Another very common question asked by those new to a Zero Carb diet is: Can I Drink Alcohol on a Zero Carb Diet? There have been many posts about this subject in the Facebook group Zeroing in on Health. I have selected some of the best comments from these discussions and posted them here for easy reference.
While occasional or even moderate consumption of dry, non-sweet alcohol might be okay for some people. Those who are new to a Zero Carb diet are strongly encouraged to abstain from it during their initial 30-Day trial. Once you have a clear baseline of how you feel on just meat and water, then you can easily test out other things like dairy or alcohol and get a much better idea of how your body is personally affected by them.
Dr. Paul Mabry:
I’m a retired MD with years of low carb ketogenic blogging experience. I’m day 6 on this new and from all my research intuitively beautiful way of eating. There have been some questions about alcohol so I wanted to post this short answer on the basic science of alcohol in layman’s terms which apply equally to low carb and zero carb: Moderate alcohol can be accommodated on the diet.
Alcohol is metabolized exclusively in the liver and does not stimulate the release of Insulin which is the big enemy of people like me who suffer from the metabolic syndrome. Things to know if you’re going to drink alcohol is that many forms contain carbs that can torpedo any weight loss.
The worst offenders are beers, even lite ones, sweet wines though all wines contain carbs the dry ones contain the least and some drinks like hard cider and lemonade are as bad as drinking Coke. You will have to count carbs if you consume these. Drinks like Rum, Scotch, Whiskey and Vodka have zero carbs if you drink them with water. However, Scotch and Whiskey are made from plants in the wheat family which is associated with autoimmune conditions, so I would recommend avoiding these.
Of course excess consumption of alcohol overwhelms the livers ability to metabolize alcohol and use it for energy, the liver responds by converting it to fat but in that pathway the liver is unable to get it out of the liver cells quickly so high consumption leads to a fatty buildup in liver cells, and eventually cirrhosis (a term for a very swollen fatty liver with significant scar tissue). In time this will lead to liver failure. In addition, alcohol significantly increases the risk of several forms of cancer.
So, as you can see, there are good reasons to moderate alcohol use no matter what diet you are following. But moderate use of dry alcoholic drinks should not affect weight loss unless consumed in a carbohydrate rich vehicle.
Dr. Mabry is correct about how alcohol affects the liver, but I would also add that alcohol only really damages the liver in this way when high omega 6 polyunsaturated seed oils are also present in the diet, along with other sources of fructose. Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is a very modern problem, and more people suffer from this than from alcoholic fatty liver disease. Furthermore, saturated fat PROTECTS against alcohol’s supposed evil effects. Just like cholesterol and sugar and salt and everything else that’s ever been vilified by the “experts” over the years, it’s the DOSE and – more importantly – THE CONTEXT that makes the poison. In a personal note, wine and low carb beer drops my ketones from just under 2.0 down to 0.4, but “calories” in general will do that too. Blood sugar stays relatively stable
That is all true but you also have to take into consideration the lowering of inhibitions and the (for some) face first fall into a dish of nachos. I still stand by my advise to avoid it at all costs. Many, including me have reported a lower alcohol tolerance. I get a buzz off of one glass of wine or 1 oz of gin. Double that and I become an idiot. I personally need to stay away. Even after 7 years of ZC.
My personal experience is to steer clear of all alcohol. I’ve been ZC for 7ish years and I have never attained my ideal weight. Yes, I have controlled my BS’s and I’ve lost quite a bit of weight but I’m telling you that alcohol always leads to weight issues for me. I never drank at all for my first 2 years of ZC and that is when I lost most of my weight. About 5 years ago I started to date my current boyfriend and he drinks wine daily. I started to drink wine on date night which was twice a week. I managed to maintain my weight loss during those 2 years.
Well let me tell you, he moved in 3 years ago and that was the beginning of my weight troubles. Wine daily led to a weight gain of almost 30 lbs which I lost about a year ago on cleanish ZC and have since regained with a return to wine and occasional Gin and diet tonic. I’ve been trying really hard to give it up since January and been mostly successful. I really hate my job and having a couple of drinks on a Friday night feels really good. I haven ‘t had wine in more than a month but I have had a few G & diet T’s.
I’ve lost 10 lbs since January but would love to eat clean and lose the rest (40 to go). For full disclosure I have to admit that I’m not 100% sure that the wine is the culprit, but I know for a fact that it lowers my inhibitions and I have found myself face first in either Low Carb treats or chocolate or even chips. Some folks can have alcohol and/or wine with no issues but that is definitely not the case for me. I really advise to stay away from it for optimal health.
since ZC, my love-hate relationship with wine is so transformed … i used to drink a bottle of red myself when dining out, even more at parties, now, 5 weeks into ZC, i can barely sip through one glass, like last nite at a restaurant. my date got 2 flutes of bubbles, i askd for 1 red, left 1/3 in the glass at the end, and was a good wine! not forcing myself at all to limit it, i just don’t like anymore the buzz generated by it, because the ZC buzz is SO MUCH more potent!! i would’ve never tought in my wildest ZC expectations that something like that could happen to me.
