A women in a white shirt with red hair pouring a glass of red wine into a wine glass she is holding in her left hand

Can I Have Alcohol on Atkins?

One of the most common questions people have when they begin a low carb diet is if they can have alcohol on low carb diets. The Atkins diet is a program that is known to have started the low carb and keto diet programs. Here’s what Atkins Nutritionals had to say about that:

Once you’re in Phase 2, Ongoing Weight Loss (OWL), of the Atkins Diet, you can have alcohol if you wish and if experience shows that you can handle it. But don’t pour yourself a glass of wine or a Scotch and water the day you leave Induction. Wait until you’ve settled into OWL before adding alcohol.

Atkins Nutritionals

So the short answer is, “Yes” you can have alcohol on Atkins but there are things to consider when adding the booze to your ketogenic diet and how it may affect your weight loss efforts.

What is the relationship between alcohol and ketosis?

Some people will handle alcohol better than others. If you are used to having a glass of wine every night with dinner, a cocktail when you get home from work, or a beer on the weekend then you’d better get out of that habit. You are probably going to stall your weight loss efforts big time. One serving a day of alcohol will almost always stall you no matter how low the net carbs are.

Marye Audet
To some (me) wine is essential

It kinda stinks too because I really enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner. It’s best to drink alcohol only about one or two drinks a week, spaced far apart if possible. The reason is that your body when it’s in ketosis burns the fat in your body instead of sugar. When you drink alcohol, your body is going to quit burning fat and burning the alcohol first and the food you just ate second. If you don’t have too much in your system you probably won’t notice the brief switch but if you have too much then you are just going to totally stop losing weight.

For me that means I have to go back to square one and start induction all over.

Once you get close to your goal then you can probably begin having a glass of wine every evening or a cocktail a couple of times a week. In the phases before that you’ll want to make it a special occasion only thing. I am in the midst of “special occasion only” every day time in my life and I am going to have to hide the corkscrew and get back on the wagon.

Don’t you hate when when that happens?

What alcohol can you drink on Atkins?

Here’s a breakdown of the carbs in alcohol:

0 Carbs – Less than 1 carb

  • Bourbon (0.04)
  • Vodka
  • Scotch
  • Brandy
  • Gin
  • Rum
  • Tequila
  • Whiskey (0.04)

Less than 5 Carbs

  • White Wine
  • Red Wine
  • Table Wine

More than 5 Carbs

  • Light beer 5.81
  • Regular Beer 12.64

These figures are based on 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Once you make them into cocktails and add other stuff you are on your own. Think about this, a Mai Tai has over 29 grams of carbohydrates. All the fruit juice and other sugary liqueurs really jack up the net carbs.

What are the problems with the Atkins diet and alcohol?

It seems easy right? If you look at the net carbs in your alcohol alone, there appear to be a lot of low and no carb alcohol options. Unfortunately, it’s not just the net carbs in the drink itself that can impact your weight loss efforts. I’d love to think that drinking alcohol is a positive addition to my keto diet, but it isn’t as much as I would love it to be. Why?

Pretty much all alcohol is made from grain and grapes. You recognize these foods as ones that are usually avoided on a Atkins diet. But we aren’t eating a slice of white bread from wheat. The grain when fermented to make alcohol converts the carbs in the grains are turned into alcohol. Likewise the sugar in the grapes are fermented to make alcohol in wine.

So the great news is that this that means that distilled spirits have zero net carbs. While red and white wine, along with light beer contains around 3-4 carbs per serving. The notion that alcohol has tons of sugar or that your body changes that alcohol into sugar is a fallacy.

However, alcohol does have calories. Alcohol has on average, 7 kcal per 1 gram. In fact, it’s often referred to as the 4th macronutrient group after fat, protein, and carbs. Unfortunately it’s not an essential macronutrient. Meaning, we don’t need it to live. Although I could debate that topic after my favorite glass of wine lol.

How does drinking alcohol affect ketosis?

The reason we go low carb and follow a keto diet is that we want our bodies to burn fatty acids and turn them into ketones. So instead of the sugar from carbs, we burn fat. The problem we run into with a cocktail or a glass of wine is that the body turns the alcohol into a toxic substance for a short time. This causes our body to prioritize the metabolization of the alcohol first. That means any food we have eaten takes a back seat. Worse, I know when I drink I love to snack at the same time. If I’m not careful, I can kick myself out of ketosis with a few cocktails and appetizers. Ugh. Worse, many cocktails are mixed with sugar ladened ingredients like fruit juice, soft drinks and the like. For example, tonic water. Sounds harmless right? Well, a can of tonic water (12 ounces) has 32 grams of sugar. That’s like consuming 8 sugar packets !

So yes, go ahead. You can have alcohol when on a low carb and ketogenic diet. Just be super careful and watch for signs that you are stalling your weight loss efforts. Remember that some people will be able to have several glasses of wine a week while others won’t be able to have even one.

When you are going to have a cocktail here and there, here are a couple of my favorite low carb cocktail drinks for you:

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