A while back, I promised I would discuss the topic of keto and alcohol. Well, today is the day that we delve into this controversial topic.
Let’s get started!
The alcohol/keto controversy is two fold. First, some people feel that to stay in ketosis, to truly follow the keto lifestyle, one must avoid alcohol. Others, me included, will say that everything in moderation should be OK, alcohol included. Others will say that consuming alcohol will actually increase ketone production and deepen your level of ketosis.
The second point of controversy is around the area of weight loss. Again, there are those who say that you will not lose as much weight when you are consuming alcohol. Others will say that your weight loss will not be interrupted.
Let’s look at both of these controversial viewpoints.
Alcohol and Ketosis
Ketones are produced in the liver. Alcohol is processed in the liver. We need to understand if these two processes work together or are counter-productive.
Those who would say that alcohol deepens your level of ketosis, may be referring to one small study (1) done in 1970 where the measured increase in ketones of a person on a high fat diet when consuming alcohol was attributed to an immediate depletion of glycogen in the liver which caused a small burst of ketone production. While this may be true, with continued consumption of alcohol, the body will switch to burning the alcohol for energy instead of fat, slowing down the production of ketones.
To stay in ketosis, we need to give the body what it needs to burn fat. That means we need to be avoiding overloading the body with carbs and sugar. Herein lies the problem. Many alcoholic beverages, beer and wine included, have quite a few carbs and sugar. It makes sense, then, that if we consume a large quantity of these drinks, we may be knocked out of ketosis.
I am in the moderation camp. Everything in moderation. If you have the occasional drink, as long as you are maintaining your hydration level by also consuming water, your body will be able to deal with the carbs a sugars and stay in ketosis. It would be best to drink beers higher in alcoholic content so you don’t need to drink as many, and find a wine, either red or white, that is low in carbs and sugars. Be aware of the carb and sugar content of the drinks you are considering, and purchase wisely.
Spirits are generally a better choice for the keto lifestyle, since during the manufacturing process, the sugars are eliminated, and the higher the alcohol content (anything over 40%) the lower the carbs. In fact most spirits have zero carbs.
The choice is yours. If you drink a lot, you will probably be knocked out of ketosis. You can abstain and be certain that you stay in ketosis. OR you can drink in moderation, being careful to choose low carb, low sugar drinks, and as long as you stay hydrated (one drink, one water), you will most likely stay in ketosis.
Alcohol and Weight Loss
As mentioned above, the occasional drinker should not have a problem with staying in ketosis. This means that your body will still be using fat for energy, aiding in your weight loss. That is the whole idea of the keto lifestyle – keeping your body in the fat burning mode. Using fat for energy is good for you in so many ways. The immediate byproduct is weight loss.
If you consume alcohol on a regular basis, and in larger quantities, your liver will stop producing ketones, because it is easier to use the alcohol for fuel. This will not only inhibit weight loss, it could in fact cause weight gain. We have all seen the “beer belly” on some guys (or girls) caused by the consumption of too much alcohol. When there is an excess of sugars and carbs in the body, they get stored as fat. That is a fact.
At the beginning of your weight loss journey, it might be a good idea to cut out drinking altogether. Once you get to a weight and fitness level you are happy with, and have adapted the low carb lifestyle, you should be able to drink in moderation without any negative side-effects to your keto lifestyle. Moderation is the key. One drink at dinner for women, two for men, not an issue, and may even have health benefits (2).
Two More Thoughts
One thing you will need to remember is that when you are in ketosis, alcohol will be processed by the liver much more quickly, so you will feel the effects of the alcohol with fewer drinks and much sooner than if you were not in ketosis. This is due to the small amount of stored glycogen in the body. Glycogen will slow down the metabolism of the alcohol, but since we don’t have much stored glycogen, not much slowing down of the processing of the alcohol. One drink may give you the same buzz as three or four drinks used to give you. Be careful.
The other consideration when consuming alcohol is lowered inhibitions when it comes to food choices. It may be easier for you to decide that a few pieces of pizza or a few handfuls of chips are not so bad at 1:00 in the morning after a few beers. Those decisions could easily kick you out of ketosis and hinder your weight loss or fitness goals. So be careful that you are making keto-friendly decisions while you are drinking. A handful of nuts will satisfy that salty craving and not threaten your ketosis.
I am not trying to be a buzz kill here. Like I said before, everything in moderation. There are many people who are in favour of a cheat meal every once in a while, or even weekly (I’ll talk about this in a later post). Everything in moderation.
And even if you have a few drinks and eat some foods that knock you out of ketosis, it’s not the end of the world! Wake up, eat properly, and get back into ketosis. Simple.
Life needs to be lived and enjoyed. If the keto lifestyle is to be maintained, you will need to find the balance that works for you. Remember that it is a journey, not a sprint. Keep moving forward.
Thanks for listening.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
See you in the next post.
Have a great day!