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alcohol and ketosis

Can you drink alcohol on the keto diet? If the keto diet is supposed to be a lifelong journey, I was very curious to find out how alcohol and ketosis worked.

Drinking on the weekends is a big part of my life, probably too big. While I resolve to lessen my alcohol consumption, the thought of having to cut out my favourite cocktails completely on this way of eating didn’t make me a happy camper.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this subject and then I did a few tests myself to see what effect liquor has on ketosis and weight loss. These are my personal results.

Not sure what the keto diet is? Check out my beginner’s guide to the keto diet here. Want to try a guided keto journey for 28 days? Check this out!

What is Ketosis

If you’re new to the diet I’ll run down some of the basics here so you can see why liquor is a concern for those on the diet.

The keto diet is a sugar-free, extremely low carb diet. Those on “strict keto” meaning they’re following all the rules of the keto diet, aim to eat less than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Doing this allows the body to enter into a metabolic state called ketosis, where the liver process the fat stores you have as well as the fat that you eat into ketones.

Ketones are then used by your cells as a source of energy, instead of glucose that we usually get when we eat carbs.

This is a completely healthy process and some would argue that ketones is a better quality energy source than glucose since it usually comes with these other benefits.

How Alcohol Affects Ketosis

Remember, it’s your liver that processes fat into ketones. It’s also your liver that flushes alcohol out of your system as alcohol contains no nutrients to be broken down and used inside the body. In fact, alcohol is seen as a toxin and so getting rid of it is given priority over ketone production.

When your body is focused on flushing alcohol out, fewer ketones are being produced and your weight loss may therefore be affected. How much alcohol you drink and the type of alcohol will determine if you are knocked out of ketosis completely.

What Alcohol Can You Drink on the Keto Diet?

Luckily for me, my favourite cocktail is already keto, a rum and soda water mix with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Hard liquor and dry wines are going to be your go-to on the keto diet, leaving behind the fancy cocktails and sugary mixes. Check out this handy chart by the great folks over at Ruled.Me

alcohol and ketosis cheat sheet

Calories matter here. Like I said, alcohol is empty in nutrients and therefore all these calories you’re drinking are only adding to your daily intake without providing any nutritional benefits.

You could easily drink yourself a whole meal’s worth of calories and still be famished while drinking, tipping your weight in the wrong direction and away from ketosis.

Why You Should Stay Away From Alcohol on Keto if Your Goal is Weight Loss

There are a few main reasons why you may want to give up alcohol altogether if your goal on keto is to lose weight.

  1. You’ll get drunk quicker. Carbs are usually the diet staple that soaks up the alcohol when we’re drinking. I know I usually eat a huge meal on a Friday night before I head out to try and keep all my faculties in check. You will become extremely light headed on the keto diet so you may want to stick to just one drink.
  2. Alcohol consumption usually leads to bad food decisions. Who doesn’t love a good loaded-fries after a night out boozing? And with liquor in your system, it will be harder to resist saying no to a jumbo cheese dog than usual.
  3. You’ll stall your weight loss. Like explained before, your body will prioritize matabolizing the alcohol and so your weight loss will slow when you drink alcohol. Liquor has a direct impact on belly fat especially so if you’re on keto to lose the gut, drinking is in direct conflict with that goal.

Once you’ve hit your goal weight and you’re in keto maintenance, it’s fine to imbibe responsibly every now and then.

How to Drink While In Ketosis

Ok so while I’m preaching to stay away from alcohol if you want to lose weight on keto, I know that’s easier said than done.

Hell, I’m only in week 2 of my current keto cycle and I’ve already managed to knock myself out of ketosis because of one weekend. Le sigh.

If you do want to indulge and not find yourself knocked out like me, here are a few tips:

  • Stick to hard liquor shots or chased with zero carb chasers such as soda water or diet sodas. I still think diet sodas are a terrible idea with the artificial sweeteners, but if you must…
  • Have just one drink. Especially if this is your first time drinking while on keto. Watch for your new tolerance level.
  • Drink lots of water. Remember that the keto diet is diuretic in nature and so you’ll want to be replenishing plus helping your liver to flush out where possible.
  • Eat a big keto meal beforehand. Drinking on an empty stomach is always a bad idea and can be deadly on the keto diet. Just ask about alcohol ketoacidosis.
  • This goes without saying but always have a designated driver when you’re planning to have drinks. Never drink and drive.

My Experience with Alcohol and Ketosis

The first time I went out to drink alcohol I was not knocked out of ketosis. I stuck to dark rum and club soda as my chaser and had a big meal beforehand.

I had quite a few drinks, it was a long night. I probably consumed around 200ml of alcohol that night.

I tested for ketones that night when I got home and again in the morning. I used these test strips to perform these tests.

In the first picture my ketone levels are small but still there and by the next morning, I was once again recording moderate, close to large even, levels of ketones in my urine.

I made sure to drink lots of water while out and once I got home and this probably helped to maintain my state of ketosis.

This outing was a Wednesday night. By Sunday I was completely knocked out of ketosis after going out on Friday and again on Saturday night. Keep it light if you want to lose weight and stay away from consecutive days of alcohol consumption.

By Tuesday I was once again registering small levels of ketones after completing a 20:4 cycle of intermittent fasting on Monday. Fasting is a great way to get back into ketosis quickly I have found.

Final analysis, yes, you can drink on keto. Keep it light and infrequent and you will still lose weight, albeit at a slower rate than if you were not drinking alcohol.

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