Whether you are a craft beer connoisseur or a devoted Bud Light® drinker, having diabetes doesn’t mean you have to give up beer to have good blood sugar management. We’ve got you covered with tips on enjoying a cold one while keeping your blood sugar in the safe zone (80-180 mg/dL).
Be mindful of the ABV
Beers do contain a moderate amount of carbs and generally have 2-12% ABV (alcohol by volume). Those with lower ABVs will have closer to 6 grams of carbs, whereas higher ABV beers may have as much as 20-30 grams per 12-ounce bottle. If you’re drinking beer on tap and don’t have the nutrition facts, sticking with beers that have an ABV of 7% or less can help keep your carb intake in check.
Check the carbs
There are quite a few lower carb beers, so knowing some common ones ahead of time can help take the guesswork out of ordering at the bar. In the mood for a lager style beer? Corona Premier and Michelob Ultra come in at around 2-3 grams of carbs per 12oz bottle. Like IPAs? Lagunitas Daytime IPA comes in right around 3 grams of carbs per 12 oz. Coors Light can be found most anywhere and only has 5 grams in a 12oz bottle (keep in mind that if get a pint on draft, you’ll get more carbs). Find more ideas here.
Keep an eye on serving size
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends no more than one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day for men. For beer, one drink is considered to be 12 ounces. It’s a good idea to choose a can or bottle as they usually come in a 12 ounce size. If you’re getting something on draft, you can request a smaller size than a typical pint, or make sure to take into account the extra 4 ounces.
Enjoy a meal with your beer
When you drink on an empty stomach or in excess, the carbs in the beer can cause blood sugar to spike and then fall quickly, potentially causing hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood sugar). This effect is made worse by the fact that when you drink alcohol, your body gets busy trying to get rid of it, causing an interruption in blood sugar regulation. By eating a balanced meal that has protein, fiber, and healthy fats, the alcohol in your beer is absorbed more slowly, keeping blood sugar more stable.
Drink with friends
If you feel comfortable, let your friends know you have diabetes and that hypoglycemia has similar symptoms to drinking too much (dizziness, confusion, lightheadedness). They can help keep you safe if it appears that your blood sugar has dropped too low. If you are sharing drinks with people who do not know you have diabetes, it is even more important to practice good self-care and prevent blood sugar highs and lows.
Check blood sugar more frequently
Staying within the blood sugar safe zone of 80-180 mg/dL is important. Check your blood sugar before, during, and up to 24 hours after drinking. Before going to bed, your blood sugar should be between 100-140 mg/dL. If your reading is below this, have a snack with carbs and protein to bring it up.
A note on insulin and insulin-stimulating medications
If you take medication, be extra cautious while drinking alcohol. Insulin and insulin-stimulating medications such as the sulfonylureas (diabetes medications ending in ‘-ide’) may need dosage changes when consuming alcohol. Consult your diabetes healthcare provider for how to adjust your medications including insulin on days you consume alcohol.
* If you have recently been diagnosed with diabetes or have another illness that could potentially be affected by drinking alcohol, be sure to consult your physician.
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Reviewed by Emily Matson, MS, RDN
on May 29, 2020. Emily is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Brook Experts.