Intermittent Fasting And Alcohol: What You Should Know
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Intermittent Fasting And Alcohol: What You Should Know
Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy in which eating windows are interspersed with periods of calorie restriction regularly throughout the day or throughout the week.
Also known as IF, an intermittent fasting diet takes advantage of a biological process called autophagy, which your body naturally reverts to during long periods (16-24 hours) without food.
This leads to a number of different benefits, ranging from improved fat burning and insulin sensitivity to increased immunity and reduced oxidative stress.
In this article, we’ll be touching specifically on alcohol and how it can interact with an intermittent fasting schedule. If you’d like to learn more about how to get started on intermittent fasting you can explore our Beginner’s Guide To Intermittent Fasting.
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Can You Drink Alcohol While Intermittent Fasting?
In short, since alcoholic beverages all have calories, drinking alcohol during your intermittent fast will break it and reduce the overall benefits.
Most experts say that anything between 35 and 100 calories consumed at any point during your intermittent fast will likely disrupt autophagy, the key mechanism behind intermittent fasting, providing the same benefits of if you had only fasted for 3 or 4 hours (like you might between meals anyway).
As for drinking alcohol during your eating windows, most experts also say that having a few drinks in moderation (1-2 for women, 2-3 for men) likely won’t disrupt your fast.
However, the effects of drinking alcohol on intermittent fasting have not yet been fully studied, so if you’re considering combining intermittent fasting with drinking alcohol, we recommend taking an overall look at your strategy.
The goals of intermittent fasting can range from better controlling your blood sugar to losing weight to improved immunity and cellular repair, all of which are adversely affected by alcohol consumption.
This isn’t to say that the two cannot coexist, but it may be likely that drinking alcohol during your intermittent fasting strategy is counterproductive.
Drinking Alcohol And Weight Loss: Some General Advice
If you’re practicing intermittent fasting in order to lose weight, alcohol intake has an increased chance of being counterproductive to your goals. Some studies have indicated that alcohol consumption is a risk factor for obesity, though the epidemiological trends are unclear.
From a biological perspective, the only way to lose weight is by eating less calories than you burn. The extra calories from alcohol have an increased chance of turning into body fat and weight gain, and these drinks are void of micronutrients.
For example, the same carbohydrates and glucose from a glass of wine or beer could be supplied by fruits and vegetables, which contain fiber and micronutrients.
While these foods might be less ‘exciting’, that substitution could be the difference-maker for a better mood, improved overall health, and higher energy, especially while maintaining a calorie deficit.
Our recommendation? If you’re seeking to lose weight, less alcohol is probably better, especially if you replace those calories with foods that will make you feel much better and healthier in the long run.
If You’re Going To Drink, Follow These Guidelines
If you’re planning to have a few drinks while intermittent fasting, we recommend a few strategies.
First, make sure that your drinking window aligns with the center of your expected eating window. This gives your body a chance to process not only the calories from food but also those from alcohol, which are absorbed more slowly since they have to be broken down first.
Second, avoid heavy drinking. Just like overeating, heavy drinking can result in a buildup of excess stored fats that your body will have to then work on breaking down during your intermittent fast. Needless to say, this is counterproductive.
Third, make sure that you know the approximate calories of what you’re drinking so you can plan your meals effectively.
This is especially true if you’re seeking to lose weight — for example, red wine has more calories than tequila. And your glass of wine might vary if it’s a dry wine versus a hearty sweet wine.
And finally, we recommend avoiding drinking on an empty stomach, eating foods like starchy vegetables or grains, and drinking plenty of water.
Many people turn to food or drinks the morning after drinking to avoid a hangover, and this won’t be possible if you’re sticking to an intermittent fast. Enjoy responsibly!
Other Drinks To Avoid While Intermittent Fasting
A general rule of thumb is to avoid high-calorie drinks while intermittent fasting, as these drinks will break your state of autophagy and significantly reduce your health benefits while you’re using this strategy.
