On our way back down from Far North Queensland, booking in to one of our favourite beach side caravan parks we caught up with a lovely couple of “Ketonian’s” we met here on the way up that have been smoking it on keto. They are not what I would call strict as far as keeping track of their macros etc. however, they are both losing weight, looking awesomely healthy and happy. The husband has even taken himself off his high blood pressure meds and has found a keto friendly Dr! That, I am very jealous! How cool it would be to have a Dr. that is 100% on your side of the fence! We caught up with these guys around the fire pit on the night that the Manager of the Park actually cooks for the whole park! He is a fabulous cook!
After our hugs and greetings, with tongue in cheek she started hiding her drink and laughing. We got to talking about getting kicked out of keto if you drink. I recall there was some research done on whiskey stating if it was just one glass a couple of times a week you would be fine, however, there was talk of this other guy drinking a whole bottle of whiskey and staying in ketosis… mmm, I don’t know about that one.
So, It got me thinking. I started doing some research on it and this is what I found….
Alcohol, even red wine isn’t good for you. It speeds up ageing. If you do drink, choose highly filtered and distilled drinks that are low in toxins.
When you drink on a high-fat diet, your liver metabolism changes due to depleted glycogen. While this may result in a quick burst of ketone activity, as you’ll read below, your liver will eventually start to use the alcohol for immediate energy instead of fat, which means that weight loss eventually slows.
While it’s obvious that sweet alcholic drinks and beer are full of sugar and carbs that can immediately bring you out of ketosis, straight liquor and dry wine can also cause issues for some people. Take a drink like a vodka soda: It has very few calories and even fewer grams of sugar. But it’s not the calories in this simple drink that can cause a problem; it’s how the body processes the liquor in the first place.
If you maintain a ketogenic diet, your body uses your stored fat for energy. When alcohol enters your system, your liver will default to using the byproducts of the metabolized alcohol instead of fat, which means fatty acid oxidation (the process of creating ketones) is slowed until all the alcohol has been processed.
If you’re a very occasional spirits drinker, this will probably not cause any long-term issues. But if you find yourself drinking often during the week or every weekend, you could be slowing your fat-burning process down.
The Science of Fat Burning and Alcohol Metabolization
Many people find that drinking alcohol in excess stalls their weight loss. That may be because the liver will begin to process the alcohol as soon as possible. Our fat burning processes are disrupted to rid ourselves of that alcohol quickly. The speed at which alcohol is metabolized differs from person to person.
The liver of a person on a high carbohydrate diet has a lot of glycogen stored. Glycogen is a by-product of glucose (sugar and carbs) and is the secondary long-term energy storage, with the primary energy stores being the fat cells held in adipose tissue. If you are eating a carbohydrate-rich diet, the pathways for fat burning are busy breaking down sugars; the alcohol is metabolized slower because of this hold up. Conversely, a person on a low carb diet has depleted their liver’s glycogen stores and is now running on fats instead of carbs and glucose, and burning body fat more efficiently. Since their glycogen stores are low, the alcohol ingested will start to be metabolized by the liver right away.
This immediate metabolization will cause that sudden onset on feeling drunk. Your liver isn’t going to warn you when that alcohol has arrived for processing. Many ketonians experience lowered tolerance simply because their liver is ready to metabolize efficiently instead of feeling sluggish processing extra carbs and sugars.
This leads to feeling tipsy or drunk much quicker.
Other Issues with Drinking and Fat Loss
Besides the science behind our metabolic processes, we’ve also got some humanistic flaws.
When we ingest alcohol, our inhibitions are lowered, which can make mindless snacking and cheating on your diet much more likely to happen.
Lastly, just as with any diet, alcohol consumption should be limited. Alcohol calories are empty calories. They provide our body will small amounts of energy but are short-lived. We also don’t absorb any nutrients, vitamins or minerals from alcohol. It’s best to keep alcohol a treat and enjoy in moderation.
So What Alcohol Can you Enjoy?
Clear liquors at about 40% alcohol are a safe bet and are considered keto alcohol, and anything that tastes sweet is not! Acceptable keto alcohol includes:
The above “Hard Liquor’s” mostly clear liquors that are around 40 percent alcohol contain zero carbs and sugars on their own, which means they’re keto-friendly (besides the part where alcohol is metabolized in place of fats). The issue arrives if you want to mix your liquor with something to make it more palatable.
Mixing your spirits with straight water or seltzer is perfectly acceptable on keto, but tonic water (which is a bitter soda made from quinine) contains 32 to 33 grams of carbs per 12 ounces. Likewise, when you mix hard liquor with things like fruit juice, sodas, or behind-the-bar “mixers” (which are usually full of sugar), you’re opening yourself up to a lot of liquid carbs.
Be aware that liquors flavoured with for example Coconut flavoured Vodka, can and often do contain lots of carbs and sugar so be wary of that.
Low Carb / Keto Friendly Wines
You can also still enjoy wine and beer! However, you need to learn which wines are keto friendly and how many carbs are in your wine of choice. Here are a few low carb wines to explore! Stick to dry or semi-dry wines; you’ll develop the taste for them if you haven’t already. The calorie and carb counts will differ depending on brand, types of grapes/growing conditions and process of fermentation, but an average is provided:
Red Wines (5 oz. serving)
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir: 121 calories, 3.4 carbs
- Merlot: 120 calories, 3.7 carbs
White Wines (5 oz. serving)
- Pinot Grigio: 122 calories, 3.2 carbs
- Sauvignon Blanc: 122 calories, 2.7 carbs
- Chardonnay: 118 calories, 3.7 carbs
- Riesling: 118 calories, 5.5 carbs
- Champagne (although low in alcohol content, so you’d need llto drink more): 96 calories, 1.5 carbs
Low Carb / Keto Friendly Beer
Just like with wine, there are many low carb beer options to choose from. Read the labels and check the low carb light ones out.
While most cheap wine (think the stuff under $10 or that comes in a box), can come with residual sugar, if you stick to very dry red or white wine, you can still have a glass with dinner. Typically, dry wines have about 1g or less of sugar per ounce, and the usual serving is 5 ounces, so pour accordingly.
Keep in mind that while some dry wines might be OK on keto, most are not. Typical wine contains up to 76 different additives that aren’t disclosed on their labels. Think: Artificial coloring, ammonia, defoaming agents, metals, and all kinds of other chemicals. They often carry carcinogenic mycotoxins from moldy vats or poor fermentation, too.
What To Watch Out For
Sugar is hidden everywhere! Even something seemingly innocent like a gin and tonic can have over 30g of carbs- tonic water is very high in sugar. If the bartender adds artificial lime juice and simple syrup, you’re probably well over 50g of sugar in one glass. Avoid the following popular drinks and mix-ins, and you’ll be a low carb pro in no time.
- Dessert Wines
- Whiskey sour mix
- Blue curaçao
- Sugary syrups
- Frozen margarita mixes
- Flavored alcohol (coconut rum, peach schnapps, Bailey’s, etc.)
- Juices (cranberry, orange, pineapple, tomato, etc.)
- Fruit add-ins (cherries, berries, pineapples, oranges, etc.)
- Syrups (fudge, whipped cream, fruit flavored syrups,
sweet creams, coconut cream).
I am sure this will make my ketonian friends happy with the information above.