intermittent fasting and alcohol

Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol: Does Alcohol Break a Fast?

Intermittent fasting
Table Of Contents

Introduction – What Is Intermittent Fasting? 

Intermittent fasting is a form of fasting that allows for eating within a certain duration of time. What differentiates intermittent fasting from traditional fasting is that time cycles are established, which provides opportunities to schedule periods of fasts and eating to fit with one’s daily routine. 

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting 

According to experts, fasting poses many benefits including: 

  • Increased energy: Fasting has been shown to assist with mental clarity through emotional mastery of physical responses/food cravings.
  • Activation of autophagy: Autophagy is the process of cell regeneration. This occurs when the body rids itself of dead/unhealthy cells and makes way for healthy cells. Intermittent fasting assists in this process by giving the body lengthier time windows to better digest foods and help with metabolism. 
  • Helps improve heart health: Research has shown that intermittent fasting methods help reduce cholesterol and improve heart health. 
  • May prevent high risks of cancer: Intermittent fasting is said to slow and even alter the progression of tumors.

Weight Loss and Intermittent Fasting 

One of the well-known benefits and purposes of intermittent fasting includes weight loss. Weight loss occurs when the body enters a stage of ketosis, where the body begins to burn fat on its own rather than traditional glucose. The onset of ketosis occurs while maintaining a specific diet during fasting. 

Entering Ketosis 

Ketosis starts approximately 12 hours after the last meal when the body begins to burn the remaining glucose and begins the ketogenic process of carb reduction. Intermittent fasting is a recommended way to ease into ketogenic food while fasting to burn the remaining glucose. This is because intake is restricted to a cycle that allows for a time of resting during the period of fasting while eating can be allocated during the day. (Usually an 8-hour window of food intake and a 16-hour window of fasting).

To maintain ketosis, it is imperative to greatly reduce foods with high levels of carbs, because, by the time ketosis has begun, the body reduces carbohydrates on its own as the remaining glucose is eradicated. Foods such as berries, lean meats, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and seeds are ketogenic and can help to maintain the process of ketosis, thus leading to weight loss. As far as beverages, water is a top recommended option. However, the question remains, is it okay to have an occasional cocktail during this time?

Also read: Can You Eat When You’re Fasting?

Alcohol And Intermittent Fasting 

Depending on the amount, drinking alcohol during intermittent fasting may impede the process of ketosis. Alcohol is shown to be dense in calories with 1g containing 7 calories, and one drink can contribute 100 or more calories.

That one drink may not completely impede or alter the process of intermittent fasting; however, it is important to be mindful of alcohol intake as excessive drinking (defined as more than 8-15 drinks per week) can lead to weight gain as well as other detrimental health issues.

When consumed in moderation, it is possible that alcohol can be enjoyed during intermittent fasting. Studies have shown that lighter alcoholic beverages, such as red or white wine, may help to reduce weight gain and improve heart health.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Intermittent Fasting: The Truth According to Experts

Whether you can drink alcohol while intermittent fasting depends on various factors, such as the type of alcohol, the amount consumed, and the reason for fasting, let’s take a closer look at what experts say about alcohol consumption during intermittent fasting.

Alcohol and Fasting: The Basics

Alcohol is a source of calories, and consuming alcohol during fasting will increase your calorie intake, breaking your fast. However, the degree to which alcohol breaks your fast depends on the amount consumed, the type of alcohol, and your fasting goals.

Alcohol and Insulin

Alcohol consumption can cause an insulin response, affecting your fasting state. When you consume alcohol, your body prioritizes metabolizing the alcohol before anything else. As a result, the liver produces more glucose, which triggers an insulin response. Insulin inhibits fat burning and promotes glucose storage, which can break your fast.

Types of Alcohols

Different types of alcohol have other calorie and sugar contents, which can affect your fasting state. For example, does liquor break a fast? Yes! With the high content of sugar! Wine and beer are also high in calories and carbohydrates, while distilled spirits like vodka and gin are lower in calories and carbs.

Amount of Alcohol

The amount of alcohol you consume is vital to consider when fasting. Consuming small amounts of alcohol may not significantly affect your fasting state while drinking large amounts of alcohol will break your fast.

Reason for Fasting

The reason for fasting is also an essential factor to consider when determining whether to consume alcohol. For example, if you’re fasting for weight loss, drinking alcohol can hinder your progress, as alcohol is high in calories and inhibits fat-burning. However, if you’re fasting for spiritual or religious reasons, consuming small amounts of alcohol may not break your fast.

