If you’re wondering whether you can drink alcohol on keto, it’s time to take a collective sigh of relief.
Yes, it is possible to drink alcohol on keto, but there are a few signs you should look out for and some prep work to do before placing your next order.
In this guide, we’ll cover what alcoholic drinks you can indulge in and which to avoid; and some of them may surprise you.
You will learn what happens when you drink alcohol in ketosis, and what you can do to minimize the effects of alcohol for an enjoyable night in or out.
Plus, we’ll give you some pointers on what sugar-free mixers we dig, and how to avoid the dreaded keto hangover. Yes, that's a thing, and if you feel worst after drinking on keto, you're not alone.
With the holiday season just around the corner, arming yourself now with this knowledge is a powerful way to stay accountable.
Don’t show up and expect to make good judgment calls when you’re distracted by friends and hospitality. Keto, in general, is mostly about the planning and alcohol is no exception.
Having a good bar order on hand, and understanding your options is the easiest way to prevent keto mistakes from happening.
Understanding too what is happening with your body also makes it much easier to make good choices, even with a few drinks in you. In ketosis, you have a whole new metabolism, so expect some changes.
After reading this guide, you'll be able to exercise a voice of reason and make the right choice for you.
So without further ado, let’s get started.
Can I Drink Alcohol on Keto?
While you can drink alcohol on keto, there’s a likely chance you might get kicked out of ketosis, especially if you drink grain-based and carb-heavy beers or sugar-rich mixers.
With some simple modifications, like most things on keto, you can find a new way that works for you (and that might taste better)!
Note: We recommend that only people who are over 21 and in a maintenance phase of ketosis go down this path.
Alcohol at the end of the day, low-carb or not, can cause side effects, and we strongly suggest moderation.
And obviously, if you’re pregnant, this is a total no-go.
Now that we have that out the way let’s move on to the fun stuff.
When in ketosis, alcohol metabolizes faster, and you feel the effects more quickly than when eating a carb-rich diet.
However, alcohol itself shouldn't kick you out of ketosis (if it's no-carb alcohol like vodka or rum). If anything, pure alcohol may increase your ketones ever so slightly.
It's hard to say how many drinks you can consume to feel the effects, but do expect to drink less - even half as few - as you were drinking on a high-carb diet.
It’s also probable that you’ll be skipping that bread appetizer that soaks up alcohol too, so be sure to eat something fatty before drinking to slow down the alcohol absorption into your bloodstream.
The combination of ketosis and no-bread when pre-gaming be a heady recipe, so let’s see what you can do to stack the odds in your favor.
It may be that drinking still fits into your keto life, or you may decide to leave it in the past with carbs due to the unwanted side effects you may now feel when in drinking in ketosis.
That's why we always recommend asking do you want a drink or are you going with the social norm?
Here are three reasons to avoid alcohol on keto:
You Care About Calories
Calories matter if your goal is weight loss on a keto diet. Ketosis is merely a vehicle to help you get to your destination and makes fat loss delicious and easy (don't believe us, check out these 5 keto smoothie recipes).
Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, and none of it goes towards your macro or micronutrients.
Drinking also increases your risk of making lesser food judgments. In a sober state, you can try your best to fend off cakes and fries, but when drunk, the urge to call in junk food rockets.
Fact: alcohol slows your metabolism and makes it harder to attain ketosis.
More people are prone to snacking, overeating, and eating later at night while drinking. If you struggle with cravings, moderating food, or are easily talked into a cheat meal, this is a great turnaround point.
While you might bounce back in a few hours, or you may not even get kicked out at all, you may be surprised to find that it can take up to three days for your glycogen levels to deplete in your liver. This is necessary for ketone productions to resume.
Exogenous ketones can help you bounce back from this experience, as they allow you to bridge the gap between ketone production, but they’re not a failsafe.
Exogenous ketones allow you to get back into ketosis faster. Exogenous ketones won’t stop any weight gain or loss.
Click the link above to find out why, and what you can do to minimize this hurdle.
You Want to Burn Fat
It’s no secret that alcohol is a toxin. When your body ingests alcohol, it’s primary objective is to metabolize it, and eliminate it, from your body.
When you are in ketosis, the goal is to burn fat. It is also no secret that your body isn’t excellent at multi-tasking, so guess what task will be prioritized? Bingo.