Kimberly Engle Bulgajewski:
So true Ricardo! I had a very small glass of vodka & water and had a very good buzz on could not believe it. In the past it would take 1 very large strong drink to get me started lol they are now few and far between.
I thought ZC was making me gain weight. It wasn’t enough to worry about, but as soon as I gave myself 4 or 5 days without WINE, the extra pounds went away. I tested this week after week, and it was always the same. Wine = 2 lbs UP. No wine = 2 lbs DOWN. Whether or not wine has very many carbs, I don’t know. But I can’t dispute the alcohol, which affects my fat burning organ (liver). If anyone can maintain (or keep losing) while drinking wine, I’m jealous.
The carb content in liquor is not the problem. The problem is that fat burning takes place in the liver, and alcohol competes with fat burning (and WINS). So, when you drink alcohol, you burn less fat. If that doesn’t bother you (and it shouldn’t, if you have no excess fat on your body), then you can drink. If you want to lose fat, and don’t mind losing it at a slower pace, you can drink. If you’re alcoholic, you should never drink. If your liver is compromised from years of a SAD diet, you may want to skip the alcohol until you have reached your goal.
I’ve had the opposite effect from Laura‘s. I can’t say that it is the alcohol that makes me lose weight but my scale goes down a couple of pounds on it and up when off the booze. Doesn’t take much wine on ZC to be enough, either. I’d prefer a good single malt scotch but I have to drive over the county line to get that…so wine it is 95% of the time. And for the record, I haven’t managed to drink enough that I forget what I will and won’t eat. That’s never been a problem for me.
My brief foray into ZC (day #29) has included moderate amounts of red wine. I like a bit with Steak. On occasion I’ll mix 2 oz with 4-6 oz sparkling water and ice cubes, a teeny slice of lemon. Very light, and this, especially, causes me no probs. I can’t drink wine daily though. I never have. It’s always been a treat. And my tolerance continues to degrade. I’m not going to force myself to cut it, but if I gradually taper off to nil, I’m cool with that too.
I’m not personally experienced with wine. But I convinced a former coworker of mine with a big belly to try ZC. Didn’t lose much fat until he dropped his nightly wine drinking habit. Then, he lost a ton of weight, and that was the only change he made.
Dana Spencer Shute:
There was a period when I was testing my blood sugar for insulin responses to everything I put in my mouth, wine never spiked my blood sugar. Diet sodas did though.
Rose Nunez Smith:
To my dismay I can’t drink my mates under the table anymore. I don’t know why, but I can handle very little alcohol these days. One vodka and club soda gets me loopy, and two is a serious red flag condition. I’m not kidding when I say two drinks is a red-flag condition. I mean, on two drinks, I’m as drunk as I ever got at camp-outs drinking all damn night. And anymore will make me throw up. So I don’t drink very much or very often anymore. I’ve heard some other veterans report the same thing.
Ultimately, you are the only one who will be able to determine if alcohol is something you can include as part of your Zero Carb lifestyle. But again, the long term veterans of Zero Carb highly recommended that you give just meat and water a full 30-Day trial before you start experimenting with a variable like alcohol.
For one of the most comprehensive collection of studies related to alcohol and its effects on the human body, please see Ash Simmonds’ collection on his High Steaks website dedicated to Low Carb High Fat science: Alcohol and Nutrition
Great Summary the only thing I would add to my bit is that beer should be included with the Wheat containing beverages
good point, because most are obviously made of grain!
I am on low carb.
I ditched beer a long time ago as it contains the most carbs for an alcohol beverage.
I still can’t help drinking wine in the weekends though.
I am sure it kicks us out of ketosis simply that it causes an increase in insulin secretion.
Alcohol is burned preferentially by the body. So, when you drink it, you will use the calories it contains first before using your own body fat. Once the alcohol is used up, you will go back to burning either the food you ate or your own body fat.
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Your statement is incorrect when it comes to the category of rum. Rum is dosed with sugar many times, up to 95g/l. Please educate yourself through these sites and maybe you can help spread the word on dosing and the benefits of pure rum and honest labeling.
I have been on Keto since March 4th, and am having great weight loss results, just from eating high fat, 20 net carbs, 50-80 grams of protein, and eating once or twice a day, with occasional 44-72 hour fasts.
I am considering doing zero carb, later this year (at some point, i am bound to hit a plateau, and feel this would be great for powering through it). I have three concerns.
1.Coffee – I understand it’s a no plant diet. But, since black coffee has no calories/net carbs, would following the ZC eating plan, in all other aspects, but still drinking black coffee every day, still be beneficial?
2.Whiskey – Same question as the coffee…..I don’t drink it every day, but i do love to sip it on weekends. Giving up craft beer to go keto was hard enough, I don’t think I can give up my high quality Bourbon, Scotch and Irish whiskey.
