Can You Mix Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol?
Intermittent fasting is a popular dietary approach that restricts food consumption to specific periods of the day or week. Many people have experienced weight loss, improved metabolic health, and longevity benefits from this eating pattern.
However, a common question among intermittent fasters is whether they can drink alcohol while fasting and if it will affect their health goals. In this blog post, we will explore the relationship between intermittent fasting and alcohol consumption and provide practical tips for drinking while following intermittent fasting (IF).
How Intermittent Fasting Works
IF restricts the timing of food consumption to specific periods of the day or week. The eating and fasting windows depend on the type of fasting you choose.
For example, in time-restricted fasting, you will fast for a specific number of hours each day and eat during the rest of the day. Let’s say that you pick the 16:8 hours method. In this case, you will fast for 16 consecutive hours and eat for 8.
Find a full description of common types of intermittent fasting here.
The science behind intermittent fasting suggests that it can lead to several positive health effects.
During fasting, the body shifts from using glucose as a primary source of energy to using stored fats, resulting in increased fat-burning and weight loss. Fasting also leads to reduced insulin levels, which can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Fasting can also reduce inflammation in the body, which is a key factor in the development of various chronic diseases.
Moreover, IF works by naturally reducing calories throughout the day.
Can You Drink Alcohol During Intermittent Fasting?
The question of whether alcohol is allowed during intermittent fasting is common. The answer is not a simple yes or no, as it depends on several factors.
First, let’s remember that intermittent fasting is all about WHEN to eat and not WHAT to eat. So, technically, it does not ban alcohol during the eating windows.
HOWEVER, it’s important to note that alcohol is high in calories and can interfere with weight loss goals.
Additionally, alcohol can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can worsen the effects of fasting. It can also impact your metabolism and digestion, making it harder to benefit from IF..
It is important to keep these factors in mind when considering whether or not to drink alcohol during intermittent fasting.
Does Alcohol Break a Fast?
Yes. Drinking alcohol breaks a fast because it provides calories, which are avoided during fasting.
Effects of Alcohol on Weight Loss
Drinking can have a significant impact on weight loss goals.
Alcoholic drinks are often high in calories, and the body tends to burn alcohol for energy instead of stored fat, making it harder to lose weight.
Additionally, alcohol can lead to poor food choices and overeating, which can further hinder weight loss efforts.
Excessive alcohol consumption can also cause inflammation in the body, leading to bloating and water retention.
Furthermore, alcohol can interfere with sleep quality, which can impact hormone levels and metabolism, making it more difficult to lose weight.
Tips for Drinking While Intermittent Fasting
If you choose to drink alcohol while practicing intermittent fasting, here are some tips to help you do so in a healthier way:
Drink only during your eating window
Alcohol will break your fast, so it’s important to stick to your eating window if you choose to drink.
Want a fun outing with your friends? Choose happy hour, brunch, or an early dinner instead of late-night drinking. This can help you stick to your eating/fasting period.
Now, if you are going out at night, identify drinks you can have without breaking your fast. This might mean you will show up to a party with a case of sparkling water.
Find alternatives to alcohol for your fasting window
Do you love to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of wine? Do you go to events or parties outside your eating window?
Identify options you can hold in your hand during those times without breaking your fast. Some ideas include:
- Infused water: add basil, rosemary, cucumber, lime, or lemon
- Sparkling water: serve it in a glass with a twist of lemon to feel like you are drinking a cocktail
- Herbal tea
- Black coffee: regular or decaf
Limit how much you drink
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans state that “moderate drinking is up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men,” with one standard drink being 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.
Beyond the obvious, alcohol can lower your inhibitors and increase the chances of eating outside your eating window and/or overeating.
Proper hydration is a common challenge among those following IF. Alcohol can make it even harder to stay hydrated, as it is a diuretic.
Thus, drink plenty of water throughout the day and drink infused or sparkling water instead of alcohol during your fasting window.
My Expert Opinion
It is crucial to follow an eating style that suits you. So, if you enjoy a glass of wine or a good cocktail, go ahead and drink it! This will help you stick to your eating plan in the long run.
Just make sure to drink during your eating window and do so in moderation.
Dr. Su-Nui Escobar, a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist in Miami, FL, is dedicated to empowering women in perimenopause and menopause to live healthier, more satisfying lives.
With a doctorate in clinical nutrition from the University of North Florida, she has expertise in menopause and weight loss, including the unique challenges faced by those on weight loss medications.
Su-Nui’s passion for her field is evident in her previous role as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.