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Alcohol and Health

Can You Drink Alcohol on a Low-Carb Diet?

August 15, 2022
10 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
August 15, 2022
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
August 15, 2022
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
August 15, 2022
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Reframe Content Team
August 15, 2022
10 min read

The workweek has ended, and we’re at a bar with our friends, soaking in the blissful ambiance. But the evening takes a turn when the waiter arrives to take the drink order, and you suddenly remember you’re on a low-carb diet. What are some low-carb alcohol choices? What’s the lowest carb alcohol option out there? And can we still drink alcohol while maintaining our dietary goals?

The short answer is yes, but only with a more mindful approach to the drinks we consume. In this blog post, we’ll discuss the low-carb alcohol options available to those on low-carb diets. We’ll also chat about the carbs in alcohol, low carb liquor options, and whether there’s a such thing as “no-carb” alcohol.

What Are the Benefits of a Low-Carb Diet?

Let’s start with the basics. A low-carb diet is a lifestyle choice many people make to either lose weight, maintain a healthy body, or manage certain health conditions. It generally involves restricting carbohydrates found in sugary foods, pastas, and bread. Instead, we eat more lean protein, healthy fats, and vegetables.

Low-carb diets can provide several health benefits. Research indicates they can result in weight loss and improve heart-health indicators like cholesterol and triglycerides levels. Moreover, low-carb diets can help manage blood sugar levels, which is crucial for people with diabetes.

But where does alcohol fit into this equation? That's where the story gets more complicated.

Nutritional Profiles of Alcoholic Beverages

It may come as a surprise to learn that many types of alcohol are high in carbohydrates, with some having more carbs per serving than some soft drinks and desserts. For instance, beer, which boasts starch as a main ingredient, can contain anywhere from 3 to 12 grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounce (355 ml) serving. Mixed drinks are usually high in calories due to added sweeteners like juices and syrups. Even light beers and coolers contain an additional 5 to 17 grams of carbs.

Lowest-Carb Alcohol and Low-Carb Liquor

People who want to limit their alcohol consumption should start by avoiding alcoholic beverages with a high calorie content and choosing pure ones that don’t contain carbohydrates, such as gin or vodka. You might still be wondering, “Does vodka have carbs?” Pure liquors such as vodka, whiskey, gin, rum, and tequila do not have any carbs. In any case, always remember to limit your alcohol consumption overall. 

For those who are looking for low-carb alcoholic drinks in a can, spiked sparkling water and certain canned wines can be a great start. However, always check the labels when purchasing.

What To Remember About Carbs in Alcohol

It's crucial to know which alcoholic beverages have the most calories and carbs when you’re trying to reduce your calorie intake. The top two beverages on the list are beer and mixed drinks, some of which include up to 34 grams of carbohydrates per serving. Avoiding these high-carb beverages should be your top priority if you're looking for ways to reduce your alcohol consumption. If you enjoy the odd beer or certain mixed drinks, seek low-carb substitutes that still let you enjoy the flavor without adding extra carbs to your diet.

Nutrition and Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages are high in calories but lack essential nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. When you cut back on alcohol, you can replace those liquid calories with healthy alternatives. This can look like enjoying a smoothie every morning, or having a protein-packed snack between meals.

Fat-Burning and Alcohol

Alcohol is metabolized by the body before any other nutrients in order to be used as fuel. Alcohol consumption interrupts the hormonal balance necessary for the proper metabolism of essential nutrients, like carbohydrates and fatty acids. Studies show that cutting back on drinking can boost fat-burning and promote weight loss. 

Alcohol slows fat-burning processes, which increases the storage of fatty tissues and can result in fatty liver disease. Fortunately, consuming less alcohol encourages weight loss without endangering your health and enhances the fat-burning process. By reducing your alcohol intake, you can unlock the advantages of good weight management and improve your overall health.

