Alcohol is not forbidden
You can drink alcohol on a keto diet – it’s not a deal breaker. I watch people expounding on keto diets and how you can’t drink alcohol or that certain things are “forbidden.” From my perspective, I use a method that’s been around 150 years, starting with the Banting diet in England, then Dr Atkins picked it up for 30 years, and then we picked up the ball by studying the method and publishing clinical trials. It really boils down to the number of total grams of carbohydrate and how much carbohydrate in alcohol you need to burn through before your body will start burning its own fat. If you’re trying to lose weight by burning your body fat or you’re trying to reverse diabetes, what you want to do is keep the carbs really low and alcohol really low so that you can still burn your body fat. That’s what happens after a couple of days: the hunger is gone, and you start losing weight – usually a pound or two per week.
How much alcohol can you consume on a keto diet?
Scientifically, some alcohols have carbs. Some beer has more alcohol and more carbs than others. You’ll read on the internet that hard liquor has no carbs, so it must be a “free food,” right? No. It’s not only the number of grams of carbs but it’s also related to the calories in the food you eat and the beverages you drink. What that means is while something like vodka or tequila might say zero carbs, it still has calories – usually 80 to 100 calories per shot, depending on how much you drink. The alcohol can actually stop your fat burning because you’re having too many calories. Remember, you have to burn through the sugars, starches, and alcohols you consume before you can burn your body fat. A useful rule of thumb is 5 grams of total carbs per drink. It’s useful, because I typically keep people under 20 or 30 grams per day (total carbs, not net). A drink is a glass of dry wine – it could be red or white, that doesn’t matter – and it’s a typical restaurant pour. This is something like four to five inches in a wine glass. It’s not a “home pour,” which might be the whole wine glass filled up! The serving size matters. You want to count one glass of dry wine as 5 grams of total carbs.
If you’ve been paying attention to the beer commercials on sports channels, you’ll know that some beers have very low carb levels – they’re marketed that way. I basically boil it down to 5 grams of carbs per 12-ounce low-carb beer. It’s typically a light beer and some taste better than others, so find the one that you like. One drink in terms of beer is one 12-ounce beer. The 5 grams of carbs rule for hard liquor applies to about one or two alcoholic shots. If you’re having vodka, whisky, or bourbon, the mixers have to have no carbs. It could be straight-up on the rocks or a sugar-free mixer. I’ve seen people bring their own sugar-free drinks to parties and send away for sugar-free mixers. In my clinical experience with thousands of people using a keto diet for weight loss or reversal of diabetes, these are acceptable to have. Watch the number of carbs: count 5 grams of carbs per drink. If you want to stay under 20 grams, you’re going to have 10 or 15 grams from your vegetables in leafy greens, so 20 minus 15 leaves 5 carbs for about one drink a day, if you’re going to drink on a daily basis. Ultimately, alcohol is not forbidden.
Cautions with alcohol
Most people tell me they can drink less and get the same effects, so be careful to not over consume alcohol. What you used to drink might be too much now. (Your tolerance is lower on a keto diet. Alcohol will affect you more quickly and more strongly.) You also want to be sure that there are no hidden sugars. If you’re not making the drink, be sure that your drink is made under your watch. At a keto event, the most common drinks that I see are dry red wine or a vodka with club soda and a twist of lime, and people seem to enjoy that. I think you can enjoy some alcohol in moderation. (Of course, if you have had a drinking problem, don’t go there at all.) You can comfortably lose weight by the hunger going away using a properly formulated keto diet, which can include a little bit of alcohol if you consume it sensibly.
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