What alcohol can one drink on a low carb diet?

Updated April 17, 2017

Alcohol is composed of sugars and carbohydrates; low-carb dieters are told to refrain from these less-nutritional items. Because alcohol is widely considered a great social lubricant, many low-carb dieters find it difficult to give it up completely. If you must drink, consume these libations while on a low-carb diet.

Low-Carb Diet

The essential goal of the low-carb diet is to limit, or restrict, the intake of carbohydrates and consume higher amounts of protein, as part of a nutritious diet regimen. The body burns fat by churning at a higher metabolic rate to breakdown the protein, while there are few carbohydrates to break down. Dieters may feel sluggish, due to the fact that carbohydrates provide energy. Exercise should always be combined with nutrition as well.


Although alcohol holds very few healthy nutrients, many find it difficult to give up alcohol completely when on a low-carb diet, or any diet, for that matter. Although the sugars and carbohydrates in alcohol vary by choice of drink, understanding what you are drinking and what you can get away with will prove helpful in your goal of getting fit and having fun. Robert Atkins, the prototypical low-carb diet guru, advises refraining from all alcoholic beverages while dieting: "Alcohol, whenever taken in, is the first fuel to burn. While that's going on, your body will not burn fat. This does not stop the weight loss, it simply postpones it, since the alcohol does not store as glycogen, you immediately go back into ketosis/lipolysis after the alcohol is used up."

What Can I Drink?

If you drink beer, consider a light beer. If you enjoy mixed drinks, consider sugar-free juices or blending the alcohol with water instead. The goal is to cut carbohydrate intake.

Beer and Wine

For those who prefer an ice cold beer, lower carbohydrate versions will contain 5 grams, or less. These beers contain less than 5 grams of carbohydrates: Amstel Light Michelob Ultra Bud Select Miller Light Corona Light Coors Light In addition, wine is also a fine choice. Sticking with the drier varieties cuts out some of the more sugary selections. Many low carb wine varieties will contain fewer than 7 grams of carbohydrates, this is fairly commonplace. As aforementioned, only the sweeter Zinfandel's, blush wines or dessert wines will exceed your low-carb budget.

Mixed Drinks and Liquor

Those of you who prefer a mixed drink, or a shot on the rocks will find that distilled alcohol, alcohol in its pure form, contains zero carbohydrates. So, enjoying a smooth whiskey on the rocks is, by low-carb dieting standards, the best you can do. Straight liquor becomes tricky when it is mixed with sugary fruit juices or soda; this is what should be avoided or limited. Low-carb options include: Liquors- Vodka Gin Whiskey Rum Tequila Mixers- Diet Soda Club Soda Water Lime/Lemon Juice Dry Vermouth

Know Your Limit

Understanding how the low-carb diet works is integral to your success. In addition, knowing when to call it quits at the bar will save you some time on the treadmill; not to mention, a headache in the morning. Knowing the science behind the diet makes decisions at the bar that much easier, and healthier. The crux of this diet is simple: burn more calories than you take in. So, if you tend to enjoy libations at, say, a Friday night happy hour, stick with the low-carb varieties. If your goal is to limit your carbohydrate intake from alcoholic beverages to 20 grams, consume no more than four beers, two mixed drinks or one bottle of wine.


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About the Author

Kurt M. Westfield is a graduate student, freelance writer, and avid traveler who believes that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In addition to his role as a fitness consultant, he has also written for several publications, including: LIVEstrong, Bowling Journal, the Examiner, UWEMP, Atlantic Publishing, and Art Voice.