A keto diet, or a ketogenic diet, is a diet that is designed to consume high levels of fat, an adequate amount of protein, and low levels of carbohydrates. Diets focused on low-carb intake have become very popular in recent times. They are being used by thousands of people for losing weight and improving their health. The primary focus of the diet is centered on restricting all high-carb foods such as starchy vegetables, fruits, refined grains, and legumes, and focusing on healthy proteins and fats instead. Many people, though, remain confused about whether or not alcohol is allowed when they are following a keto diet. Recommendations on this topic are varying.
Fitting Alcohol into a Keto Diet
Today, we look at whether or not it is possible to fit alcohol into a keto diet, and if so, then how does one fit alcohol into their ongoing diet.
Alcohol is High in Carbs
The original keto diet stipulated that the individual following the diet should be getting 75 percent of their total calories from fat, 20 percent from protein sources, and only 5 percent from carbohydrates. For example, a person who is consuming an average 2000 calorie diet, will then only be getting 25 grams of carbohydrates each day. This distribution is believed to make the body switch its primary fuel source from carbohydrates to ketones. Ketones are molecules that are produced from the stored reserved for body fat. This state is known as a state of ketosis. It has been generally observed that most people find the keto diet to be quite restrictive and it is difficult to follow.
Drinking excessive alcohol will not only harm your diet but it is known to jeopardize many processes in your body as well, regardless of whether you are following the keto diet or not. The fact is that most types of alcohol contain very high levels of carbohydrates. In fact, certain types of alcohol even contain more carbs in each serving as compared to desserts, sweets, and even soft drinks. For example, one bottle of beer has a very high carb content since the primary ingredient of beer is starch.
In a 12 ounce, or 355ml, serving, beer contains anywhere between 5 to 12 grams of carbs, though this depends on many factors such as whether it is light beer or a regular beer variety.
When you look at mixed drinks such as cocktails, these contain even higher levels of carbs since these drinks include ingredients such as juice, sugar, and other high-carb mixers which are added for improving the flavor of the drink.
One of the highest carb content can be found in a daiquiri, Pina Colada, and hard lemonade. All these drinks contain over 34 grams of carbohydrates in one average sized serving.
Alcohol is Rich in Only Empty Calories
Alcohol contains high calories, but the fact is that these are all empty calories, meaning that these calories do not contain any vitamins, minerals, or any essential nutrients that are required by the body to function properly and remain healthy.
When you consider this, you will yourself understand that while these empty calories cannot possibly contribute to any nutritional deficiencies, but they will definitely cause you to gain weight over a period of time.
Alcohol is, in fact, the second most calorie-rich or calorie-dense nutrient, after fat. Alcohol packs in around 5 to 7 calories per gram.
When you are adding even one single serving of alcohol to your keto diet each day, this will eventually amount to hundreds of extra calories. At the same time, you are not adding any protein, fiber, or any other micronutrient to your daily intake.
If you keep consuming alcohol and not adjusting your diet accordingly to account for the extra calories you are consuming, then over a period of time this will cause you to gain substantial weight, regardless of what your carbohydrate intake is.
Alcohol Blocks Fat Burning
Many studies have shown that regular heavy drinking can cause the body to slow down or completely block the process of fat burning. This will hamper your weight loss efforts, and render the keto diet as good as useless.
When you drink alcohol, especially if you are consuming it on a daily basis, then your body starts to metabolize it before metabolizing the other nutrients in the body, to be used as fuel. This stops or slows down the process of fat burning and will cause the extra carbs, fat, and proteins that are being consumed to be stored as fat tissue. This will ultimately result in excess body fat.
Heavy consumption of alcohol is also known to reduce fat breakdown while boosting the process of fatty acid synthesis. This causes triglycerides to start to accumulate in your liver. Over a period of time, this build-up can cause fatty liver disease.
Therefore, alcohol consumption will not only affect your weight loss goals, but it can also have serious complications on your health.
Alcohol Consumption May Actually Lead to Weight Gain
Similarly, as alcohol slows down the process of fat breakdown, research has also shown that excessive alcohol consumption can actually cause you to gain weight. However, drinking alcohol in moderation has also been linked to a decreased risk of weight gain.
