How Many Carbs Are In Bourbon?

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At the end of a long day, a sip of bourbon could be just the thing to take the edge off. But for health buffs, enjoying their favorite spirit may bring up the question: “How many carbs are in my bourbon?”

The good news is that bourbon has 0 carbs, assuming that you don’t mix it with soda or other types of alcohol. It does have some calories, but the absence of carbs makes it a good choice for those on a keto diet.

How many carbs are in a shot of bourbon?

Most types of alcohol have carbs. But bourbon is an exception due to the distillation process they undergo.

That being said, it’s worth noting that even though bourbon doesn’t have carbs, you do get a considerable amount of calories with every drink. A shot of Jim Beam Bourbon, for instance, contains about 100 calories.

Distilling bourbon

The absence of carbs in bourbon is solely the result of the distillation process. It is not caused by aging in oak barrels, as some people think.

Most spirits contain plenty of sugar, which gradually decreases throughout the fermentation process. It is then that the yeast in the solution converts the sugar into low-ABV alcohol from five to 15%.

Specific sugar bases are usually used to produce different types of alcohol, including barley sugars, grape sugars, apple sugars, and even honey. With bourbon, corn is a crucial ingredient.

By the time fermentation is completed, most of the sugar initially present would be almost completely gone, leaving only a negligible amount. What you get is a product that consists of 85% to 95% water along with a minimal amount of excess sugar. 

After fermentation, the next step is to subject the bourbon to fractional distillation. This involves applying intense heat to the liquid to break down its components and transform it into a lower temperature gas.

Some distillers increase the heating temperature if they feel it is necessary. This may be the case when boiling leftover sugar and water before transferring them for collection and condensation of the steam.

The result is a spirit consisting of 60% to 90% alcohol and 10% to 40% water, with the sugar all but gone. There are no carbs at all because there weren’t any carbs in the solution in the first place.

Also see: Is Bourbon Gluten Free?

Can bourbon be part of a low-carb diet?

Hard liquors such as bourbon are generally compatible with low-carb diets. But you might be wondering: “What about the alcohol content? Isn’t alcohol transformed into sugar when it enters the bloodstream?”

This is a common misconception. The truth is, alcohol has the exact opposite effect and will decrease your blood glucose level.

The myth probably stems from the fact that many alcoholic drinks–beer in particular–have a high-calorie content. In fact, the calories in a single beer are roughly the equivalent of the calories in bread or pasta.

If you are watching your calorie consumption, it would be best to drink only two to three shots of bourbon per day. Otherwise, you would go over your ideal calorie quota for a typical diet.

Keep in mind also that alcohol stimulates hunger for many people, leading to an increased appetite. Alcohol also makes your liver work harder than it usually would to remove the ethanol in your bloodstream.

Drinking too much bourbon or any other spirit places added burden on the liver, which is already working to supply your system with ketones and keep you functioning throughout the day.

Alcohol’s effects on dieting

People on low-carb diets tend to remain intoxicated for longer periods when they drink to excess. The tendency to store fat also doesn’t bode well for those who are trying to lose weight.

Drinking can be tough on people on a keto diet. Because of their carbohydrate deficit, they tend to have worse hangovers than other drinkers.

Many people eat carb-heavy meals before drinking to minimize hangover symptoms the next day. But for those on a diet, the body’s response to alcohol can be significantly altered.

On a keto diet, the body recognizes ethanol as a toxin. The liver works extra hard to get rid of it, using up all the other nutrients in the process, including fat. Consequently, the ability to convert fatty acids into ketones is impaired compared to people with normal levels of glycogen and carbs.

The bottom line

So, what can you take away from all this? The bottom line is that bourbon doesn’t have carbs, but it does have a considerable amount of calories. If you are on a diet, it would be best to limit your drinking to two to three shots a day to reduce the burden on your liver and avoid a massive hangover.

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