So maybe you're out at your favorite Japanese or sushi restaurant, and you want to enjoy a little alcohol with your significant other or friends, what do you do?
I love sake, more so cold sake, but to each their own, right?
Naturally, being a Japanese restaurant, you automatically gravitate towards a sake or an Asahi, but is sake “keto-approved.”
Is sake keto friendly? Sake contains 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per fluid oz. Hot sake is typically served in a flask (tokkuri) and then poured into a cup (ochoko). Each small cup holds between 1-3 oz., making each one between 1.5 and 4.5 grams of net carbs. Therefore, sake is keto friendly in moderation.
In this article, I'll go over a few different kinds of sakes, which ones may have more OR fewer carbs, how much alcohol is in sake, the different types, and maybe even get into some of my personal favorites for you sake connoisseurs.
Is Sake Ok While On A Keto Diet?
Sake is made of rice, which is relatively high in carbohydrates, but does that mean sake has a lot of carbs?
Naturally, you would think sakes are high in carbohydrates because its made from rice, but it's relatively lower in sugar due to the sake making process.
Sake is mainly made from water and rice, but similar to wine and beer, yeast consumes the starches and sugars to create alcohol.
Sake is ok to drink in moderation while on a ketogenic diet, but we're talking about enjoying a small sipping glass, not a beer mug.A standard cup, referred to as an ochoko, is usually between 30-90 ml (1-3 oz.). Therefore, depending on the size of the cup, it will have between 1.5 and 4.5 grams of net carbohydrates on average.
Just for reference, a standard shot of hard liquor is 1.5 oz. And a standard pour of wine is 5 oz. If you were to have a wine sized serving of sake it would set you back ~7.5 grams of net carbs.
How Many Carbs Are In Sake?
If you were to order a bottle of hot sake for you and your date at a restaurant, you would typically be served a flask, also known as a tokkuri. Standard serving size of sake is referred to as a Go, which is equivalent to 180 ml. or 6 oz.
Per oz, sake has ~1.5 grams of carbs. Therefore, an entire tokkuri would have ~9 net carbohydrates.
The tiny cups served alongside the flask (tokkuri) are called o-chokos and range between 30-90ml (1-3 oz.).
A tokkuri split amongst two people would be 90 ml. (3 oz.) each. So each person would be consuming 4.5g of net carbs, or 9 grams if you're rolling solo.
Again, for reference, a standard shot is 1.5 oz, and a glass of wine is 5 oz. The chances are, if you're sticking to the small sake shot glasses, you might expect 1.5 – 4.5g of carbs per cup of hot sake.
This is just on average, so some sakes may be more while some sakes may be less, and there is a difference between hot sake and cold sake and also filtered vs. unfiltered sake.Typically, if you see nigori or genshu sake, usually served cold, chances are they are slightly higher in carbs than other varieties of sakes.
How Much Alcohol Is In Sake?
The alcohol percentage of most sake is generally 14-16%, which is only slightly higher than that of wine.
For reference, wine is typically 12-14% alcohol, while something like vodka or whiskey is 40% alcohol on average.
However, there is a different type of sake, called Genshu sake, which is 18-20% alcohol.
Most sake is diluted with a little bit of water after brewing to lower the alcohol content to the 14-16% range, whereas Genshu is not diluted.
The Different Types Of Sake
When you go down the rabbit hole of any alcohol, you'll realize how much you DIDN'T know!
There are so many different types of sake, and depending on who you ask, there are four different types of sake, to 10 or more varieties.
Each type of sake has its own unique brewing technique.
For the sake of keeping it simple and straight to the point, we'll focus on the four basic types of sake:
Junmai-shu (rice only, no distilled alcohol)
Junmai-shu, which translates to pure rice sake, uses only rice, water, and koji (the mold that converts the rice starch into fermentable sugars).
Junmai-shu can be characterized as being denser and fuller-bodied, along with more acidic, than other sakes.
Honjozo-shu (a little distilled alcohol added)
Honjozo-shu sake has a small amount of distilled ethyl alcohol (brewers alcohol) added to the fermenting sake during its final production stages.
Honjozo-shu can be characterized as a lighter, sometimes drier sake. Most people consider Honjozo-shu easier to drink, making it a great candidate for warm sake.
Ginjo-shu (highly milled rice that may or may not have alcohol added)
When sake is made, the rice is polished (milled) to remove the outer layer of each grain and expose the starch.
If you see a bottle that says it has been polished to 70 percent, it means 30 percent of the original rice kernel has been polished away, leaving the rice kernel 70 percent of its original size.
Ginjo-shu is made with rice that has been polished to no more than 60 percent of its original size, meaning at least 40 percent has been milled away. The first two varieties had a little less polishing.
Ginjo-shu is made in a more labor-intensive way and fermented at colder temperatures for a more extended period, leaving a more complex and delicate flavor.
Ginjo-shu can be characterized by a more fruity and flowery fragrance and flavor profile.
Daiginjo-shu (more highly milled rice that may or may not have alcohol added)
Daiginjo-shu is similar to the previous (gijo-shu), but with rice that is polished even more. No more than 50% of the rice for this variety remains, with some types milling away up to 65% away before brewing.
Daiginjo-shu is even more labor-intensive, which is often reflected in its higher price tag.
Some Helpful Info When Drinking Sake On Keto
- The sweeter the sake, the more calories and carbohydrates it probably has.
- The higher the alcohol content, the more calories the sake will have.
- Alcohol has no nutritional value (but you knew that already).
- Drinking may lead to poor decisions like binge eating (so be prepared) If you know you'll be cruising for food because of a little alcohol in your system.
You should have some food prepared that you can snack on when you get home. A much better option than hitting the 2 am Mexican fast-food line.Please don't act like you haven't done it.
- Alcohol WILL slow fat burning, and that's because your body will prefer to burn off alcohol as a priority before burning other sources (such as fat). 1
My Keto Sake Tips
- Stick to lower carb sake options when going out, ask for the driest (least sweet) sake from your server.
- If the sake is cloudy, such as nigori sake, skip it.
- If you get a bottle, you can download an app like My Fitness Pal and scan the barcode to tell you the nutritional information.
- There are some “zero” carb varieties though usually uncommon at restaurants. You may be able to find them at a Japanese or Asian market. Below is an image of one such type.
Does Keto Get You Drunk Faster?
Many often ask if being on a ketogenic diet will get you drunk faster, and for most people, it does.Most people also don't realize that the liver can make ketones out of alcohol, so you may see a rise in your blood ketones if you're the type of person who measures them.
Want to read more about what you can and can't drink on a ketogenic diet?
When you are in ketosis, alcohol will hit your system much quicker and stronger versus when it had more carbohydrates. Glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream is limited, leaving fewer substances to absorb the alcohol, and thus you get drunk quicker.
The best thing you can do is to eat your keto-friendly meal and make sure you're well hydrated.
Sake, in moderation, is keto friendly. An average sake cup between 1-3 oz. has 1.5 to 4.5g of net carbs.
The sweeter the sake, the more carbohydrates it will generally have.
Have food in your stomach, and make sure you are well hydrated before drinking because alcohol tends to hit your system quicker and harder when on a low-carb or ketogenic diet.
Always have a plan for what you will eat afterward if you are the type to snack on items after drinking to avoid binge eating.