Your Guide to Keto and Alcohol: Will Drinking Kick You Out of Ketosis?

By: Jessica DiGiacinto
December 2, 2018

Your Guide to Keto and Alcohol: Will Drinking Kick You Out of Ketosis?

  • No surprise here: Alcohol isn’t exactly a health food. But you can enjoy the occasional drink on the keto diet without sacrificing your wellness goals.
  • On the keto diet, your body processes alcohol differently. That means the effects of alcohol might hit you faster. And over time, alcohol can derail your weight loss efforts.
  • Clear hard liquor is the most keto alcohol. Just be mindful of sugar-packed mixers. Dry, low-toxin wine may also work for some people.
  • Keep reading for Bulletproof tips to hack your hangover.

Is it possible to enjoy both a keto lifestyle and alcohol? In a word: Kinda.

Alcohol — even red wine — isn’t a health food. It’s associated with high blood pressure, inflammation, a weakened immune system and even cancer.[1] With that said, it’s common to enjoy a drink when you’re celebrating or socializing. So, how does booze fit into the keto lifestyle?

Although drinking on a keto diet won’t necessarily derail your progress, it will slow things down a bit. Read on for the definitive guide to keto and alcohol. Plus, learn how alcohol affects your body and Bulletproof tips to hack your hangover.

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Alcohol and the fat-burning process

Alcohol has about 7 calories per gram, so it’s sometimes classified as the fourth macronutrient.[2] But unlike carbs, fats and protein, it’s not essential. You don’t need it to survive.

While it’s obvious that sweet cocktails and beer are full of sugar and carbs that can immediately bring you out of ketosis, straight liquor and dry wine can also cause issues for some people.

Take a drink like a vodka soda: It has very few calories and even fewer grams of sugar. But it’s not the calories in this simple drink that can cause a problem; it’s how the body processes the liquor in the first place.

On the keto diet, your body uses fat for energy instead of carbs. In the absence of carbs, your liver turns fat into energy molecules called ketones. When you drink alcohol, your body begins to metabolize the booze — which means it breaks it down.

The thing is, when you’re keto, your liver focuses all of its attention on the metabolized alcohol instead of fat. Until all the alcohol has been processed, your body won’t produce ketones from fat. This slows down the fat-burning process, and potentially slows down your weight loss goals.[3]

The bottom line: If you’re a very occasional spirits drinker, alcohol probably won’t derail your keto lifestyle. But if you find yourself drinking high-carb beverages, or drinking often during the week or every weekend, you might be slowing down the fat-burning you want on keto.

Related: Ketosis and the Ketogenic Diet Explained: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

Why keto drinkers get drunk fast

Liver highlighted in person's ribcage

Carbs are great for managing that tipsy feeling. Pasta, pizza and bread are full of glucose, which your body burns relatively quickly. This slows down the metabolization of alcohol, which helps reduce blood alcohol levels.[4]

But when you’re living a ketogenic lifestyle, you’re eating very few carbs. That means alcohol is processed faster — which leads to you feeling tipsy or drunk much quicker.

Willpower, keto and alcohol

Maintaining a healthy ketogenic lifestyle requires focus and willpower. When you drink, your inhibitions and willpower weaken. This is why it’s so easy to go for a few pieces of pizza at 2 a.m. after a night of drinking instead of a handful of pistachios and a glass of water.

So even if you choose your liquor carefully, the choices you make after those drinks (i.e. pizza or fast food) may end up throwing you out of ketosis. This isn’t meant to be a buzzkill — it’s simply something more to consider when opting for a second or third drink.

Related: 16 Best Keto Snacks for Every Craving

Does alcohol actually increase ketosis?

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “drinking increases ketosis,” you’re only getting half the story.

A small study from 1970 illustrated how alcohol consumption and a high-fat diet increased “ketonuria” — aka more ketones were found in the volunteers’ urine.[5] Here’s the scientific explanation: Researchers theorized the ketonuria was caused by a “delayed change in intermediary metabolism” from alcohol-induced glycogen depletion.

The bottom line: Drinking alcohol on the keto diet might result in a quick burst of ketone activity, but your liver will eventually start to use alcohol for energy instead of fat. That means less fat-burning over time.

The best keto alcohol options

Alcohol is not part of the Bulletproof Diet. However, if you want to go out and enjoy a drink or two with friends, it’s still possible to do so on a keto diet. Here is your definitive guide to keto-friendly alcohol.

Hard liquor

Four cocktails with lemon and grapefruit

Most clear liquors that are around 40 percent alcohol (vodka, whiskey, gin, scotch, brandy, rum and tequila) contain 0 grams of carbs and sugars on their own, which means they’re keto-friendly in moderation.

The issue arrives if you want to mix your liquor with something to make it more palatable.

Mixing your spirits with straight water or seltzer is perfectly acceptable on keto, but tonic water (which is a bitter soda made from quinine) contains 32 to 33 grams of carbs per 12 ounces. Likewise, when you mix hard liquor with things like fruit juice, sodas or behind-the-bar “mixers” (which are usually full of sugar), you’re opening yourself up to a lot of liquid carbs.

If you’re really craving a little something more than just plain tequila on the rocks, you can still enjoy keto-friendly drinks that swap out sugary mixers, such as a keto White Russian or strawberry margarita.

Keep in mind that flavored alcohols (coconut-flavored vodka, for instance) can and often do contain extra sugar. Avoid them whenever possible.

Wine

Hands clinking glasses of wine

While most cheap wine (think the stuff under $10 or that comes in a box), can come with residual sugar, if you stick to very dry red or white wine, you can still have a glass with dinner. Typically, dry wines have about 1 gram or less of sugar per ounce, and the usual serving is 5 ounces, so pour accordingly.

Keep in mind that while some dry wines might be OK on keto, most are not Bulletproof. Typical wine contains up to 76 different additives that aren’t disclosed on their labels — like artificial coloring, yeast, ammonia, defoaming agents and metals.[6] They can carry carcinogenic mycotoxins from moldy vats or poor fermentation, too.

A few keto-friendly, dry white wines include:

  • Sauvignon blanc (0.6g carbs per ounce)
  • Pinot blanc: (0.57g carbs per ounce)
  • Italian pinot grigio (0.6g carbs per ounce)

A few keto-friendly, dry red wines include:

  • Cabernet sauvignon (0.75g carbs per ounce)
  • Pinot noir (0.68g carbs per ounce)
  • Merlot (0.74g carbs per ounce)

You can get a more comprehensive list of carbohydrate content by wine type here. Organic, biodynamic Dry Farm Wines tests their wines in labs to ensure they’re free of mold and additives — and its founders are keto.

Beer

Four cups of beer on table

Because of its ingredient list (barley, hops, yeast and water), beer is something to be avoided when on a Bulletproof and keto diet. The barley is broken down into sugar maltose, which is what the yeast acts on, creating a much higher carb count than straight liquor.

Beer can contain gluten, yeast, ochratoxin A and other mold toxins. If you’re going to drink beer, know that it’s not Bulletproof, and at least make it gluten-free.

Here is one keto-friendly, gluten-free beer to try: Omission Brewing Co. Ultimate Light Golden Ale (5 grams of carbs per 12-ounce serving). Looking for more low-carb beers? Check out this list.

Be sure to download the Bulletproof Keto Alcohol Guide for a more thorough breakdown and handy visual aide below.

Get 3 Keto Resources for FREE!

Subscribe to our Keto mailing list to get a free keto shopping guide and regular tips for keto dieters. Includes 3 free downloads: The Keto Alcohol Guide, The Keto Food List, and a 7 Day Keto Meal Plan.