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Alcohol and Low Carb Dieting

Updated: Jul 15, 2023

by Stevie Duncan | Nov 5, 2020 | Uncategorized




Nearly 60% of Americans drink alcohol at least monthly. Therefore, it is important to seriously contemplate alcohol use (type and quantity) when pursuing a low carb diet.

First, on a strict low carb diet, intoxication may occur more quickly and with less alcohol. Typical carb ingestion simultaneous with alcohol soaks up some of the alcohol and elapse its absorption. Without these carbs present, alcohol will be absorbed more quickly. (Protein and fat may be present in the stomach at this time, but protein and fat do not absorb alcohol as readily as carbs.) So, if you are following a low carb approach, your parent’s advice to “eat something if you are going to drink” may not be valid in terms of avoiding intoxication.

Also be aware that drinking alcohol can slow down weight loss. This is for four reasons. First, alcohol contains carbs and these carbs count like any other carbs as a fuel source. Secondly, alcohol can be used directly by the body as a few sources. For example, a shot of vodka (1.5 ounces) contains about 100 calories that can be burned directly by the body as fuel. Obviously, if alcohol is being burned as fuel, carbs and protein are not. Finally, alcohol is believed to slow the burning of fat, obviously not a good thing for people trying to lose weight. Finally, as we all know, alcohol can lower inhibitions. A lowering of inhibitions could lead to a disregard of goals related to carbohydrate intake.

The best approach to alcohol use would be alcohol abstinence, especially early in the diet process. However, if this route is not acceptable, limited use of alcohol on a low carb diet is OK. However, the carbs ingested need to be realistically considered. We suggest “carb counting” related to alcohol ingestion to make sure the amount of carbs consumed in an alcoholic drink, fit into the overall carbohydrate consumption plan. Be careful of appropriate quantities. A standard hard liquor drink is 1.5 ounces, wine is 5.5 ounces, and beer 12 ounces. If these quantities are fudged and high amounts are being drank, consequently more carbs will be consumed.

As we suggested above, regarding liquid intake, fewer carbs are better. Zero carb liquids are the best approach. Vodka, whiskey gin, tequila as well as other pure alcohols have zero carbs, so can be consumed on a low-carb diet. Remember, however, anything added to these drinks may boost carbohydrate intake. Drinking straight or on ice adds no calories. However, if one adds juice, soft drinks or cream the carb count can add up quickly. A “rum and Coke is about 22 grams of carbs. Vodka and orange juice are generally about 16 grams of carbs. A bloody Mary is about eight. Diet tonic (zero carbs) may be an option. Any sweetened liquor (after dinner drinks), should be avoided.

Because beers are made from grains (the same source as flour) beer consumption on a low carb diet is problematic. (Beer produces beer bellies for a reason.) Beer should be avoided if possible. If ingested carbs should be watched. Light beers contain three to five grams of carbs. Regular beers in the 10 to 12 carb range, and some heavy beers can be 15 or more.

Because any more than one drink of hard liquor can lead to some level of intoxication, and because beer contains a large amount of carbs, wine may be good alternative. Dry red wines usually contain about 2 grams of carbs, so these are the best option. Common White wines usually are bout three grams (Chardonnay, Chablis, sauvignon blanc). General contain 3 to 4 grams. Sweeter wines, like Gewurztraminers and Rieslings, have about 4 – 5 grams. Dessert wines (port sherry) contain 6 or more grams or more, and are best avoided.

In summary, if you are pursuing a low carb diet in the “hardcore” keto range of 20-30 grams of carbohydrate per day, an occasional glass of dry red wine is probably OK. If you are on a less restrictive low carb diet (50 grams or more) a drink or two, two or three days a week is doable. However, it is important to be very cognizant of the carbohydrate ingestion implications of drinking alcohol on a CMG Diet, and the associated potential risks (related to confounding weight loss and other wise).

By Melanie Heinl

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