If you’re on a low-carb diet for weight loss or health reasons, alcohol consumption can sabotage your efforts in a number of ways. Fortunately, some types of alcohol are already naturally low-carb. Here’s your ultimate keto alcohol guide – definitely something worth toasting to!
Your Body and Alcohol
Alcoholic beverages are treated by the body as a toxin, so alcohol is immediately metabolized soon after consumption. About 98% of the alcohol that is consumed is processed in the liver; the body excretes the rest in urine, sweat, and respiration.
When you start feeling tipsy, this means that the alcohol is being metabolized by your body. Alcohol is also delivered to the brain and slows down various neural signals – causing the many symptoms of drunkenness, including slurred speech, poor coordination, and impaired judgment.
As a result of how the body processes alcohol, drinking too much and/or frequently can slow down fat burning and, therefore, affect weight loss. For many people, drinking alcohol also increases their appetite. And, of course, if you drink high-carb alcoholic beverages or too much of even the low-carb ones, you will be canceling out your low-carb diet gains.
Your Body On a Low-Carb Diet and Alcohol
People on a low-carb diet eventually develop a lower tolerance for alcohol. This is because the liver is immediately ready to metabolize alcohol as soon as it enters the body. Why?
On a high-carb diet, the liver is constantly breaking down carbohydrates into glycogen molecules for storage (extra stores of energy). On a low-carb diet, the body is burning excess fat more efficiently for energy because glycogen stores in the liver have been depleted. So when you drink alcohol, the liver is free to process it right away – hence, lower alcohol tolerance and quicker drunkenness.
Because alcohol also becomes a ready source of carbohydrates, your body will switch back to processing the carbs for energy and halt fat-burning. This also effectively slows down weight loss, if not completely putting it at a standstill.
If you’re on a low-carb diet, drinking alcohol in moderation and, more importantly, only drinking keto alcohol becomes even more important.
Keto Alcohol Options
With its empty calories, alcohol is usually a no-no on a low-carb/keto diet. At most, experts recommend minimal and infrequent consumption of specific kinds of alcohol, depending on your daily calorie/carbohydrate restriction.
A moderately low-carb diet, or about 20 to 50 grams of carbs per day, can still accommodate regular consumption of dry wines. An extremely strict low-carb diet of less than 20 grams of carbs per day, can allow for an occasional glass of wine – but only as long as it does not affect your weight loss.
A glass of dry wine typically has less than 2 grams of carbs. Sweeter wines can have between 4 grams of carbs (Rieslings and Gewurztraminers) and 5 or 6 grams of carbs (Madeira, Moscato, Port, and Sherry).
Check out the carbohydrate and calorie content of a five-ounce serving of the following wines:
- Red Wines
- Merlot: 120 calories, 4g carbs
- Pinot Noir: 121 calories, 3g carbs
- Cabernet: 120 calories, 4g carbs
- Syrah: 130 calories, 4g carbs
- Zinfandel: 130 calories, 4g carbs
- White Wines
- Champagne/Sparking whites: 96 calories, 2g carbs
- Pinot Gris/Grigio: 122 calories, 3g carbs
- Chardonnay: 118 calories, 4g carbs
- Riesling: 118 calories, 6g carbs
Straight or just on the rocks, clear and dark spirits have zero carbs. You can enjoy these keto alcohols while on a low-carb diet any time, as long as you still drink responsibly of course. Adding soda water and lime to vodka, for example, is also okay as these ingredients are also keto-friendly.
Do not mix these keto alcohols with juice, soft drink, sweet cream, or other sweeteners or flavors.
- Clear Spirits
- Dark Spirits
When it comes to beers, your options for keto alcohol are more limited. American light beers are typically safe to consume on a low-carb diet. You should avoid craft beers and IPA beers, as these are high in carbs. Depending on your daily carb restriction, you can enjoy a bottle of your favorite non-light beer on occasion.
12-ounce bottles of the following beers have the lowest carbs:
- Bud Select 55: 2g carbs, 55 calories
- MGD 64: 3g carbs, 64 calories
- Rolling Rock Green Light: 3g carbs, 92 calories
- Michelob Ultra: 3g carbs, 95 calories
- Bud Select: 3g carbs, 99 calories
- Miller Lite: 3g carbs, 96 calories
- Natural Light: 3g carbs, 95 calories
- Michelob Ultra Amber: 4g carbs, 114 calories
- Coors Light: 5g carbs, 102 calories
- Amstel Light: 5g carbs, 95 calories
- Bud Light: 7g carbs, 110 calories
Keto Pre-Mixed Drinks
Always check the nutrition label, but these pre-mixed drinks usually contain low-carb ingredients:
- Hard Seltzer (White Claw, Truly, Spiked Seltzers)
- Citizen Cider
- Skinny Drink Mixes
Keto-Friendly Chasers and Mixers
You can use the following zero-calorie and sugar-free chasers and mixers:
- Soda water
- Sparkling water
- Diet tonic water
- Seltzer water
- Sugar-free energy drinks
- Diet cola
Again, always check the nutrition label for carb content.
Non-Keto Alcohol: What You Should Avoid
- Sweet Wines
- Dessert Wines
- Sweetened Mixers
- Whiskey sour mix
- Blue curaçao
- Sugar syrup and flavored syrups
- Frozen margarita mixes
- Flavored alcohol (coconut rum, peach schnapps, Bailey’s, etc.)
- Fruit add-ins (cherries, berries, pineapples, oranges, etc.)
Keto Alcohol – Final Thoughts
You definitely do not need to cut out alcohol from your low-carb diet, but you will have to avoid or, at least, consume minimally and infrequently certain types of alcoholic drinks. There are a number of keto alcohol options that will still give you that happy buzz when drinking with friends, or get you relaxed for a quiet night at home. A keto choice between a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and vodka is not bad at all!