Low-carb alcohol – the best and the worst drinks
What alcoholic drinks are low carb? What are the best options on a low-carb diet, and some common mistakes? This guide will tell you what you need to know.
First of all: consuming too much alcohol will slow down your weight loss, and may undermine your health gains on a low-carb diet. Alcohol is burned before anything else by the body, slowing down fat loss.
However, if you can drink alcohol in moderation it’s usually not a major issue as long as it’s low in carbs. Low-carb options include wine, champagne and pure spirits like whiskey and vodka. High-carb drinks? Beer and sugary cocktails.
How many carbs?
If you are eating a moderate low carb diet, of about 20 to 50 carbs a day, dry wines can be enjoyed on a regular basis with little weight-loss impact from the carbs. If you are on a very strict low-carb or keto diet, consuming under 20 grams of carbs a day, a glass of wine on occasion is also fine. If, however, you find you are not losing weight, cut back on alcohol.
A glass of dry wine contains about 0.5 grams of sugar as well as small amounts of glycerol and other carbohydrate remains of the wine-making process, which usually amount to less than 2 grams of total carbs. It is unlikely that a glass of dry wine will impact blood sugar or insulin levels.
Sweeter wines, like Rieslings and Gewurztraminers, have about 4 carbs in a typical glass. Even sweeter dessert wines, like Muscato, Tokaj, Ice Wines, or fortified wines like Port, Sherry and Madeira, are all sweeter and contain more fructose, with carb counts per glass of around 5 grams or more.
Alas, most beer is a no-go when you’re eating low carb. Its hops and fermented grains are like drinking liquid bread — and the big beer bellies it can produce proof-positive that it contributes to abdominal obesity. Not a good choice for weight loss or diabetes reversal.
However, carb counts can vary depending on the brand of beer, and there are a few lower carb options. Find out in our low-carb beer guide below.
Spirits: how many carbs?
Whiskey, vodka, brandy, gin, tequila and other pure alcohols have zero carbs and so are fine on a low-carb diet. Don’t add juice, soft drinks, or other sweeteners like sweet cream. Adding tonic to zero carb gin boosts its carbs to 16 grams per serving! Have vodka, soda water and lime instead for a no-carb summer drink.
Alternatively, if you insist, use diet tonic (with artificial sweeteners) for a zero carb gin & tonic. Though we generally recommend to avoid sweeteners.1
Think vodka and orange juice is a healthy choice? That gives you a whopping 28 grams of carbs, almost as bad as a rum & coke for 39 grams.
The numbers are the amount of carbs (sugar) in a bottle.
Sometimes called alcopops, spirit coolers, wine coolers, hard lemonades, these pre-mixed, packages drinks are loaded with sugar and carbs. Do not drink if you want to stay low carb — you are drinking sugar.
Beer: how many carbs?
The numbers under the brands of beer represent the grams of carbs in a 12 oz. (355ml) bottle of beer.
As you can see, some very light American beers contain the least amount of carbs and can be drunk without derailing a low-carb diet, if you enjoy that type of beer. Other brands of beer rapidly rise in the amount of carbs and should be consumed with caution or avoided completely, depending on how many carbs you target per day.
Top 5 low-carb alcoholic drinks
On a low-carb diet, you can still enjoy a delicious drink or two on special occasions. Even though many alcoholic drinks contain a lot of sugar, there are still some decent low-carb options. Here’s our list of the top 5 low-carb alcoholic drinks.
- Champagne or dry sparkling wine – one glass contains about 1 grams of net carbs.
- Dry wine – red or white – one glass contains about 2 grams of net carbs.
- “Skinny Bitch” – one long drink contains 0 grams of carbs.
- Whiskey – one drink contains 0 grams of carbs.
- Dry Martini – one cocktail contains 0 grams of carbs.
Nothing says celebration like a glass of bubbly! Although Champagne can be very expensive other kinds of sparkling wines or Cava come in a variety of prices and can be enjoyed as an aperitif, with your food or as a stand-alone drink.
There must be a reason why humans have been drinking wine for thousands of years. One of them is probably that it tastes really good with food. Ben Franklin even called wine “constant proof that God loves us”. Fortunately, drinking an occasional glass of dry wine is fine on a low-carb diet.
Skinny bitch is the drink for you if you want to skip sugar and artificial sweeteners. This sparkling long drink with vodka, soda, lime and ice tastes way better than it might sound.
Even though whiskey is made from various forms of grains, it’s zero carb and gluten free. It comes in many different classes and types. Too much ice can kill the flavor but serving it with a little dash of water can actually enhance the flavor.
The iconic James Bond cocktail is made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist. It’s still in the top of the most requested drinks. But make sure to order it shaken, not stirred.
Beware: Alcohol packs more punch on low carb
When on a strict low-carb diet, most people need significantly less alcohol to get intoxicated. So be careful the first time you drink alcohol on low carb. Possibly, you may only need half as many drinks as usual to enjoy yourself. Low carb will save you money at the bar.
The reasons for this common experience are still unclear. It could be because the liver is busy producing ketones or glucose, and thus has less capacity to spare for burning alcohol, slowing down the process.
If you’re going to be driving be extra careful. Don’t drink and drive. On low carb this may be even more crucial.
Learn more surprising facts about low-carb diets and alcohol here:
Do you have more questions about low carb and alcohol? A few common questions are answered below, for more see our full low-carb FAQ.
Does drinking alcohol slow down weight loss on low carb?
Yes. The alcohol is burned first in the liver, slowing fat burning somewhat. Alcohol thus slows down weight loss.
Furthermore, drinking alcohol can remove inhibitions, and this can result in eating things you were not planning to or needing to eat. If that happens it further slows weight loss.
For effective weight loss, consume alcohol in moderation (choosing lower-carb options) or not at all.
Can you get a worse hangover on low carb?
Yes. Most people find that their tolerance is reduced on low carb, and that they are more likely to get a hangover. To minimize it don’t overconsume alcohol, and make sure to drink enough water.
What are the best alcoholic drinks that are low in carbs?
The top low-carb drinks are wine (dry white or red), champagne and pure zero-carb spirits like whiskey, gin or vodka (avoid cocktails with sugar in them).
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