2020 Guide to Keto-Friendly Alcohol Drinks
Learn how you can still enjoy your favourite cocktails while maintaining a ketogenic or low carb diet.
Many people wonder if they can still drink alcohol once they start a ketogenic diet. If you only look at it from the standpoint of the carb and fat content of alcoholic drinks, there are definitely alcoholic beverages out there that can safely be consumed if you are on a low carb or keto diet. However, there are other things to be consider when it comes to alcohol and maintaining your progress towards your weight loss goals.
One thing to keep in mind throughout this article, is that everyone has a different biological reaction to alcohol. Finding what works for you and your body is important. The number of enzymes in your body that break down alcohol largely affects your tolerance, and this is mainly determined by genetics. However, other factors such as the amount of sleep you’ve had in a day and the food you eat can also contribute to your response to alcohol. Before you take trial and error matters into your own hands, we’ll point out a few tips and guaranteed ways that you can manage your alcohol intake and stay on track of your low carb or ketogenic diet.
Here are some things to be aware of when consuming alcohol if you follow a low carb diet:
- Ketosis lowers your tolerance for alcohol and worsens your hangovers.
These two side effects go hand in hand; a lower tolerance results in a worse hangover. This is mainly due to the fact that less carbs are consumed on a keto, which help absorb alcohol when it enters the body. With less stores of carbohydrates, alcohol can reach your bloodstream quicker and have a more intoxicating effect. The good news is you don’t have to drink as much to get a buzz and this can save you a lot of money! Just be sure to stay hydrated. Consuming electrolytes or an anti-hangover supplement is also a good idea when you drink to prevent a terrible hangover, as ketosis often causes loss of body fluids (more frequent urination) that flushes out important minerals.
- It stops the actual process of ketosis.
The liver is the main producer of ketones, the body’s primary energy source when in ketosis. However, when you consume alcohol, the liver must stop producing ketones and switch gears to metabolize the alcohol instead. If you are frequently causing this halt in the system, your weight loss progress can suffer as the body is not using its full resources to help you achieve your goals. If weight loss is your primary goal for starting a keto diet, don’t ruin your progress by consuming alcohol too frequently as this only means you will be on the diet for longer!
- Drinking can cause you to crave foods that are not keto compliant.
This is one of the big worries with consuming alcohol on a keto diet, especially if you have a habit of ordering pizza after a late night out! If alcohol is not the problem, the 3 A.M. munchies may be the real culprit of slowed weight loss progress. Be sure to either have a stash of keto-friendly snacks in your cupboard for late night cravings, or use some willpower and drink a tall glass of water before bed. Rehydrating can sometimes combat those feelings of hunger that result from dehydration after drinking. Plus, it always makes the morning after a little bit better.
Now, these precautions don’t mean that you need to go cold turkey on alcohol. If you enjoy having a drink from time to time, there are ways that you can ensure it won’t affect your weight loss progress or throw you out of ketosis.
The first rule of thumb is to consume alcohol in moderation. Stick to one to two drinks (this should be enough, anyways!). If the second drink has you wanting another one, make sure to have a back-up plan. You can switch to tonic water with lime or lemon juice after your second drink, and still feel like you are drinking a cocktail. Plus, no one can try to shove another drink in your empty hands! Another great tip is to ask the bartender to add a few drops of non-sweetened bitters to your tonic water. This is like a pseudo-cocktail that will allow you to rehydrate while still enjoying the essence of a cocktail.
If you know that you have a hard time limiting the amount of alcohol you drink, then avoid it altogether. If not addressed properly, the pleasure-seeking regions of the brain can cause us to engage behaviours that are not only detrimental to weight loss progress, but also our overall health. If you know you are prone to over-doing it, take the time that you are on a ketogenic diet to abstain from alcohol and rewire your brain. Often when people have reached a point where they can comfortably abstain from something, they are more careful when they re-approach that thing again in the future. You can learn to socialize or enjoy a relaxing night for yourself without the use of something as a crutch, knowing that you are doing something good for your body and your mind. Have a friend or spouse support you in your efforts by also abstaining from alcohol. This will make you feel less alienated in social situations and you can talk about it with someone experiencing the same feelings as you.
