So let's talk alcohol on a ketogenic lifestyle. Yes or no? There are many factors to consider, so we need to break it down so you understand the biological responses to alcohol while engaging in this way of eating. So let's begin!
The quick answer is YES! You can drink alcohol while on a ketogenic diet.
But you should know several things before you ask "what can I drink?"
First, know that being in ketosis changes HOW your body responds to alcohol. Your tolerance to alcohol will be lowered significantly, which means you will feel the effects much quicker and will likely also have a more intense hangover. But why? Carbs help to slow the absorption of alcohol in the stomach. However, if you are eating low carb, there is little to nothing in the stomach to absorb it. The alcohol dumps directly into your bloodstream and all at once! Holy cow, talk about getting hammered fast! Be careful out there!
We also must consider how our liver functions while on a ketogenic diet. We know that in order to achieve ketosis, we had to use up our glycogen stores in our muscles and liver. This is an obligatory process prior to entering ketosis. Most people following the Standard American Diet have TONS of stored sugar in their livers. We do not. The stored glycogen in the liver helps to cushion the liver and gives it more time to process the alcohol. We do not have glycogen there any longer, so our livers get hit hard and fast with alcohol. You also need to be keenly aware that drinking alcohol will KICK YOU OUT OF KETOSIS. While your body is processing the alcohol- it CANNOT MAKE KETONES. So even if you are drinking a zero carb drink, you will be kicked out. Let me say that again for those who are wondering WHY they are not losing weight on keto: YOU WILL PAUSE FAT LOSS WHILE YOU ARE DRINKING ALCOHOL, EVEN IF IT IS ZERO CARB!!!!!! The liver cannot produce ketones at the same time as it is processing alcohol. Also, alcohol is a fuel source that needs to be depleted before the liver will go back about the business of making ketones. This is crucial to understand! If you drink daily, you are pausing fat loss daily. If you want to lose fat-, you need to keep your drinking to a minimum! Feel free to test this with a ketone meter and see if you get kicked out of ketosis while drinking.
Now let's talk hangovers. Why do they tend to be WORSE when following a ketogenic diet? First we must understand the mechanisms that cause hangovers. Most hangovers occur for 3 reasons- dehydration, electrolyte imbalance and slight brain inflammation. While on a ketogenic diet, electrolyte imbalance can be more pronounced as compared to the SAD diet. So it stands to reason that we would suffer more intense hangover effects due to an increased state of electrolyte imbalance. I can attest to the fact that hangovers SUCK on keto. They do. They are horrible! Please be very careful when deciding to drink when in ketosis. You have been warned!
Finally, we all know what alcohol does to our decision making ability. It lowers inhibitions. I have fallen victim to bad decision making after a night of drinking debauchery. I admit to wolfing down some "keto treats" and high carb "carbage" when getting home at 2am after a night at the bars. Am I right? You are weaker minded when drunk and your desire to stay low carb will likely be M.I.A until you sober up. I know this, and even when I tell myself "don't eat dumb shit after drinking tonight" I sometimes still get led astray. So I have to keep my drinking to a minimum.
Now, let's assume that despite all of the risks and pausing of fat loss, you still have decided you want to imbibe. That's cool! No harm no foul. Life is meant to be enjoyed and there ARE keto friendly drinks that are also no or low carb which will minimize and shorten the window of time when you are kicked out of ketosis/not in fat loss mode. Here is a list:
Spirits: Vodka, Tequila, Gin mixed with low or no carb mixers.
Some good options are Vodka soda with lime or a Bloody Mary
Wine: White wines tend to be lower carb than Red. Choose dry wines. No sweet or dessert wines.
Beer: Not a good choice. Even low carb beers are made from grains. Avoid entirely.
Hard Seltzers: Good choice. Most are low carb.
So in a nutshell, we CAN drink while engaging in this amazing keto lifestyle. But beware. You will likely be a cheap drunk, get wasted off 2 drinks and will feel like death warmed over the next day AND you will have paused fat loss. So ask yourself if it is worth it. And for the love of Pete, if your fat loss has stalled- ditch the dang alcohol!!!!!