A study in which nearly 50,000 women participated, found that heavy drinkers who have at least two to three drinks each day have an increased risk of gaining weight, as compared to women who did not drink. Yet another study done on 15,000 men, found that there was a higher risk of gaining weight as alcohol consumption increased.
Thereby, regardless of what type of diet you are on, it is best to not be a heavy drinker. Drinking alcohol in moderation, defined as one drink for women and two drinks for men every day, is still permissible.
How Does Alcohol Affect the Keto Diet?
When you drink alcohol, about 20 percent of the alcohol or ethanol, goes into your bloodstream. It enters the bloodstream and goes on to impact your brain and other parts of the body as well. The leftover 80 percent, though, goes directly to the small intestines and then moves on to the liver. When this ethanol reaches the liver, the body begins the process of metabolizing the alcohol into energy with the use of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD). NAD is an enzyme that is also used in the process of turning glucose into fuel. During the metabolism of alcohol, your liver will temporarily stop all glucose metabolism.
Your liver will prioritize the metabolism of ethanol over the metabolism of glucose, and your body will start utilizing the glucose present in the bloodstream. At the same time, your body will also stop the conversion of fatty acids into ketones. Till the time the entire alcohol gets burned for fuel, the other systems of the body will not resume and get back on track.
Furthermore, your body also has to deal with the waste products that get produced during the alcohol drinking process. When the liver breaks down the alcohol, it produces acetaldehyde. This is assumed to be a toxic threat to the body and the body immediately slows down the process of fat metabolism so that it can deal with the acetaldehyde first by converting it to acetyl CoA. Due to a buildup of acetaldehyde as well as the release of NAD, your liver begins to produce new fatty acids. Therefore, when you drink alcohol, you not only stop the process of fat burning in the body, but you also end up encouraging the body to store more fat.
This is how drinking alcohol nullifies all the benefits of a keto diet you have experienced in the time you have been following the diet.
Low-Carb Alcohol Options Are Also Available
In spite of the drawbacks of consuming alcohol, there are certain types of alcohol that you can accommodate into your ketogenic diet. However, even these alcohol need to be consumed in moderation.
For example, light beer and wine are low in carbohydrates and contain only 3 to 4 grams per serving. Then there are also pure forms of some liquor such as whiskey, gin, rum, and vodka that are completely free from carbs.
If you want to add flavor to these drinks, then instead of using sugary syrups, sweeteners, and other high-carb and high-fat options, you should choose sugar-free tonic water or diet soda.
Here we look at certain alcohol options which you can consume even while being on a keto diet.
- Hard Liquor: When you are on the keto diet, then having hard liquor is the best option for you. Hard liquor includes options such as gin, brandy, whiskey, rum, and tequila. These liquors all have zero carbs and contain around 90-105 calories per shot.
- Dry Red Wine: Some dry red wine options you can choose from include Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and Shiraz (Syrah). These contain 3.5-3.8 grams of carbs per glass and also have around 110-120 calories.
- Dry White Wine: Dry sparkling wine is also a good option o have. These contain around 1.5-3 grams of carbs and roughly 90-150 calories per glass (5-ounce). Out of dry white wines, Brut Cava, Pinot Blanc, and Champagne are the best ones to have.
- Light and Dark Beer: Beer is one of the more carb-rich alcoholic beverages, but an occasional light beer is not going to harm your keto diet. For example, the Budweiser Select 55′ has just 2 grams of carbs and 55 calories for 12 ounces. Miller 64′ also contains around 2.3 grams of carbs and 64 calories for 12 ounces. You can read up on some of these options to find out which beer contains how much carbs and calories.
Being a heavy drinker is not at all advisable, regardless of whether you are on a keto diet or not. There are, however, certain types of alcohol that are available which are carb-free or are low in carb content. These can be fit into a keto diet. Some drinks that you can fit into your keto diet include wine, hard liquor such as gin, vodka, and whiskey, and light beer. Nevertheless, it is still recommended that you have no more than one or two drinks each day. Keep in mind that excessive intake of alcohol will not only make you gain weight but will also slow down the body’s fat burning process.