NutriSense Blog
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Beer and Blood Glucose Levels: What’s the Connection?

April 20, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense
Reviewed by
Katie K.
RD

Last week, we took you through a quick guide to what beer is, how to brew it, and what drinking it in moderation can do for your health. If beer is your alcoholic beverage of choice, you may wonder what it means for your health. How does it affect health conditions? Is there a connection between the alcohol content, the amount of carbs, and the effects on your health?

And whether you’re drinking a light craft beer or a dense lager, it’s vital to know how beer and other alcohol affect your blood glucose levels. Read on to learn more about beer, blood glucose, and your health.

How the Body Deals with Carbohydrates

two guys drinking beer

Glucose, a carbohydrate, is the body’s primary energy source, and your cells need it to live and perform their many duties. In other words, glucose fuels your cells, providing them with the energy they need to live and function.

Your body absorbs the carbohydrates you eat. Immediately after a meal, your bloodstream is rich with glucose—your blood glucose levels can spike just after eating. Your body uses some of this glucose and stores the rest in the liver and the muscles.

Hours after you’ve eaten, however, your blood glucose levels drop. It triggers the body to release hormones like glucagon, which instructs the liver to break down the stored glucose (glycogen) into free glucose that the body’s cells can use for energy. If you have diabetes, your body has trouble regulating blood glucose levels, and alcohol can exacerbate this. Here’s how.

How Beer Affects Your Blood Sugar Levels

someone using a glucose test

While alcohol can affect your blood sugar levels immediately after drinking, its effects can be seen up to 12 hours after you’ve consumed your last drink. Here are a few things you should know about how beer can influence your blood glucose levels.

Beer can increase blood glucose levels: Beer contains carbohydrates, which get absorbed into the bloodstream relatively quickly, leading to increased glucose levels. Usually, elevated blood sugar is seen shortly after consuming alcohol.

Drinking a lot of beer can reduce blood glucose levels: No, this isn’t always a good thing! While hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose levels, can result from several factors, consuming alcohol increases the risk of hypoglycemia for those who have type 1 diabetes and those with type 2 diabetes using insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association. Its effects can range from the mild, such as fatigue, sweating, and an irregular heartbeat, to the more severe, such as confusion, abnormal behavior, blurred vision, and even seizures and loss of consciousness.

Beer impacts your blood glucose levels: Alcohol stimulates the appetite, so you may unknowingly overeat when you’re drinking your choicest brew with a meal. It will increase blood glucose levels and could contribute to weight gain.

Alcohol interferes with blood sugar regulation: According to the NIH, alcohol consumption can affect the hormones that regulate blood sugar levels. While the liver is preoccupied with getting rid of the alcohol from your body, it cannot focus on releasing stored glucose.

Alcohol can affect diabetes medications: Alcohol and medication don’t mix, especially when it comes to diabetes drugs. Alcohol may interfere with hypoglycemic medications making them less effective.

The Effect of Alcoholic Beverages like Beer on Other Organs

a girl smiling at her friend

We know that alcoholic beverages like beer can affect the liver, but they can also have harmful effects on other organs. Drinking too much can affect your heart health, increase kidney disease risk, increase insulin resistance, and exacerbate other health conditions. Here’s what to be aware of:

Pancreas: The pancreas produces insulin and glucagon, both of which are involved in regulating blood sugar levels. Research has shown that alcohol can cause inflammation of the organ, called pancreatitis, leading to damage and dysfunction.

Kidneys: High blood glucose can cause damage to the blood vessels in the kidneys, which filter out the body’s wastes, causing them to act up. When we drink alcohol, our kidneys have to work harder. This is especially true when you consume more than a few drinks. 

Heart: Diabetes and heart disease are often linked, according to the CDC. Having higher blood glucose levels may increase the chances of heart disease and heart complications as it can damage the nerves that control your heart. It also puts a strain on the blood vessels of the heart. On the other hand, low blood sugar can increase your heart rate and lead to cardiac arrhythmias. There is so much research on the positive impact of alcohol on the heart, but excessive alcohol intake can lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, and even stroke. 

Brain: Consistent high blood sugar levels can increase risk factors for health conditions and increase your risk of damage to blood vessels, affecting your brain’s white matter and leading to cognitive impairment. Low blood sugar levels can affect your mood. It manifests as headaches, dizziness, and poor coordination. Alcohol can also impact the brain, causing short-term impairment. Excessive consumption is linked with long-term brain damage. 

