If you're into fitness and wellness and haven't been living under a rock during the last few years, you've probably come across the practice of intermittent fasting.

Actually, you've probably heard the term thrown around hundreds of times and probably have at least one friend who casually throws around terms like "fasting window" and says stuff like "I can't eat now! It will break the fast!"

No matter how excessive the concept might seem, it does get results for adherents and if you're reading this now, I'm going to assume that you want those kinds of results. However, there's a major elephant in the corner when it comes to the ultimate success of intermittent fasting ventures.

Intermittent fasting and alcohol.

Today, we're going to look at how alcohol consumption and overall alcohol intake can impact intermittent fasting. We'll also look at best practices to help you enjoy your next alcoholic drink (or ten) while still reaping the many benefits of intermittent fasting.

What are the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting involves alternating between "fasting" periods (where no calories are consumed) and "feeding" periods (where you can eat/consume calories as you normally would) Mandal, Simmons, Awan, Chamari, Ahmed, 2022). Generally, a fasting schedule is split into a ratio like 14/10 (fasting/feeding), 16/8, or even 20/4. You break your fast if you eat anything or have a caloric drink while fasting.

So...why would anyone willingly abstain from eating for so many hours of the day? It's a good question, and thankfully, there are some pretty legit reasons to do so:

  • First and foremost, intermittent fasting leads to weight/fat loss. You're eating fewer meals and even during feeding periods, are consuming less overall calories every day. The weight loss is inevitable (Song & Kim, 2023).
  • Can lower blood sugar due to minimizing insulin resistance. This is big for preventing serious chronic conditions like Type 2 Diabetes (de Cabo & Mattson, 2019)..
  • Elevated Human Growth Hormone levels and more efficient cell repair. Overall, many of the bodies hormones often begin to act more effectively during periods of intermittent fasting (de Cabo & Mattson, 2019).

Intermittent fasting is also linked with reduced inflammation, improved brain health, improved heart health (Aly, 2014). However, to experience the full benefits of fasting, it's vital to only eat or drink during feeding periods.

Is it Possible to Drink Alcohol During Intermittent Fasting?

Point blank: YES! Moderate alcohol consumption is acceptable when intermittent fasting...as long as you don't drink alcohol while fasting. Alcohol contains calories so consuming alcohol breaks your fast...

...Every. Time.

What Happens if you Drink Alcohol during a Fasting Period?

As we mentioned before, even one drink completely breaks your fast. When only considering how this affects your intermittent fasting venture...well...if you are regularly breaking your fasts, you can pretty much forget about experiencing any of the benefits.

Outside of the confines of intermittent fasting, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to chronic conditions such as liver and heart disease (among a host of others) (Rhem, 2011). You (probably) already knew this, but if you're serious about maxing out the benefits of intermittent fasting, moderate drinking during feeding periods is the only way to go.

Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol may also increase overall inflammation throughout the body while also blunting the anti-aging effects that intermittent fasting has on the body's cells (Harvie & Howell, 2017).

Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol ...Don't Shoot the Messenger!

As we've established, the bad news is that alcohol undermines your gains every time you drink during your fasting period.

I wish this weren't the case, but facts are facts!

The good news is, light alcohol intake during your feeding period is unlikely to disrupt the fasting process.

If you're thinking about intermittent fasting for weight loss, you're probably pretty serious about your goal to burn some fat or drop some pounds. As such, we can assume that you want to follow the precepts of the program’s guidelines closely.

The effect of alcohol can be pretty nice, but making gains feels even nicer. The occasional drink (during feeding periods!) is fine, but don't let late nights and crazy parties derail your intermittent fasting goals!

(Other) Frequently Asked Questions

We know that alcohol and intermittent fasting may be a pretty heavy topic for you. With this in mind, we'll try to answer a few more of the most commonly asked questions on the topic.

When is the Best Time to Drink Alcohol While Intermittent Fasting?

Alcohol breaks your fast whether your fasting period takes place during middle of the day or during the middle of the night.

With that being said, if you've decided to have a night of... excessive drinking, it likely makes sense to coordinate your alcohol intake so that there is a slight amount of "leeway" i.e. if your feeding window usually ends at 2 A.M. (or whenever last call is), slightly adjust your feeding window in the preceding days to push it closer to 2:30. This can help to account for any last minute shots or even for a short period of "after hours" drinking.

How Does Excessive Alcohol Intake During a non-fasting Window Affect You?

A glass of wine or two drinks per day probably isn't going to kill you and, if consumed during your feeding period, won't disturb your fast.

However, chronic alcohol use can, even during your feeding windows, is likely to undermine the success of intermittent fasting. The additional health-related problems it can cause simply add to its negative effects.

Which Beverages are the Best to Drink During Intermittent Fasting?

Certain types of alcohol are going to better set you up for success than others. Drinks like dry wine (to include most red and white wines), low-carbohydrate beers, and distilled liquor are lower in calories and will be better for overall weight loss.

In contrast, it's best to avoid alcohol that includes high amounts of sugar (like many mixed drinks). These drinks not only have higher carbohydrate and calorie contents, but the combination of sugar and alcohol has a dehydrating effect, leading to nasty hangovers (Wakabayashi, Greeman, Barrett, Bevins, 2001).

Ultimately, too much alcohol of any type is going to lead to negative health outcomes as well as decreased success with your intermittent fasting journey.


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