Dos and donts of drinking alcohol on paleo, keto diets

With Memorial Day Weekend underway, most Philly locals embarking on a season of weekends down the shore. Any change in routine can easily create obstacles for weight management, but summer can be extra tricky to navigate. Summer tends to be accompanied with beers on the beach, froze at happy hour, and spiked seltzers at barbecues. With the popularity of low-carb diets like paleo and ketogenic, you might wonder how alcohol can fit into your diet and how your body will react to it.

Whether you’re following the low-carb trend this summer, watching your waistline, or simply looking for the most health conscious way to indulge in a few drinks, it’s important to understand the basics of alcohol metabolism.

Alcohol is metabolized differently than other macronutrients. Protein, carbohydrate, and fat metabolism is regulated by hormones. This allows excess quantities of these nutrients to be stored in the body and utilized in times of need, like when fasting. But excess alcohol cannot be stored in the body. Instead it remains in your body’s water until eliminated. This is why alcohol takes highest priority in the process of metabolism.

If you are attempting the keto diet, alcohol consumption will inhibit your fat burning process since it overrides fat as a primary source in metabolism. It also lets those macronutrients take a backseat during the metabolism process, which contributes to weight gain.

If you are following a low-carb diet, like paleo, consider these low-carb alcohol options.

  • Champagne or sparkling wines contain 1-3 grams of carbs per serving.
  • Red and white wine vary on type but generally rank between 3-5g of carbs per 5 oz serving. A good rule of thumb to remember: sweeter wines have more carbs; dry wines have less.
  • A serving of beer is typically 10-15g, but varies greatly. “Light beer” can contain 1-10g of carbs, lagers will have 10-15g, and stouts/porters are on the higher end around 20g.
  • Stay away from hard ciders, as a serving is 15-20g of carbs. You’ll be better off with a spiked seltzer, which are 2-5g of carbs.
  • Spirits like tequila, whiskey, vodka, gin, and rum contain zero carbs. But avoid mixers whenever possible — margarita mix, schnapps, baileys, curacao will generally add 10g of carbs per serving. And steer clear of tonic water, which will pack on 30g of carbs, unless you can choose a diet version.

Your best bet is to combine a low-calorie, low-carb alcohol with a mixer that is hydrating and calorie free. Vodka soda is known to be the most waistline-friendly beverage. Also trying mixing spirits with flavored sparkling water like La Croix or kombucha for an extra nutrient boost.

To slow the absorption of any alcohol, consume foods with some fat, protein, and fiber. This also reduces blood alcohol concentration by as much as 50 percent compared to drinking on an empty stomach. It’s also important to remember that women absorb 30-35 percent more alcohol than men due to less activity of ADH — the enzyme that breaks down alcohol — in the stomach.

Most importantly, always remember to drink the same fluid ounces of water for each serving of alcohol.

Kimberly Mugler, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist working in private practice in the Greater Philadelphia Area. To book an appointment, visitvitanutritionservices.com.