Alcohol will take center stage, albeit for a few hours, and will reduce the focus of burning fat in favor of eliminating toxins.
This is probably an oversight if you’re on a maintenance plan, but for people who care about their health or who wish to remain in a fat burning state, turning this metabolic state to the off position can be frustrating.
Especially if you find out that it’s not only a few hours off, but that it could be days or even a week for you to get back into ketosis, or for your body to regain its fat-burning potential.
Again, drinking exogenous ketones can help you get back into ketosis faster, but it won’t stop it entirely from kicking you out of a fat-burning state.
You’ll Get Drunk Faster
If you think that one glass of wine is fine, it could well be. However, we can’t in our best light hide the fact that drinking alcohol on keto makes it a much more potent drink to be had.
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.
It also takes people on keto longer to bounce back; while there are no studies on the topic yet, one can surmise that alcohol, an electrolyte imbalance, and dehydration all factor into this equation heavily.
So, if you don’t want a raging hangover, we do recommend keeping alcohol intake to a minimum while in ketosis and drinking plenty of water.
On the upside, your bar tab will make you smile.
If you want to maximize the odds of staying in ketosis, keep reading.
Does Alcohol Increase Ketosis?
If you’ve ever heard the phrase “drinking increases ketosis,” you’re only getting half the story.
While a small study from 1970 illustrated how alcohol consumption and a high-fat diet “increased ketonuria” (ketonuria being defined as when “abnormally large amounts of ketone bodies” are found in the urine), the ketonuria itself couldn’t be “attributed to an immediate effect of alcohol.”
Instead, researchers theorized the ketonuria was created from “a delayed change in intermediary metabolism,” from alcohol-induced glycogen depletion. Glycogen is the body’s stored form of glucose.
Basically, 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, your liver will eventually start to use the alcohol for immediate energy instead of fat, which means that weight loss eventually slows.
How to Drink Alcohol on a Keto Diet
So, you’ve read the disclaimers, you’ve headed the warnings, and maybe you’re just ready to let it rip for a night. We get you!
The ketogenic diet isn’t about sacrificing the things you love, but appreciating them in a whole new light.
We want you to view choices as a way to decide what makes keto long-term and as enjoyable as possible, on your terms.
Whether you’re going for a light drink or a night out, we hope these tips will help you bounce back quickly and feel like your best self.
We’ve also included some tips on how to mix your drinks and get the most bang for your buck further down. Cheers!
Eat a Keto Meal Beforehand
It’s easy to justify this is a “cheat” or an easy out, but the truth is you should always be making good sound food choices when possible.
Eating before you drink, much like on a carb diet, can help you to sponge up some of the alcohol and not metabolize it so quickly. And what you eat matters.
If you eat carbs and drink alcohol, you’re essentially investing in the worst diet for your health, and you will never feel good about it. Not emotionally, not physically and not the morning after...
Instead, complement your goals with sound food choices during your downtime. Fat and protein are great options beforehand and can help stabilize blood sugar levels.
If you eat carbs before, during, or after alcohol, they will still kick you out of ketosis. Fats and proteins will make you feel fuller and reduce the urge to snack.
Here are three tips to follow when drinking on a keto diet:
Measure Your Drinks
Whether at home or the bar, a heavy pouring hand can throw you out of ketosis, quickly. You think you have had a few, and the barometer might reveal you’ve had a few too many.
If you don’t have a measuring tool at home, you can also use a scale to learn what the correct pour should look and taste like; it's also a pretty neat party trick if you care to entertain guests.
The correct measurements are as follows:
- Wine - 5 fl oz
- Spirits - 1.5 fl oz
- Beer - 12 fl oz
The perks of measuring your own at home are you can gauge whether you’re getting the correct pour at a wine bar or not.
Set a Limit
Knowing before you go what you’re limit is will help prevent you from going over. Too many drinks and too many calories won’t help you hit your goals.
It’s best to drink to moderation regardless of ketosis or not. You should also look out for critical symptoms such as lightheadedness and giddiness as general signs of or nearing intoxication.
A great piece of advice, either way, to match your alcoholic drinks on keto glass-for-glass with water to help your body metabolize the alcohol at a safe pace.
