Practical Ketogenics: Alcohol

quitting-drinking

How much is too much?

This is probably the post a lot of you have been waiting for; “how much can I drink when it comes to LCHF?” The simple answer is the less the better! 

Over the last 20 years or so, both the cost and availability of alcohol have respectively gone down/ up, such that now it is often cheaper to purchase a bottle of beer than it is to buy a bottle of mineral water. Accordingly, in western societies, we are witnessing an explosion in both the availability and abuse of alcohol. In Anglo-Saxon societies in particular, where already a strong drinking culture exists, drinking has become woven into the very fabric of society. It is is the oil that lubricates our inhibitions in the social setting. It gives us the “Dutch courage” and fleeting escapism to be something we are not, free from the worries & constraints of everyday life. Without it, many of us simply find it too difficult if not impossible to function socially. Further, for many of these individuals, it is not enough to just have a couple of drinks; nothing short of being totally paralytic will do in order to have “a good time”. This trend has become so strong that many of us simply do not realize that we are drinking to excess (binge drinking). If we are surrounded by our peers, all of whom are also drinking to excess, then “excess” rapidly becomes the “new normal”. There seems to be no sign of this trend changing anytime soon.

My Story

Throughout my entire adult life, I was very much part of the above scene, drinking to excess and beyond! At its peak, just before I started LCHF in 2012, I was home-brewing my own beer and consuming well over 5L (10 pints) of beer/week and, on occasions, MUCH more than that even. Quite often I would also have a couple of bottles of wine/ week as well. By any definition, I was an alcoholic.

It all culminated in a major GERD event I had one night in 2012, the final one in a series of such events. I woke up in the middle of the night choking on my own vomit, sweating heavily and in the middle of a major panic attack. I thought I was dying. My wife drove me to hospital right away where they checked me out. Fortunately, they found nothing untoward, but I knew! For me this was my first warning shot. Carry on like this and I would be heading for disaster. This was THE major spur that got me started on LCHF.

If I was going to have any success with LCHF at all, I knew I would have to severely restrict my alcohol intake. As an un-diagnosed alcoholic, this wouldn’t be easy. However, the GERD incident drove me on. For me it was now a simple matter of life or death. Hence, I decided to restrict my alcohol intake to max 1-2 pints of beer/ week ONLY, for at least the weight loss phase. That meant no wine or spirits either. As you can see from my progress chart, I had great success during the initial part of weight loss. As I progressed and as my weight continued to fall, I found that I was beginning look and feel MUCH better almost on a daily basis and, as I continued with my reduced alcohol intake, the simple desire to drink also began to fade. By the end of my weight loss phase I found that I wasn’t drinking at all. The desire/ need to drink had completely gone. Never at any point did I consciously decide to stop drinking entirely, it just happened! To this day I am largely tea total and, to be honest, don’t miss alcohol one bit.

Beers, Wines & Spirits, the LCHF basics

Now, I’m not saying cut out alcohol altogether to be successful with LCHF. Managed correctly, you can probably be very successful but you need to know the rules when it comes to beers, wines and spirits to stand any chance at all of weight loss.

  • Beers: For men in particular you should avoid drinking beer, simply because men drink more than women. Beer contains rapidly digested carbs that shut down fat burning. Consider beer as “liquid bread”.
  • Wine: Since they contain less sugar/carbs, red, dry white & dry champagne are OK in MODERATION.
  • Spirits: OK in MODERATION for same reasons as wine, see above.

How much is “in moderation”?

A good question! Since we are all different, this is for you to find out/ experiment with. However, when starting out with LCHF, I suggest you follow my example and stick to only one or 2 drinks/ week, preferably abstain altogether as per my 10-point guide. If you must drink, try to make your drinks a rare treat and enjoy them all the more rather than a regular part of your life. The so called “safe drinking” guidelines of 2-3 units/ day of alcohol for women, 3-4 for men are WAY TOO HIGH for ketosis in my opinion, regardless of any other health effects, hence aim to be well below this at all times during at least the weight loss phase.

Finally..

If giving up or even reducing your alcohol intake is a real problem for social reasons then just a) get over it, b) change your peer group or c), preferably both! If you are having problems for reasons other than these, then consider getting help from elsewhere. LCHF is the least of your problems!

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