Can You Drink Alcohol on 16 8 Diet?

The 16:8 diet, known as intermittent fasting, involves limiting your eating to an 8-hour window each day and fasting for the remaining 16 hours. While alcohol is not entirely off-limits during the 16:8 diet, it’s essential to remember that it can impact your weight loss and health goals.

Alcohol contains calories, and consuming too much of it can contribute to weight gain. Additionally, alcohol can disrupt your sleep and affect your ability to stick to your fasting schedule.

Suppose you do choose to consume alcohol while on the 16:8 diet. It’s essential to do so in moderation and to choose lower-calorie options. For example, clear spirits such as vodka or gin mixed with soda water or a light beer can be lower in calories than sugary cocktails or heavier beers.

What Happens if You Drink Alcohol While Fasting?

Drinking alcohol while fasting can affect your body and your fasting goals, depending on the amount and type of alcohol consumed.

Alcohol contains calories and can break a fast, as it is metabolized differently than other nutrients. When you consume alcohol, your body prioritizes metabolizing it, which can slow down or halt the fat-burning process that occurs during a fast.

  • Alcohol can dehydrate you and affect your electrolyte balance

Alcohol is a diuretic, which increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. This effect can be compounded during fasting because your body is already under water restriction. 

Additionally, alcohol can affect your electrolyte balance by increasing the excretion of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and calcium in your urine. Therefore, electrolyte imbalances can lead to muscle cramps, irregular heartbeats, and other health problems, making fasting more difficult.

  • Drinking alcohol can affect your judgment and lead to poor food choices or overeating 

Alcohol and intermittent fasting can affect the hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism, such as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the “hunger hormone” that stimulates appetite, while leptin is the “satiety hormone” that signals when you’re full. Drinking alcohol can increase ghrelin levels and decrease leptin levels, leading to overeating and weight gain.

  • Consuming alcohol can disrupt your sleep and lead to fatigue and poor energy levels 

Alcohol is a depressant that can initially make you feel relaxed and sleepy but can interfere with the normal sleep process later in the night. For example, drinking alcohol can reduce the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep you get, which is the stage of sleep when dreaming occurs and when the brain consolidates memories and learning.

As a result, you may wake up tired, groggy, and not fully rested, even if you slept for the recommended amount of time.

intermittent fasting and alcohol

Will Alcohol Break a Fast? 

During a fasting period, alcohol can break the fast by contributing calories. Not to mention, drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can lead to a heightened chance of hangovers, with presenting symptoms of headaches, nausea, and vomiting. For this reason, it’s recommended to only drink during designated eating windows.

When drinking during these windows, different types of alcohol may pose different effects during intermittent fasting:

Mixed Drinks 

Being that mixed drinks include a variety of juices and sugars along with alcohol, they may impede weight loss during intermittent fasting as the high sugar content may affect the process of ketosis. Opting for cocktail recipes limited in sugar can help in enjoying an occasional mixed drink during this time. 

Vodka/Whiskey 

These types of hard alcohols are carb-free, which can help in maintaining insulin and blood sugar levels during intermittent fasting. However, hard alcohol should not be consumed during a fasting window as it can reduce fat burning. 

Wine 

In moderation, dry wine can contain lower calories/sugars which has a low impact on the fasting process during eating windows. 

Beer 

Beer is considerably higher in starches and carbs being that it is grain-based. There are keto-approved beers including those labeled as light that can be safe to drink during intermittent fasting. 

Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol – Exploring the Potential Benefits 

Recent research indicates that while the combination of intermittent fasting and alcohol can benefit one’s health in some instances, there are also potential risks.

On the plus side, research has found that when used together in moderation, intermittent fasting, and moderate drinking can improve weight loss, reduce your risk of certain cancers and help protect against heart disease. 

Furthermore, some research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption may have some potential health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. 

However, these benefits are only seen in moderation, and excessive alcohol consumption can have numerous adverse health consequences. Because alcohol can interfere with intermittent fasting’s ability to reduce inflammation and regulate insulin metabolism, too much drinking could harm your overall health. 

Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol Tolerance: Challenges & Risks 

Fasting can lower your alcohol tolerance and make you more susceptible to the effects of alcohol. This is because when fasting, your body has fewer glucose and glycogen stores, which provide energy to the brain and body. 

When you drink alcohol, it is metabolized by the liver, which requires energy in the form of glucose. When your glucose and glycogen stores are depleted during a fast, your liver has less power to metabolize alcohol, leading to a more rapid and pronounced effect. 