Gut: Some evidence suggests that alcohol and its metabolites can cause gut inflammation and affect the gut microbiota, hampering the immune response. It can lead to disruption of the body’s glycemic control mechanisms.

Extremities: Sustained high blood glucose levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves leading to your legs and feet. Bad circulation can slow down the healing process, while nerve impairment can cause pain, tingling sensations, and a lack of muscle control. Prolonged alcohol intake can impact the nervous system and cause problems like alcoholic neuropathy

How Much Can I Drink?

two people chatting with a beer

For most people, there’s no harm in indulging in a few drinks once in a while. But the amount that constitutes this ‘moderate drinking’ can vary for everyone. If you have diabetes, for example, enjoying a cold beer is by no means off-limits, but it’s a good idea to limit yourself to smaller quantities and keep track of what you drink and how much.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is recommended that men have no more than two alcoholic drinks per day and women have no more than one.

One drink is equivalent to one 12-ounce serving of beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, or a 1.5-ounce shot of distilled spirits such as vodka, whiskey, gin, rum, and tequila.

Does the Type of Beer Matter?

6 types of beer in glasses

The short answer is yes. Since the calorie content, the alcohol, and the number of carbohydrates in different beers can vary, what you pick can play a role in your blood sugar levels and weight management.

For instance, a 12-ounce bottled beer has around four to five percent alcohol by volume (ABV), while a craft beer can have as much as 10% ABV. Craft beers usually have more calories and are generally higher in carbohydrate content than bottled beers. Also, draught beers tend to be sold in servings larger than 12 ounces.

When it comes to 12-ounce bottled beer, Busch is one of the best choices as it has 6.9 grams of carbs and 114 calories. Budweiser, Coors Banquet, and Stella Artois (11.2 ounces) are next with 10.6, 11.7, and 11.9 grams of carbs, and 145, 147, and 141 calories, respectively.

Meanwhile, Miller High Life and Corona Extra add 12.2 and 13.9 grams of carbohydrate and 141 and 148 calories. Here’s a helpful chart to refer to before picking a beer:

a chart with beer types and nutritional info

Are Low-Carb Beers Better for Blood Sugar Level Control?

While drinking beer or consuming alcohol (especially if you have diabetes) comes with precautions and challenges, some beers could make things easier. Switching to low-carb beer options might be a good idea, as they have less carbohydrate content and, typically (but not always), fewer calories.

The same number of drinks will put less load on your system if you choose beer with a lower ABV and carbohydrate content. But choosing low-carb beer shouldn’t be an excuse to drink more. Always monitor your blood glucose levels before and up to 12 hours after drinking to ensure you’re not experiencing any dangerous spikes or dips.

Low-Carb Beer Options

Light beers have fewer calories and lower carbohydrate content than regular beers, and Miller64 and Michelob Ultra are friends of the carb-watcher, with just 2.4 and 2.6 grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounce serving, respectively.

Miller Lite, Natural Light, and Busch Light each have 3.2 grams of carbs, with Keystone Light (4.7 grams) and Corona Light (4.8 grams) rounding off the sub-5 gram category for a 12-ounce serving. Here’s a helpful chart to refer to before picking a beer:

a chart with low carb beer info

Some Tips and Tricks

a glass of beer

If you have diabetes and fancy a tall glass of beer now and then, there are a few things to be wary of, mistakes that even the best of us can and often do make. Here are some helpful tips and tricks:

  • Never consume alcohol in place of a meal: Research shows that drinking but not eating can significantly reduce blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. However, people without diabetes may also experience lower blood sugar levels. It can lead to alcohol-induced hypoglycemia, partly because alcohol impairs the liver’s production and release of glucose into the bloodstream.
  • Never drink on an empty stomach: People tend to consume more alcohol when drinking on an empty stomach. It can impair the liver’s job to release glucose into the blood, causing blood sugar levels to drop.
  • Avoid mixed drinks: There can be a ton of sugar in cocktails, especially sweet ones. Likewise, you should stay away from sweet wines and cordials.
  • Drink in moderation: The recommended amount of alcohol in one day is typically two drinks for men and one for women. Binge-drinking can lead to hypoglycemia and other adverse effects.
  • Don’t drink immediately after exercise: Working out can lower blood sugar, and drinking beer or alcohol after exercising can wreak havoc with blood glucose regulation.

Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
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Beer and Blood Glucose Levels: What’s the Connection?
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The Ultimate Guide to Fiber and its Effect on Metabolic Health
The Ultimate Guide to Fiber and its Effect on Metabolic Health

Ready to learn all about fiber beyond just the basics? In this post, we dive deep into the different kinds of fiber and health benefits of each. From functional fiber to fermentation, we break down all the jargon into a layman's language.

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The Relationship Between Cardio and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cardio and Blood Sugar

Did you know that cardio can help you lose weight as well as optimize your health and blood glucose? Here's everything you need to know about cardio and its relationship with blood sugar.

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The Side Effects of Unhealthy Weight Loss
The Side Effects of Unhealthy Weight Loss

Find out what unhealthy weight loss is and learn more about its side effects and what you can do to prevent them.

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The Relationship Between Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure
The Relationship Between Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure

Learn about the warning signs of low blood sugar and the relationship it has on blood pressure.

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The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar
The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar

Here is everything you need to know about the relationship between weight lifting and blood sugar.

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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

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The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

NutriSense dietitian Katrina Larsen, MS, RD,N, LD, CDCES discusses the risk factors for sleep apnea and how this disorder is linked to other health conditions.

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The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels
The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels

The premise of the paleo diet is that the body can handle a mix of meats, fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and complex carbohydrates better than processed meats, refined fats, grains and simple carbohydrates because it evolved to eat the first category as hunter-gatherers.

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The Health Benefits of Winter Squash
The Health Benefits of Winter Squash

A common ingredient in cozy winter recipes, winter squash is one of our favorite foods this time of year. Read on to learn more about how it can benefit your health.

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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love

Haven't finished your holiday shopping yet? Pick from this list of NutriSense-approved holiday gifts to find some great last-minute stocking stuffers for everyone on your list!

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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love

Still haven't bought all your holiday gifts this year? Don't worry—there's still time to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Read our guide for some great ideas!

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The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose
The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose

Learn more about inflammation, how it affects blood glucose levels and what you can do to prevent and manage it.

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The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Fermented foods have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about what they are and why you should be adding them to your diet.

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The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes
The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are similar in usage, but pretty distinct in taste, texture, appearance, and even nutritional content! Read on to find out more about each one.

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The Health Benefits of Living With Pets
The Health Benefits of Living With Pets

Did you know that living with a pet can do more than just put a smile on your face? Read on to learn all the ways living with pets improves your wellbeing.

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The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices
The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to dishes, and also have a range of health benefits. Learn more about a few of our favorites.

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The Health Benefits of Beans
The Health Benefits of Beans

Learn about the health benefits of beans and how they can help you live a healthier, longer life.

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The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?
The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?

Review our guide to metabolic diets to help get a better understanding of what they are and whether they might be right for you.

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The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa
The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa

Learn about the traditions and nutrient-dense food commonly enjoyed during Kwanzaa. 

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The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection
The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection

Have you ever wondered how your glucose levels might be connected to joint pain? We'll take a deep dive into this connection and share tips for reducing pain.

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The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia
The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia

This article explores hypoglycemia in non-diabetics, how to manage symptoms through diet, and the advantages of glucose monitoring.

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The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels
The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels

Take a look at how aging can affect your blood glucose levels.

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The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

Read on to learn more about vitamin D-rich foods and what you should include in your diet to make the most of this vitamin’s health benefits.

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The Best Diet for Menstruation
The Best Diet for Menstruation

When it comes to your menstrual cycle, what you eat can significantly impact how you feel. Read on to learn more about the best foods to add to your diet to help during that time of the month.

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The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices
The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic healing system that dates back over 5,000 years. In the second installment of our series on the practice, review the benefits and risks associated with popular Ayurvedic herbs and spices.

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The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet
The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet

In this article, we break down what a low FODMAP diet looks like for beginners, and its potential benefits and drawbacks for gastrointestinal health.

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The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis
The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis

When it comes to bone health, good nutrition is absolutely critical. Read on to learn what osteoporosis is and why some foods may increase your risk of or worsen the condition.