This means it’s a good idea to avoid most dairy products, most fruit juices with added sugars, sodas, and anything else with added calories, especially during your fasting window.
Though these beverages don’t have the dietary carbs of sugar-sweetened drinks, and won’t directly contribute to weight gain, they have a number of other health side effects.
Our recommendation is to think of it like this. If you’re choosing an intermittent fast to improve your overall health, it’s better to avoid behaviors that can have a negative effect on your health.
Instead, there are a number of natural zero-calorie beverages that can enhance your fast.
So What Drinks Are Allowed During an Intermittent Fasting Diet?
As we continue to build out content surrounding intermittent fasting, we want to make sure that we are linking between articles. We’ve written one on energy drinks, green tea, and flavored water thus far, so make sure to point to those naturally in this section
We like to think of it more as which drinks are recommended during intermittent fasting, and we’ve got five favorites that we love to recommend:
- Water or carbonated water. An excellent form of natural hydration and appetite suppressant, water should be a staple of your intermittent fast.
- Green tea (and many other teas). Green tea has been shown to have a natural fat-burning and immunity-boosting effect that can be an excellent complement to your intermittent fast. Our favorite is Amla Green, which also adds the powerful antioxidant and weight-loss benefits of amla.
- Green juices. Vegetable juices like those made from cucumber, celery, and other green vegetables provide key nutrients and fibers without spiking your calories and disrupting autophagy. A great staple for intermittent fasting.
- Apple cider vinegar. A classic remedy for hunger, apple cider vinegar helps quell your body’s appetite during an intermittent fast, helping keep you feeling satisfied until your meal.
- Black coffee. If you can’t survive without your morning coffee, don’t despair! Black coffee is an excellent zero-calorie beverage that won’t break your fast. This is another case where we recommend avoiding zero-calorie sweeteners though, as they can have some distinct negative effects.
In summary, drinking alcohol during your intermittent fasting window will break autophagy, and break your fast.
And while it’s up to you to determine whether drinking alcohol during your eating windows is in line with your wellness goals, we’ve also explained a few of the recommended do’s and don’ts of how to go about drinking on an intermittent fast.
For a full summary of how to start an intermittent fast, and how you can take advantage of its health benefits, you can explore our Beginner’s Guide To Intermittent Fasting.
We also recommend working with your nutritionist to create an overall dietary strategy that works for you. Intermittent fasting is just one part of a healthy diet, and choosing the right foods can really enhance this technique’s benefits.
Amla Green has strict guidelines for scientific references in our articles, and we rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, governmental organizations, and reputable medical organizations. We do our best to avoid using non evidence-based references in all articles. The references in this article are listed below.
“Healthline. “Can You Drink Alcohol During Intermittent Fasting?,” July 24, 2019. ” ”https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/intermittent-fasting-and-alcohol"
“Sayon-Orea, Carmen, Miguel A. Martinez-Gonzalez, and Maira Bes-Rastrollo. “Alcohol Consumption and Body Weight: A Systematic Review.” Nutrition Reviews 69, no. 8 (August 2011): 419–31.” ”https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00403.x"
“Suter, Paolo M. “Is Alcohol Consumption a Risk Factor for Weight Gain and Obesity?” Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences 42, no. 3 (2005): 197–227.” ”https://doi.org/10.1080/10408360590913542"
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, is a cofounder of Mastering Diabetes and Amla Green is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness coach who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. Using an evidence-based approach to nutrition and fitness, he first reduced his own insulin usage by more than 40%, and has educated thousands of people with all forms of diabetes how to reverse insulin resistance using food as medicine. Cyrus earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-host of the annual Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, a featured speaker at the Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthcare Conference (PBNHC), the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) Conference, Plant Stock, and has been featured on Forks Over Knives, NPR, PBS, KQED, Fast Company, and is the author of the upcoming book Mastering Diabetes.
- Cyrus Khambatta