This means that the same amount of alcohol can significantly impact your body when consumed during a fast, leading to a more rapid onset of alcohol effects, such as impaired judgment, coordination, and dehydration.

Furthermore, fasting can also affect how quickly alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream. When you eat food, it slows down the absorption of alcohol and can help to reduce its effects. 

How Does Alcohol Reduce Inflammation?

While moderate to heavy alcohol consumption is generally associated with increased inflammation and negative health effects, some research suggests that minor to moderate amounts of alcohol may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Alcohol has been shown to stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-10 (IL-10) and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1Ra), which can help to reduce inflammation in the body. Additionally, alcohol can reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), which are associated with inflammation and various diseases.

Does wine break a fast? Certain types of alcohol, such as red wine, may have higher levels of anti-inflammatory compounds like resveratrol, which may contribute to their potential properties.

Tips for Those Planning to Combine Intermittent Fasting and Drinking Alcohol

  • Moderate your alcohol consumption: Be mindful of how much alcohol you consume, and limit your intake to one or two drinks per day during your eating window.
  • Drink plenty of water: Alcohol is a diuretic, which can lead to dehydration. To counteract this effect, drink plenty of water during your eating window and avoid consuming alcohol on an empty stomach.
  • Choose low-calorie drinks: Alcoholic beverages can be high in calories, undermining your weight loss goals if you use IF for weight management. Choose low-calorie drinks like light beer or wine, and avoid sugary mixed drinks or high-calorie beers.
  • Be mindful of your eating habits: Drinking alcohol during your eating window can increase your hunger and cravings. Be aware of your eating habits, and try to consume healthy, nutrient-dense foods during your eating window to support your overall health and wellness.
  • Listen to your body: Everyone’s body is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

List the 3 Best Alcohol for Intermittent Fasting

Dry wines

Dry wines, such as red or white wine, are a good choice for intermittent fasting because they are low in calories and sugar. For example, a 5-ounce serving of red or white wine typically contains around 120-125 calories and only a few grams of carbs, which makes it easier to fit into your eating window.

Light beer

Does beer break a fast? If you’re a beer drinker, choosing a light beer can be a good option for intermittent fasting. Light beers typically have fewer calories and carbs than regular beers, which makes them a better choice for fitting into your eating window. However, remember that light beers still contain alcohol and can disrupt the benefits of intermittent fasting if consumed excessively.

Spirits with low-calorie mixers

Does liquor break a fast? Spirits like vodka, gin, tequila, and rum can be good options for intermittent fasting when combined with low-calorie mixers such as soda water, tonic water, or sugar-free drinks. Remember that sugary mixers like juice or soda can add significant calories and sugar to your glass, so they should be avoided.

What Can You Drink While Fasting?

Fasting does not necessarily require abstinence from all food or drink for its duration. Depending on the type of fast, some beverages may be allowed without breaking the fast. 

For example, during a water fast, which consists only of consuming plain water for a while, many people also allow themselves other calorie-free drinks such as tea and coffee. Adhering to a liquid-only diet may not break a fast, but if caffeine is consumed in excess, it can have diuretic effects that could compromise hydration levels during this time. 

Drinking any beverage with calories, however small, will immediately break the fast — including anything with fructose or artificial sweeteners. 

Alternative Beverages and Intermittent Fasting 

Recommended non-alcoholic beverages during this time include: 

Coffee: This is high in caffeine and acts as a natural diuretic. With no additives, coffee will not break fast. 

Tea: Unsweetened tea or herbal teas are beneficial as they can provide additional benefits such as reducing bloating and helping with sleep and gut health. Green Tea, Black Tea, and Chamomile teas are some of the recommended options. 

Sweeteners: Artificial sweeteners can be consumed during intermittent fasting in moderation. However, they may increase cravings and appetite. Natural sweeteners, such as stevia are also recommended.

Summary 

Alcohol is unlikely to impede the intermittent fasting process significantly. However, it does depend on the amount and the type of alcoholic drink consumed. Meals should never be replaced with alcoholic beverages, and drinks should stay within the eating window. It is also essential to hydrate with water, and other zero-calorie drinks are also essential to intermittent fasting before and after drinking alcohol. 

References

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Kimberly Tytyk is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach (INHC) and a Certified International Health Coach (CIHC). Following decades of personal experience transforming her personal health and achieving remission of autoimmune thyroiditis and PCOS, Kimberly completed her formal coaching training in 2021 at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. Her passions include deep nutrition, holistic and balanced living practices, regeneration, community-building, and finding bliss — usually in a cuddle with her husband and dog.

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