If you are going to consume alcohol on a ketogenic diet, stick to its purest form to avoid excessive sugars and calories. While this may not be the easiest thing in the world to drink, it can sure help you avoid excessive consumption! Get to know which kind of spirits you like – most of them have very few or no carbs at all. Gin, vodka, rum, tequila, and whiskey are all safe choices. Light beers also tend to be safe as they contain less carbs (typically 3g per 12 oz) and calories compared to darker ales. Some options here include Miller Lite, Budweiser Select 55, Michelob ULTRA and Coors Light. Finding low carb wines can be a little bit trickier, as they often don’t advertise attributes like this in the name or on the bottle. Some liquor stores will tell you the sugar content per litre on the shelf tag – which is very handy. Avoid sweet wines such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Ice Wine, Moscato, White Zinfandel and very cheap brands of wine (they usually make up for the poor quality of the grapes with excessive sugar). You can always ask a store employee for help finding a dry wine that you will enjoy.
Cocktails are often made to camouflage the taste of alcohol so you can drink a lot of them. This is what makes it tricky for low carbers when you are not your own bartender. When ordering drinks at a restaurant or bar, avoid notoriously sweet cocktails such as margaritas, martinis, bellinis, mimosas, Long Island iced teas, piña coladas, prosecco, sangria – the list really goes on. Your best bet is to ask the bartender if they can make a drink for you from spirits and tonic water and if they leave out any juices or sugar-y syrups. Instead, you can ask for lemon, lime, or fresh mint to add some flavour.
Here are some of our favourite cocktail mixers from The Low Carb Grocery that you can use to make delicious low carb drinks at home:
With these zero-calorie, zero-carb, zero-sugar (stevia sweetened) liquid flavour drops, you can safely welcome back the classic combination of Rum & Coke into your low carb diet! Using Chase’s cola-flavoured cocktail mixer, all you have to do is add a few drops to sparkling water plus a shot of rum and you have yourself a perfectly satisfying, sugar-free low carb beverage. Plus, Chase Mixers are enhanced with 9 essential B Vitamins that can help prevent an unpleasant hangover the next day. These are a great item to bring to social gatherings when you know you may not have access to sugar-free options. Also available in Tropical Thunder flavour!
The Low Carb Grocery carries a number of sugar-free syrups in a wide range of flavours to satisfy any of your cravings. Get crafty with a mix of flavours and create your own signature low carb cocktail!
These bubbly drinks are sweetened with stevia, meaning they contain zero carbs and zero sugar. They are available in a variety of flavours, all naturally derived. Some of our favourite flavours include Black Cherry, Ginger Ale and Orange. Zevia is also available in sugar-free energy drinks, iced teas and ginger beer and tonic water mixers!
Unlike most other comparable products on the market, True Citrus is made with real citrus! With only 0.5g of net carbs per packet, they are perfect for making classic low carb drinks.
The Low Carb Mojito
To make this delicious cocktail, you’ll need:
- Zevia Tonic Water Mixer or other sugar-free sparkling water
- True Citrus Crystallized Lime Packets
- Fresh Mint
- White Rum
- Monk Fruit Sweetener of choice
- Use either a mortar and pestle or a small bowl and a spoon and mash together the mint leaves and monk fruit sweetener.
- Add the crushed mint to the bottom of a glass. Pour in the tonic water and one packet of True Citrus Crystallized Lime. Mix everything together and add a few cubes of ice.
- Finally, pour in a shot (or two) of white rum. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint and enjoy!
You can also use fresh lime juice in this recipe for a subtler taste. Limes are naturally low in carbs and safe for keto dieters!
Here are some other recipes we found online for great keto cocktails:
- Keto Lemon Drop Martinis
- Keto Blueberry Moscow Mule
- Avo-Keto Margarita + 3 other keto-friendly cocktails in this link!
- Low Carb Red Sangria – this recipe recommends using a berry-flavoured zero carb water enhancer. We recommend a combination of these Flavorall Liquid Stevia Drops. Yum!
- Low Carb Cherry Gin Fizz with egg whites – if you dare!
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