3.Cheat meals – I have not had a single cheat since I started keto, and don’t plan to until my birthday (early July). My plan in general (whether I go ZC or stay regular keto), is to stick with it 361 days a year, but allow myself to enjoy my birthday, my anniversary, Thanksgiving and Xmas. Would the side effects/after effects be the same as I hear they are on keto, or worse?
Thanks in advance.
You are free to try your plan and see how it works for you. Please read my article “Beverages” linked at the top of my blog in which I discuss coffee. Many people can drink black coffee with little problem, but others cannot. Same is true for alcohol. if you can have one cheat meal a few times a year, more power to you, most cannot do that without getting completely derailed.
Cool. I will probably start experimenting with this in a few months. Thanks for your response.
I have the same problem. I LOVE a good bourbon and can’t imagine giving it up.
Hi…would like to know if there is any relation between Colorectal cancer and the low carb / zerocarb diet since this diet contain mostly meat….
Nope. None whatsoever.
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I can drink a glass of dry white wine with my meal to no noticable effect, but alone I can’t without getting a buzz, and thoughts of food. Alcohol is very dis-inhibiting for me.
I have chronic kidney disease that is very controlled. How will ZC affect me? Could it make things worse?
Dr. Paul Mabry would be the oerson to ask. He has a Facebook group called Zero Carb Doc and a website called Born to Eat Meat.
I’ve found that the most pure vodka possible with bourbon essence is leaps and bounds better for me (type 2 diabetic) than commercial stuff. I absolutely stall for 2 days after a weekend bender and my gut stability is affected for a week.
Interesting! I find I can’t have wine at all. The tartaric acid added to wine to make it ferment, plus the natural tartaric acid it contains appear to have caused some skin reactions for me. Also, I had to give up balsamic vinegar, which I loved, and any wine vinegars. I didn’t become aware of what it was until I had my hair tested. I know!! Who knew that those tests did anything. But it really helped me.
Hi Diana, Hope all is well. What do you mean by hair tested? What kind of test is it and what is it for?
She’s probably referring to a test like this:
I need to leave this comment just for the record and curious if anyone else has had my experience? My alcohol tolerance has actually INCREASED on a zero carb carnivore diet. I’m a petite female and shots have always wrecked me, like any normal person. 4 would easily get me drunk. On my birthday, as a 1 year-plus carnivore, I had 8 plain vodka shots. I kept ordering them because I felt nothing. I’m positive it was in fact vodka. I never got more than a slight buzz that night, but was still blessed with a horrific hangover the next morning. I’m so dumbfounded by this. Such a disappointment too lol
That’s very interesting. One of the first Carnivore books was called The Drinking Man’s Diet, Lol 😂
May I share my Diet/Alcohol experience?
About 12 years ago, when I was 52, i had the type of Psoriasis on the back of my hands that gets red and itchy at dusk and doesn’t quit until dawn. The cure I used [from the Net] was boiled beef or chicken, stewed green apples, and milk products other than milk, butter and cheese, no grains, oils, vegetables, beer, condiments, and only very light very occasional salads.
After 3 months the Psoriasis had disappeared and my weight had fallen from 230 to 170, my ideal weight.
I returned to my conventional western plant based diet, but abstained from beer, and my weight stayed at 170 for the next 18 months.
Then I started on Beer again and my weight ballooned up to 230 again after a few months. I’m a very moderate drinker anyway, wheat sensitive [RAST Test], but I believe that there is something very powerful, in a negative health sense, about Beer, even though it is promoted as being healthier than fortified wine and spirits due to the low alcohol content.
Well, I guess we don’t call it a “Beer Belly” for nothing!
Thank you for sharing your story.
You talk about psoriasis – it’s possible you may have been experiencing allergic contact dermatitis from something you were eating or drinking – anything from fragrance related to spices and flavorings to other chemical compounds in plants. I am having some serious reactions to some of these things myself. Never been much of a drinker, so that’s easy to give up. I guess I will be eating a lot more meat and nuts, since those don’t seem to bother me.
I was 8 months keto and now 7 weeks carnivore. I cannot say enough good things about the clean ingredients and clean buzz of a high-quality Hard Kombucha, ideal for those on a low-carb diet trying to steer clear of allergens. Flying Embers is my favorite, a fantastic brand with both zero-carb and low-carb options. Crisp, refreshing, clean.
Plant-based food, and subsequently drinks, cause leaky gut syndrome, this is where insulin resistance and auto immune diseases come from. Beer can be made from any number of grains, therefore will contain the lectins that destroy your gut barrier. Grain based liquor should be the same. Wine is made from grapes, but additives they put in it to preserve it can also cause symptoms. Tequila is made from Agave, ( the 100% agave ones). and seems to have totally different affect than grain base alcohols. On the flip side, the carnivorve diet will help and will heal things very quickly, as to long term affects, like CAC scores, and brain insulin resistnace, etc, I guess we will have to do more research, and see.. I hear of old carnivores living to 100, drinking and smoking their whole life.