Keto-Friendly Alcohol Drinks
Alcohol and the keto diet can mix — in moderation. Alcohol, like fat, carbs, and protein, is also a source of energy. In fact, alcohol gives you 7 calories per gram, making it more energy dense than both protein and carbs! These are empty carbs, however, and although they can provide a short-lived burst of energy, you’re not getting any nutrients, vitamins, or minerals from them. The body doesn’t consider alcohol to be an essential macronutrient, so the liver treats this fourth “macro” a bit differently than the others.
Like most things keto, alcohol consumption is about more than just the carb count. Because the ketogenic diet is so firmly rooted in science, the more you understand how your body’s biological processes are designed to work, the better off you’ll be. You should consider three main effects: what alcohol does to your carb count, what it does to your hydration, and what it does to your metabolism.
The easiest factor to calculate is your carb count: You can look at a bottle of your favorite mixer and easily discover how many carbs you’ll be consuming with each margarita. These add up quickly, but we’ve got some great tips to stretch your allowed carbs to their absolute limits.
The second-easiest aspect of alcohol to understand is how it affects your hydration levels. Alcohol dehydrates you, pure and simple. Plan on consuming at least twice the amount of water as the number of alcoholic beverages you’ll drink to maintain where you want to be hydration-wise.
Finally, understanding how alcohol affects your weight loss at a biological level is critical. Although alcohol is only toxic in extremely high amounts, the body views it as a toxic macronutrient and will shut down all other digestive processes to metabolize the alcohol and get it out of your system. This is good news to some degree, because metabolizing alcohol is what gives you that “buzzed” feeling. When you’re on a high-carb diet, much of the glycogen stores in your body are housed in the liver, where they’re being metabolized along with any alcohol you consume. Because so much is going on, you’ll metabolize alcohol more slowly and you won’t notice the effects as quickly. When you’re in ketosis, however, you’ve cleared out those obstacles and will begin feeling the effects of alcohol much more rapidly.
This isn’t good news, however, if you’re trying to lose a significant amount of weight and you’re used to a regular nightcap. Because the body shuts everything else down to metabolize the alcohol, every 24 hours you’re essentially stopping your body’s fat-burning abilities, interrupting the process not only at that moment but also preventing yourself from building up any momentum. This can severely slow your weight loss efforts.
Another thing to consider is how alcohol affects your thought processes. We know that alcohol lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, making the likelihood that you’ll cheat on your carbs much higher without being intentional about it. Studies have also shown what will likely come as no surprise to you: When you’re intoxicated, you crave high-carb, empty-calorie “filler” foods rather than healthy choices — it’s no wonder that Taco Bell and Little Caesars are open after last call, but few salad bars are.
Drinking in moderation is the key. Understanding what each drink “costs” you in terms of carb counts, hydration, and how it affects your metabolism will help you make educated decisions and keep you on the right track to achieving your weight loss goals.
Lean toward the low-carb alcoholic drinks
A range of alcohols are available that are very low-carb or don’t have any carbs at all. These are your best bet to stay in ketosis:
- Hard liquors: These include tequila, rum, vodka, gin, and whiskey, which are all carb-free. Hard liquors are excellent options for the keto dieter on occasion. You can feel free to add low-carb mixers to these, like seltzer water or even Wave Soda.
- Dry wines: Both red and white dry wines contain about 3 to 4 grams of carbs in a typical 5-ounce glass. Luckily, you’ll be able to enjoy a toast or two of these keto-friendly options when the occasion arises. Some of the best choices for red wine are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot. Pair these with a steak, and you’ll be sure to enjoy your night out! Approved white wines include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Champagne.
- Light beers: These are generally around 3 grams of carbs per 12-ounce bottle or can as well. They’re light on carbs and flavor, which is great if you want a mild taste. Although light beers were first introduced to the market decades ago (and trust us, the first attempts were truly horrible), brewers have made incredible strides in preserving taste and full-bodied integrity. Some of the more popular options we’ve found include Bud Select 55, Bud Select, MGD, Rolling Rock Green Light, Michelob Ultra, Miller Lite, Natural Light, Michelob Ultra Amber, Coors Light, Amstel Light, and Bud Light.
Avoid the high-carb drink options
People often forget the amount of sugar that many mixed drinks have, which can quickly destroy an otherwise keto-friendly lifestyle. Don’t let a night out ruin an excellent start to your keto journey.
Drinks that include soda, juice, or other sugars, including the following, should be avoided:
- Sweet wines, such as Moscato, port, sherry, dessert wines, sangria, and Zinfandel
- Sugary mixers, like triple sec, whiskey sour mix, blue curacao, grenadine, margarita mixes, and simple syrup
- Flavored alcohols, including coconut rum, peach or peppermint schnapps, and Baileys Irish Cream
- Juices, such as cranberry, orange, pineapple, tomato, apple, clamato, blueberry, and grapefruit
- Energy drinks, such as Red Bull
- Sodas, which can raise your glycemic index even if you’re choosing a low-calorie diet option
- Liqueurs, such as amaretto, Kahlúa, sambuca, Campari, Cointreau, and Frangelico
- Fruit add-ins, including cherries, orange slices, pineapple wedges, and various berries
- Wine coolers
- Regular beers
How to choose a keto-friendly alcohol chaser
Few people are hardcore enough to enjoy straight alcohol, so in addition to the mixers listed earlier, it isn’t uncommon to use a chaser. Many of the more popular chasers, such as soda or beer, have a high amount of carbohydrates.
Some keto-approved options are
- Seltzer water
- Flavored seltzer water
- Diet tonic water
- Diet flavored bubbly water
- Stevia or erythritol (if you’re drinking at home — you’ll get a weird look if you ask a bartender for these)
- Zero-sugar drinks, such as Red Bull Sugar-Free, Bai5 sweetened with erythritol, diet sodas, and sugar-free Monsters
- Stur (but avoid the ones with aspartame)
- Mio Water Enhancement
How to deal with a hangover on the keto diet
Depending on how much you’ve had to drink, the morning after could be a non-event or a significant roadblock. Coping with a hangover and staying in ketosis is relatively straightforward: Drink more water. When you’re done with that, drink some more water. After you’ve knocked that out and want a change of pace for your day, well, drink more water.
Taking aspirin won’t hurt you at all, so if it feels like there’s an army of dwarves hammering inside your skull, don’t hesitate to pop a few. In the meantime, however, continue drinking water!
You don’t have to give up alcohol to go keto. The two can mix if you’re smart about it. Make sure to be smart about which drinks you choose so it doesn’t cause undue damage to your keto journey.