Reviewed by UCSF Cardiologist Dr. Ethan Weiss for accuracy on 11/15/2019
Can you drink alcohol on keto?
If you like to imbibe, we have good news for you – you can absolutely have the occasional alcoholic drink while still maintaining nutritional ketosis. But, you must choose the correct kinds of beverages and remember that even those that are keto-friendly contain empty calories and do not contribute positively to your quest to lose weight.
The main problem with alcoholic beverages is their level of calories and carbs. Seemingly innocuous drinks can be laden with hidden carbs that can quickly exceed your carb allowance for the day. Understanding exactly what you are drinking is the best way to have an enjoyable social, alcoholic drink while keeping you in ketosis.
To make it easier for you, we created this guide that will help you decide what to drink when on keto. However, it is important to point out that it all depends on your goals in terms of weight loss and improvements in health.
If you are planning on having a couple drinks during the weekend, then it’s best for you to plan ahead and adjust your diet to make room for the alcohol. Unlike the healthy foods you eat as part of the keto lifestyle, calories that come from alcohol do not leave you feeling satiated. That’s one of the reasons why people that drink excessively often times end up with a “beer belly”.
Having said that, there are some beverages that are more “keto-friendly” than others and we’ll break them down for you here.
The worst keto alcohol drinks
Let’s start with your worst enemies: cocktails.
The problem with some cocktails is that they are not only made with alcohol, but also a lot of things which are usually super high in carbs. For example:
- Piña colada ~30g of net carbs
- 6 Oz. Pineapple juice ~24g
- 1 Oz. Coconut cream ~5g
- 1Oz. Heavy cream ~1g
- 2 Oz. White rum ~0g
- Mojito ~25g of net carbs
- 2 tbsp White sugar ~25g
- 4 Oz. Club Soda 0g
- 1.5 Oz. White rum 0g
- Gin and tonic ~13.5g of net carbs
- 6.5 Oz. Tonic water ~13.5g
- 1.5 Oz. Gin 0g
- 2 Oz Vodka 0g
As you can see in these popular drinks, the alcohol is not the problem, but rather the other ingredients. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a tasty cocktail as long as you choose low or no carb mixers that won’t negatively affect your ketogenic diet.
What are the best Keto alcohol mixed drinks?
The best mixer by far on keto is:
- Sparkling water (flavored or unflavored)
These are zero calories, add flavor, and also provide hydration while you are drinking.
Other great mixers when drinking alcohol on keto are:
- Some sports drinks like Powerade Zero and Vitamin Water Zero
- Keto-friendly energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster and Zevia in their low carb presentations
- Sugar-free tonic water
- Diet soda
- Crystal Light drink mix
Remember – most spirits contain zero carbs, so accompanying them with keto-friendly mixers is the best option. Just keep an eye on the calories.
Now, what about other alcoholic drinks? For the non-spirit drinkers, there are other options to keep you
Beers on Keto
Can you drink beer when in ketosis?
It depends. Most beers tend to be very high in carbs and should be avoided if you want to maintain ketosis. However, if you happen to love the taste of a cold brew, there are some low carb varieties that, when consumed in moderation, can keep you on track. Many of these “light beers” contain around 3 grams of carbs per bottle and can be figured in to your diet with a little planning. The key is to do your research in advance so you know exactly what and how much to drink before faced with the decision.
For instance, a bottle of Miller Lite contains only about 3 grams of carbs, while a bottle of Corona has over 13 grams.
The most common low-carb beers are:
- Budweiser Select 55 ~1.9g per bottle (8.5 Oz)
- Michelob Ultra ~2.6g per bottle (8.5 Oz)
- Busch Light ~3.2g per bottle (8.5 Oz)
- Natural Light, also known ad Natty Light Beer ~3.2g per bottle (8.5 Oz)
- Miller Lite ~3.2g per bottle (8.5 Oz)
Wine on Keto
Can you drink wine when in ketosis?
Yes, just as with beer, drinking some varieties of wine (in moderation) is actually ok for a ketogenic lifestyle. Dry wines tend to be the best options in terms of carb content with both dry red and white wines typically containing 3-5 grams of carbs per 5 oz.
The most common low-carb red wines are:
- Merlot ~3.7g per 5 oz.
- Pinot Noir ~3.4g
- Shiraz ~3.8g
The most common low-carb white wines are:
- Brut cava ~2.5g per 5 oz.
- Brut champagne ~2.8g
- Chardonnay ~3.1g
Liqueurs on Keto
Can you drink Liqueurs when in Ketosis?
No. While there are keto-friendly options for wine, beer and champagne, low-carb liqueurs are not easy to find. The reason? Liqueurs always contain sugar.
Liqueurs are just sweet liquor, so you have the same situation as with cocktails. The base of liqueurs are usually spirits that contain no carbs (like vodka, rum, or whiskey), but they become non-keto friendly when they get flavored and sweetened with fruit, herbs, sugar, cream, nuts or other ingredients.
For example, the most common liqueurs are:
- Amaretto. Amaretto is originally flavored from bitter almonds. 1.5 Oz of the famous Dekuyper Cherry Pucker has 12g of carbs, while Disaronno has 24g.
- Baileys Irish Cream. A glass of this whiskey and cream-based liqueur has over 7g of carbs and about 130 calories.
- Campari. This red-colored liqueur is made with fruit and herbs. 1 Oz of Campari sums up to over 8g of carbs.
- Kahlúa. The very famous Mexican coffee-flavored liqueur has a shocking amount of carbs with 14 grams per fl. Oz.!
As you can see, most commercially available liqueurs are poor options if your goal is to maintain ketosis.
There are, however, two alternatives, which are to flavor your own spirits or make your own liqueurs. For instance, you can make your own low-carb Irish Cream Liqueur or a sugar-free kahlua.
Similarly, ciders (which are made from the fermentation process of fruit juices) contain added sugars and juices that make them an unsuitable option when drinking alcohol on keto.
The affects of keto on alcohol tolerance
Now that you know what to drink and what to keep an eye on, it is important for you to know that when in ketosis, your alcohol tolerance will be reduced. In other words, if you are following the keto diet, you will likely become intoxicated much easier than usual. This happens because of the lack of liver glycogen. When you don’t have those stored carbs, the alcohol reaches your liver more quickly for processing, resulting in you feeling intoxicated more quickly. Also, keep in mind that your liver will always prioritize the metabolism of alcohol before stored body fat, so fat burning will take a back seat until the alcohol is effectively cleared from your system.
Don’t forget that even though some alcohol on keto is okay, it does have an effect on your diet and weight loss progress. However, if you stick to the recommended beverages and quantities, you can have a sip every now and then while not derailing all your hard work.