diet?
Maybe maybe not. It really depends on if you want to go pure keto or not.
According to keto experts you may want to think about what type of drink you go for. Or is it a time to go for an alcohol free lifestyle? Even with that there are a few that would not work with the sugar content so maybe we are just talking weight loss here not saving your liver!
Now with alcohol free you will still get some of the calories albeit less so we are talking beer and wine but of course no alcohol. So that’s the good news.
The aim of course with the keto is to keep yourself in ketosis. So you’re in fat burning mode. You are your own dieting powerhouse.
A glass of wine can be low carb so what’s the issue here?
A glass of wine ( of a few of them ) can have a massive effect on other aspects of our health, So here are the issues that needs to be flagged.
- It’s still alcohol, and still contains calories and that is true if it’s alcohol free or otherwise as far as the calories are concerned.
- A small glass of wine can be allowed on ketosis but you may come out of ketosis or slow it down which could stop any of the weight loss that you are aiming for.
- With no carbs in your system, any alcohol will hit your system quicker.
- Your BAC ( Blood Alcohol Level) could go very high and very quick on the keto diet.
- You may feel drunk or tipsy even quicker than normal
- It can hit your organs including your liver like a ton of bricks.
I know people hate me for saying this but alcohol is still a poison so the body will deal with that first. However, the liver can only get rid of 1 standard unit of alcohol per hour.
There is nothing you can do to change that. I have blogged about this here.
Richard Purvis who is a health practitioner and has written about this extensively is quoted as saying :
“The liver will start to process alcohol as quickly as possible, which means it is used by the body before all other nutrients, including fat, so it slows the process of converting fatty acids to ketones”
So it seems a small amount of low carb alcoholic drink like wine won’t stop ketosis full throttle but it will certainly slow it down. However, I avoided lots of high carbs but enjoyed wine and that I do not think was a good mix!
What impact did it have on my liver?
I don’t think I will ever get a straight answer but we know that food before drinking can help prevent alcohol going straight to your head so I think that is actually half the answer!
Why is alcohol both an issue and not an issue?
Well guess what all drinks are not equal on a night out so a big glass of beer will probably not agree with the keto diet while a large glass of sauvignon blanc will probably just about pass.
Spirits become even easier.
Think gin, vodka, whiskey but not over the top sugar piled on calories like beer and cocktails.
And to be fair the same would be true of mocktails which are alcohol free but they certainly pack some sugar punch into glasses not to mention all the fruit that sometimes go with it.
So it looks like if you want to drink while going into keto it’s going to be a lower carb option.
Now here is the problem as I see it, if you take even wine but especially drinks like gin and whiskey, the “lower carb” drinks are higher in alcohol.
Makes sense right as the more sugar is turned into alcohol the fewer carbs there will be in the drink of your choice. So some high proof alcoholic drinks will have very little carbs.
So if we get our head around it the higher the ABV ( alcohol by volume) which tells us how much alcohol is in your drink as a percentage the lower than carb content
And in some cases you could be looking at zero carbs. Good news? Not really!
Of course even if the calories can be decent on some of these drinks compared to say beers or even fizzy drinks but if you are adding full on mixers rather than a diet that really goes out the window.
However, from my hangover post on the blog we know that having a meal before drinking alcohol can slow down the way alcohol hits your system. If you have ever woken with a really bad hangover and said “ I wish I had eaten last night before drinking” you will know what I mean.
If you don’t eat carbs to soak up the alcohol your hangover could be a lot worse – it’s that simple!
The metaphor I like to use is a car full of alcohol driving above the speed limit in a restricted zone, someone will get hurt if you are not careful so yes keto and alcohol could mean you feel worse the next day.
Can alcohol increase your food temptation?
We have all been there when we have had lots to drink and we go through several stages as it starts with crisps and nuts and moves onto a full bag of chips or even a kebab on the way home. Or when you get home you raid the kitchen and the next morning you wonder if aliens have visited.
Alcohol of course can do many things
- Despite what we may think alcohol dehydrates us so we end up drinking more alcohol to quench the thirst rather than drinking water.
- As result of feeling thirsty we make the mistake of thinking it’s hunger so we eat more.
- Alcohol can cause a sugar crash which means we drink or eat more to get our energy back
- This can cause anxiety and panic attacks in many people
So I suppose it begs the question if you are taking all that time and effort to go keto but it slows down or cancels it out by drinking alcohol, why bother especially if the effect of the alcohol takes out any overall health benefits.
Maybe that alcohol free option might be worthwhile after all although you would avoid alcohol free beer and even maybe some of the wines as carbs are higher but alcohol free gin is a great option.
Course option, if you want reduce your drinking Mark Tyrell has designed a great program you can use at home with just a pair of headphones, your mobile, desktop or tablet. I have worked with Mark in the past and give it 10/10.
Its an affiliate link so I get a small commission to support the blog but you pay the same. Just click the banner below.
Did it impact your liver and your wine drinking?
Now I will tread a careful line here and I am not saying that my diet was the whole reason I got liver disease but then I was a social wine drinker not serial drinker or typical non-stop drinker.
A few glasses of wine after work in reality nowadays well it’s really a bottle. My liver consultant showed me how big the measures have gotten over the years and it’s quite staggering really.
How many times have you seen “get the bottle free” option in bars when you buy a large glass of wine?
If you think about the core of a keto diet which is very low carb and like “zero” in many cases it makes sense that even a glass of wine will hit your liver and the organs hard.
So it’s worth really thinking about whether you should go on a keto diet or not. I’ll leave that one to you.
What do you think?
I would love to know what your experience of a keto diet has been and how it worked for you. Can you drink alcohol on a keto diet in your view. I would love to hear your views and I always respond.