Metabolism and Alcohol

If you're trying to cut back on drinking, it's important to know that your body prioritizes alcohol above all other nutrients when it comes to metabolism. Thus, when you drink alcohol, your body first uses the calories from the drinks to meet its energy needs before beginning to burn fat. As a result, too much alcohol can slow down fat-burning and increase fat storage. To reduce your consumption and ensure that your metabolism functions at its best, try limiting yourself to a predetermined number of alcoholic drinks per week, or cut back on high-calorie mixed drinks. Controlling your alcohol intake can significantly improve your chances of reaching your fitness and health objectives.

Weight Gain and Alcohol

If you want to cut back on drinking and maintain your weight goals, it's crucial to know the potential link between excessive alcohol consumption and weight gain. Several studies have linked heavy alcohol use to a higher risk of weight gain during a three-month period. 

Two drinks per day doubled the likelihood of weight gain compared to abstainers, according to a survey of 49,324 women. Similarly, a long-term study involving nearly 15,000 men revealed that increasing alcohol intake was linked to a higher risk of gaining weight over the course of 24 years. You can have success with weight management if you strive for moderation as opposed to excess. To fully benefit from reduced alcohol intake, it’s best to limit yourself to only one drink per day. 

Here are a few practical tips:

  • Limit the days you drink each week. Have designated “dry” days, and save your mindful alcohol consumption for the weekends or special occasions. 
  • Be mindful about your portions when drinking. Stick to smaller servings and use a measuring cup to help you stay within healthy limits. 
  • Alternate between alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks. Doing so will not only prevent hangovers (and hangxiety!), but it will also prevent you from getting too intoxicated, too quickly.

Tips for Cutting Back

Cutting back on drinking is a great way to cut down on empty calories. Here are a few tricks you can use to cut back on your alcohol consumption: 

  • Opt for zero-calorie drinks. Grab a seltzer and mix in some fruit or mint to give it a cocktail-like vibe without the booze (or calories!). 
  • Set a limit and stick to it. Use the Reframe drink tracker to help you stay on track and adjust your limits. 
  • Eat balanced meals. Aim to eat a healthy amounts of protein, healthy fats, and veggies at every meal. 

With small changes, you can significantly reduce your daily caloric intake and still allow yourself the occasional Saturday night beer or brunch mimosa.

What To Drink When Limiting Carbs

Cutting back on alcohol can be an essential part of a low-carb diet, especially if you enjoy a beer or glass of wine every now and then. When consumed in moderation, some drinks actually work very well with a low-carb diet. Dry white and red wines and light beer contain just 3 or 4 grams of carbs per serving, so you won't need to avoid them completely if you're monitoring your carb intake. 

Although carb-free pure alcoholic beverages like rum, whiskey, gin, and vodka are available, sugary mixers can rapidly turn your drink unhealthy. For taste without the extra calories, try mixing liquor with diet soda or sugar-free tonic water. By drinking less often and moderating your consumption, it's easy to cut back on calories.

Build Healthier Drinking Habits With Reframe!

The Reframe app is here to support you as you change your relationship with alcohol. We’ve helped hundreds of thousands of people break the alcohol misuse cycle and adopt healthier lifestyles, and we’re here to guide you throughout the process, too.  

We understand that everyone has unique bodies, life experiences, and goals. That’s why we give you science-backed facts in our daily readings that can help you comprehend the impact alcohol has in your life. When you join the Reframe community, you’ll gain access to our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in calls. We’re a diverse and supportive group of people from around the world who are asking the same questions you are, and wrestling with the same challenges. You’re most definitely not alone!

Best of all, you can try Reframe free for 7 days, so there’s no risk (and a lot of potential gain!). We want you to be fully satisfied with your experience, which is why we’re committed to a 100% money-back guarantee. 

Think about how it would feel to finally live with the vibrant well-being you deserve. We want you to live your best life, so if you feel your body telling you it’s time to cut back on the booze, you’ve come to the right place. 

Break free from an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, and live more with Reframe today! We look forward to seeing you in the app!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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