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Ethanol, the alcohol that we drink to feel relaxed, has no carbs, so you can still have fun evenings out and chill evenings in.
You’ll have to make a few sacrifices, but I promise you that you’ll find good replacements to keep the good times going.
We’ll start with some theory, then move on to the drink and drink-nots.
The Fourth Macronutrient
Protein, fat, carbohydrate, and…alcohol. Though nutritionally empty, alcohol does provide the body with 7 calories of energy per gram. Since you don’t drink much pure alcohol, it’s not worth it to track those calories.
The caveat is that alcohol consumption interrupts glycolysis or ketosis. Your body must process all of it before it can use anything else as energy.
Practically, this means that during a period of drinking, your typical energy management is put on hold. Heavy drinking will slow your weight loss progress. Keep that in mind.
Depending on how and when you’re eating, you’ll increase or decrease the effects of alcohol on your body.
If you’re following any of the standard fasting routines, you’ll get drunk more efficiently if you break your fast with alcohol since that’s the only thing in your digestive system.
If you’re drinking during a period of low-carb eating, you’ll get drunk more slowly than usual. Conventionally knowledge tells you to “carb-up” when drinking to slow the effects of alcohol, but the truth is that protein and fat are more efficient at slowing it down.
Don’t Get Too Drunk
When you drink too much, you’ll want to eat everything and anything. This includes stuff that you know you shouldn’t be eating.
Don’t let your drunk self sabotage your hard work: don’t drink so much that you lose restraint.
If you have a slip-up, it’s okay. Remember, we’re looking for a net loss in terms of energy management, so you can mess up occasionally as long as the trend is correct.
I have some terrible news for you if you like beer, especially with the craft beer culture that’s infected the world right now: beer and low-carb are not a good fit.
Unless you like ultra-light beers (think Michelob Ultra or Miller Lite), you’ve got to quit. Even then, you shouldn’t drink that many.
There’s no way around this one.
Cider brut (dry cider) is fine.
Any other commercial cider is basically alcoholic apple juice, so it’s out too.
All wine has carbs, but dry wines have few enough that they’re okay to drink. The drier the better.
The most common, low-carb ones are Sauvignon Blanc (white) and Cabernet Sauvignon (red).
A good rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t taste sweet or tastes slightly sweet, it’s ok, but check Google for the carb count of your favorite type of wine if you’re unsure.
Definitely no moscato or port.
All unflavored base spirits are safe: vodka, rum, whiskey, gin, tequila, scotch, brandy, cognac, absinthe, Everclear. It’s a wonderful thing. You can drink any of these straight, of course.
Most people can’t stomach these on their own, so drinks with diet soft drinks as a mixer are your new best friend. Set the liquor-mixer ratio to your personal taste.
Using diet drinks as a mixer will get you drunk faster too, if you’re into that.
A few recommended cocktails:
- Coke Zero Sugar/Diet Coke + Rum/Whiskey/Vodka
- Dry Martini
- Gin and Diet Tonic
- Vodka + Diet Red Bull/Monster Absolutely Zero
- Long Island Iced Tea (best value + low-carb depending on the recipe, ask for Diet Coke instead of Coke)
If none of these appeal to you, don’t worry. There are tons of diet drinks that you can mix with. Combine them with the spirits I listed above, and the sky’s the limit.
Some spirits and most specialty liquors are off-limits because they contain natural or added sugars. A good rule of thumb is that if it tastes sweet by itself, it’s not low-carb. Some include:
- Cointreau/Triple Sec
Finding Carb Info for Alcoholic Beverages
In the USA, the FDA does not require alcoholic beverages to have nutrition labels (this is true in many other countries too), so it’s impossible to determine the carb counts of drinks without an external reference.
There’s an excellent website called getdrunknotfat.com that contains this info for almost all types of alcohol. Check it out!
So there you go! You’ll definitely still feel hungover in the morning, but at least your mouth won’t feel like a fuzzy bacterial cesspool the next morning…