One of the reasons heavy drinking makes you stagger like you just ate a Francis Ngannou uppercut is that alcohol disrupts the cerebellum—the brain region responsible for balance and coordination.
In his book Why We Sleep, University of California, Berkeley, professor Matthew Walker explains that even moderate drinking causes memory impairment (1).
He cites a sleep study that found participants who consumed alcohol on the same day they performed a learning exercise, forgot about 50% of what they’d learned afterward.
Even those who had two nights of high-quality sleep between the exercise and their bout of drinking forgot roughly 40% of the information.
Walker hypothesizes that alcohol interferes with the process of committing items from short-term to long-term memory, which usually takes place while we’re asleep.
What Keto Drinks Can I Have?
Alrighty, you’ve stuck it out this far, now it’s time to discover what you can do. We’re going to break this down by the type of alcohol to help you find out your new order, but keep in mind that trying new things can also be fun.
While wine is not the best choice for keto, each glass contains about 3g of carbs; it is an excellent option for many people.
If you love wine, a glass or two in the evening isn't going to do a lot of damage to your macros and makes keto very enjoyable.
Here are some you can enjoy:
- Sauvignon Blanc - 3 grams of carbs per serving
- Merlot - 3.7 grams of carbs per serving
- Champagne - 2 grams per serving
- Pinot Noir - 3.4 grams of carbs per serving
- Pinot Grigio - 3 grams of carbs per five-ounce glass
You might think that bread, aka “liquid bread” would be off the keto charts but amazingly, there are pretty excellent keto-friendly beers on the market.
And not all will break the bank, either.
- Budweiser Select 55 – 1.9g of carbs per serving
- Miller Genuine Draft 64 – 2.4g of carbs per serving
- Michelob Ultra – 2.6g of carbs per serving
Avoid these beers:
- Guinness Extra Stout – 14g of carbs per serving
- Stella Artois – 13g of carbs per serving
- Blue Moon Belgian White Ale – 13g of carbs per serving
Don’t forget to read the nutrition label first. While many light beers do have fewer carbs, not all are keto.
Spirits are zero carbs and pair well with sugar-free drinks making them an excellent keto alternative.
Simply order on the rocks or add a diet soda at the bar. At home, try and avoid diet sodas as these contain artificial sweeteners.
You can use stevia sweetener carbonated water in all flavors to get really inventive with ketogenic cocktails.
There are a plethora of sugar-free sodas hitting the market.
We do not recommend diet sodas, as they contain aspartame and other nasty additives and sweeteners, but unless you BYOB your own mixer, it can be better to order your liquor on the rocks or with diet soda. We usually specify light soda.
Where possible, and especially if drinking at home, lean on naturally sweetened carbonated-water like LaCroix or Ztevia.
These use stevia as the sweetener and are natural, and have the least impact on your blood glucose levels.
Alcoholic Drinks to Avoid on Keto:
- Sugary mixers
- Flavored alcohols
- Sweet wines
- Sangria/margarita mix
- Wine coolers/alcopops
Non-Alcoholic Keto Drinks:
- Sparkling water, seltzer, and club soda
- Coffee and tea (many restaurants and bars serve both)
- Energy drink
It’s also worth mentioning that you don’t have to drink to have a great time. If you have an event or a wedding coming up, it’s perfectly ok to order a non-alcoholic drink.
These come with the added benefits of usually being lower calorie too.
Just follow your usual keto guidelines and avoid creamers, sugar, and fat-free versions when possible to minimize the risk of carbs.
Overall, drinking alcohol is alright, don’t let the keto police tell you otherwise. We agree that it’s wholly unreasonable for people never to drink.
That said, we think there is a time and a place, and if you’re reaching for particular health or fitness goals, then drinking alcohol might be self-sabotaging.
Avoid drinking if you’re pregnant, seeking weight loss, want to stay in ketosis, or experience any bothersome symptoms while drinking on keto.
If you want to enjoy yourself and feel that a drink or two can work into your lifestyle, then we do recommend you consider adding an exogenous supplement to your morning routine.
Exogenous ketones can help you get your pep back faster and prevent nasty hangovers due to our patented triple-mineral BHB blend, essential for ketosis and at Konscious Keto, we only use premium, clean ingredients.