What Are the Problems with the Atkins Diet and Alcohol?

Debra Barnhart

Advocates of the Atkins™ diet contend that a high protein diet with limited carbohydrate intake leads to quicker weight loss through a fat-burning process called ketosis. Only certain alcoholic beverages with little or no carbohydrates are recommended on the Atkins™ diet. Some dieters claim to have problems with the Atkins™ diet and alcohol consumption, because alcoholic beverages reportedly interfere with ketosis, thus slowing the progress of weight loss. Alcohol contains empty calories, or calories with no nourishment, and it can also rob the body of essential nutrients.

Alcohol may interfere with ketosis and slow down weight loss.
Alcohol may interfere with ketosis and slow down weight loss.

Foods with a high amount of sugar and starch are not advised on the Atkins™ diet, while foods comprised of complex carbohydrates like and vegetables are recommended. Most of the calories from the Atkins™ diet should be derived from protein. The diet supposedly works by inducing a state in the body in which fat is burned, instead of carbohydrates and protein. This process, known as ketosis, is the reason for the diet’s success, according to supporters.

The Atkins Diet restricts sweet red wine, port, and other high carbohydrate drinks.
The Atkins Diet restricts sweet red wine, port, and other high carbohydrate drinks.

During the first two-week phase of the Atkins™ diet, alcohol is not allowed. After two weeks, dry wines which have few carbohydrates, and hard liquors like vodka, whisky and scotch, which have no carbohydrates, are allowed. The Atkins™ diet and alcohol with high carbohydrate like beer, sweet red wine, port and sherry do not go together at any phase.

The Atkins diet plan allows restricted portions of vegetables, which account for the bulk of the diet's carbohydrates.
The Atkins diet plan allows restricted portions of vegetables, which account for the bulk of the diet's carbohydrates.

According to the theory behind the Atkins™ diet and alcohol intake, the body will burn alcohol first for fuel, therefore interrupting the fat burning process of ketosis. Some Atkins™ dieters claim that the moderate consumption of alcohol does not interfere with the success of the diet, however, other dieters claim that the combined effects of the Atkins™ diet and alcohol consumption stalls weight loss. These varying claims may be the result of differences between individual metabolisms or the amount of alcohol consumed.

The Atkins diet involves a high protein intake.
The Atkins diet involves a high protein intake.

While the Atkins diet suggests moderate amounts of hard liquor over high carbohydrate beers and wines, consumption of hard liquor may lead to quicker impairment of thought processes and body reactions. In addition, those on a restricted diet should remember that alcohol provides calories, but no nourishment. It can also deplete the body of important nutrients, such as zinc and magnesium.

Supporters of the Atkins diet say that the body will first burn alcohol for fuel before burning fat.
Supporters of the Atkins diet say that the body will first burn alcohol for fuel before burning fat.

Dr. Robert Atkins, the developer of the diet, was trained as a cardiologist and claimed that a diet high in carbohydrates from processed, sugary foods increased the risks chronic disease. In response to an overabundance of carbohydrates, the body supposedly produces too much insulin, which then prevents fat from being metabolized efficiently. Atkins proposed that his diet not only led to weight loss, but also decreased the chances of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes.

Though the Atkins Diet allows for eating large amounts of meat, its creator claims it will not raise blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
Though the Atkins Diet allows for eating large amounts of meat, its creator claims it will not raise blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

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Discussion Comments

SarahGen

@SteamLouis-- I'm sure it affects her ketosis, she just doesn't realize it. When we have alcohol, our body uses that first as an energy source. So if we use a ketosis test strip after drinking, it might still show that we're in ketosis, but alcohol definitely has an effect on this process.

I don't drink while on the Atkin's diet because I have made so many changes to my diet and lifestyle to pull this off. I don't want all my efforts to go to waste. I just have a flavored, no sugar, no carb soda when I want something different to drink.

SteamLouis

My roommate is on the Atkin's diet and she drinks once a week. It doesn't seem to slow down her weight loss, but I think she only has a no carb drink and doesn't have more than a glass. So if she had more, it would probably affect her ketosis.

serenesurface

I'm not a huge fan of the Atkins diet. I don't think that it's normal or safe for the body to be in ketosis for long periods of time. Having said that, people who are trying to lose weight shouldn't be drinking alcohol anyway. Even if alcohol doesn't disrupt ketosis, it's high calorie and has no nutritional value as the article said. If anything, alcohol will encourage weight gain.

I'm not an expert on this topic but I believe that the Atkin's diet is also tough on the liver since it's the liver that metabolizes fats. Alcohol is hard on the liver too. So drinking while on the Atkin's diet is a great way to tire out the liver.

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