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