Can you drink alcohol on a low-carb diet? What about when you are keto? We’ve created a visual guide to carbs in alcohol to help you navigate your way through your options when living a low carb lifestyle including what you should avoid.
Knowing the carb count in your alcoholic drinks and their mixers will help you make wise choices to keep your carb count low. And of course, not drinking too often will also help. So, there’s no need to despair that you can’t ever have a drink with friends at a social gathering again.
Can I Drink Alcohol on a Low Carb Diet?
It’s a common question when going low carb “can I still drink alcohol”. And this question often comes quickly after “what do I eat for breakfast if I can’t eat cereal or bread”. The short answer is, yes, you can drink alcohol on a low-carb diet, you just need to be careful with what you choose. Some options are better than others.
Be mindful though that alcohol can stall weight loss if that’s your goal, even if it is low carb. See the section below – How Alcohol Affects Your Health
What is a Standard Drink?
A standard serving of alcohol differs between spirits, wine and beer, mainly due to the alcohol content in each. A standard drink is defined as containing 10 grams of alcohol.
Spirits generally have a higher alcoholic content than wine and beer, so a standard serve is a lot smaller. Below are the standard drink measures.
- Spirits 30ml (referred to as a ‘shot’ or a ‘nip’)
- Wine 100ml
- Beer 285ml
- Pre-mix (5-7% alc) approx. 275ml.
These figures will vary depending on strength of beer, pre-mix brands and cocktails with different recipes.
How Alcohol Affects Your Health
Alcohol is a toxin. Alcohol will always be metabolised (processed) in your body before anything else. This is because your liver knows it’s a toxin and wants to eliminate it as quickly as possible.
Weight gain or a stall in weight loss. Because alcohol is processed first, both sugar and fat will be more likely to be stored as body fat.
Increased calories. Even though we don’t focus on calorie counting when living low carb, they still do count towards your energy intake. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram. Calories from alcohol are ‘empty calories’ meaning they provide no nutritional value.
Alcohol causes fatty liver disease. This is often displayed as ‘beer belly’ in men and a ‘spare tyre’ or ‘muffin top’ in women. This belly fat will not shift if you continue to drink alcohol.
Increased cravings. How often do you feel like chips or a kebab after a night out?
Lowers inhibitions. Lack of self-control with unhealthy food choices. You can be ‘good’ all week with your healthy food intake but easily succumb to processed food at a party when you have a drink in your hand.
Carbs in Wine
I do love my wine, and I have no guilt enjoying a glass or two occasionally. Wine is one of the better alcoholic choices you can make when living low carb (after straight spirits).
A basic rule of thumb for your wine choice is the drier the better. Sweeter wines, especially dessert wines are very high in carbs.
- Champagne 2g
- Pinot Noir 2g
- Cabernet Sauvignon 2g
- Shiraz 2g
- Chardonnay 2g
- Riesling 2g
- Sauvignon Blanc 2g
- Rosé 4g (some are sweeter than others)
- Dessert wines 14g
Carbs in Beer
Beer is a big no-no when you are living a low-carb lifestyle. This is because of the ingredients used to make it – The hops and grains used to make beer are very high in carbs. The same grains are used to make bread products. So, it’s the same as eating bread. Have you ever heard the term ‘beer belly’. This is caused by abdominal obesity and potentially a fatty liver, both caused by the body storing carbs/excess sugar as fat.
It’s very hard to pin down how many carbs in beer as the levels vary greatly between brands and styles. Especially now with the increase of boutique beers like IPAs created by small independent brewers.
There are some low-carb options available from some brewers.
Carbs in Spirits
Spirits, sometimes called hard liquor, have zero carbs. They begin as fermented products, however, distillation removes all carbs.
Most people will mix them with something like a soft drink which can easily put them in the ‘avoid’ category for low carbers.
- Gin 0g
- Whiskey 0g
- Tequila 0g
- Vodka 0g
- Rum 0g
- Brandy 0g
Vodka is often the first choice for people on low carb or keto diets, just mix it with soda instead of tonic or soft drinks like lemonade.
Drink your spirits straight or swap your mixers. For example – Gin & Soda with fresh lime instead of Gin & Tonic. More simple swaps.
The mixers are where the carbs are hiding. Soft drinks, fruit juices, creamy mixers all increase the carb count of a cocktail significantly.
Carbs in Cider
Cider is really just fermented apple juice and as such, is very high in carbs. Just like the wide range of beers available, ciders vary greatly in their carb counts. But generally, they are liquid sugar and not suitable for low carb.
Carbs in Cocktails
There are hundreds of cocktails available these days, some complete classics that stand the test of time. Plus new ones are being created all the time.
It’s impossible to list out all the cocktails and their carb contents so we have highlighted just a few in the visual guide.
Again, the main thing to remember is that the high carb count comes from mixers that go into the drink as well as the creamy liqueurs.
Carbs in Pre-mixers – coolers, cans etc
Pre-mix drinks, also known as an RTD (Ready to drink) are easy and convenient. But they are also extremely high in sugar. They are usually bottles or cans of spirits combined with mixers such as cola and dry ginger ale.
Are Seltzers Low Carb?
Seltzer is another name for soda water. It’s become a marketing marvel recently aimed squarely at people trying to manage their weight and alcohol intake but still enjoy a night out with friends.
Top Low Carb Alcoholic Drinks
Rule of thumb, stick to dry wines, spirits and seltzers.
The below carb counts are based on the standard drink measures discussed earlier. The carb count will be higher on 150ml of wine that is usually poured in a bar or restaurant.
- Spirits 0g
- Vodka & soda 0g
- Dry Martini 0g
- Champagne 2g
- White wine 2g
- Red wine 2g
Worst Alcoholic Drinks for Low Carb
Rule of thumb, avoid sweet wines, beer, ciders, all pre-mixed drinks and most cocktails that all have added sugar.
The pre-mix drinks are loaded with sugar from the syrup mixers. These also include pre-mixers used for margaritas and other cocktails.
- Beer (standard lager) 13g
- Gin & Tonic 16g
- Liqueurs 16g
- Espresso Martini 17g
- Vodka & orange juice 18g
- Cider 22g
- Rum & Coke 23g
- Aperol Spritz 32g
Let us know if you’d like anything else added to the list.
Check out all our low-carb visual guides here.
All carb calculations are from cronometer, a nutrition tracking application you can get access to for free.