Intermittent Fasting And Alcohol: Can You Drink Alcohol During Fasting 2023?

Sevginur Akdas

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

intermittent fasting and alcohol

Intermittent fasting[1] is a very popular diet trend with many purported health benefits including weight loss, reduction in fat tissue, and control of inflammation.

To understand the alcohol effect on an intermittent fasting diet, first, we should look at the alcohol metabolism and weight loss relationship. 

Although some people practice intermittent fasting as a general eating habit without a weight loss goal, many people do fasting to lose weight and better regulate their metabolism. 

Many people unknowingly think this dietary pattern involves fasting and eating cycles without any food restrictions. But if you want to experience the benefits, this is not necessarily the case.

Even with restricting your eating window to a certain hour with fasting apps or following an exact eating period routine, if you overeat sugar, fatty, or processed food, it won’t bring any positive health outcomes. This idea may lead to side effects such as weight gain or digestive problems due to overeating during the eating window. However, it is possible to achieve a balance when fasting.  You may be asking can I drink alcohol while intermittent fasting? Yes, you can, when consumed in a balanced way. Let’s learn how to balance your alcohol consumption during intermittent fasting. 

Can I Drink Alcohol While Intermittent Fasting?

Drinking alcohol in excess is not healthy for any eating pattern, including intermittent fasting. But a small amount may be okay. Let’s explain.

In the literature,[2] high-level alcohol consumption correlated with increased body fat tissue levels. However, light or moderate alcohol consumption didn’t show this relationship.

When the metabolic outcomes were examined, the prevalence of metabolic syndrome was lower[3] in light or non-drinkers than in heavy drinkers. 

First of all, although the amounts vary depending on the type of alcoholic beverage, alcohol has very high calories; one gram[4] of alcohol gives seven calories. It makes alcohol the second-highest calorie-containing product after fats.

Secondly, its effect on the body lasts for a while and inactivates some metabolic pathways. The first of these is wood burning. It also has effects on glucose metabolism.

Third, if the amount of water lost is not replaced, it causes significant dehydration. It negatively affects the entire metabolism.

Chronic drinking can ruin your diet, especially if you’re on specific diets to lose weight or maintain your metabolic health. But if you can drink alcohol in moderation, you can still reap the benefits of fasting, without the dangers of excess alcohol.  

How Alcohol Impacts Intermittent Fasting?

Alcohol can impact the effects of intermittent fasting in several ways. If you do drink alcohol while fasting, it’s best to have it during your eating window. 

Breaks Your Fast

Alcohol is a calorie-containing[4] drink. Therefore, if you consume during your fast period, alcohol breaks your fast. This is because the main idea of intermittent fasting is to avoid any calorie-containing food or drinks in the fasting period, even if it is a small amount.

While drinking alcohol, you may also unintentionally consume more food, such as appetizers and snacks or meals consumed with alcohol. This negatively affects your diet and your overall results.

Inhibits Fat Burn

Besides alcohol intake disturbing your fasting window,  it also affects your metabolism and inhibits weight loss. Studies showed that alcohol makes weight loss difficult for hours or even days because it negatively impacts the mitochondria, the cell’s energy center. 

It also disturbs your carbohydrate metabolism, exercise performance, and sleep. 

When the alcohol-containing meal consumption of adults was compared to a meal rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fat, alcohol intake significantly reduced[5] fat breakdown five hours after the meal. 

Disturbs Glucose Metabolism 

The majority of studies held with healthy people showed that alcohol acutely decreases[6] insulin-stimulated glucose uptake to cells in the whole body, which results in decreased insulin sensitivity. A high blood sugar level leads to more insulin secretion, which is the opposite of what intermittent fasting aims to do.

Also, alcohol intake may exacerbate the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus, as it impairs glucose metabolism and removal from the blood.  

Another aim of intermittent fasting is to decrease type 2 diabetes mellitus risk by regulating tissue glucose uptake and insulin effectiveness. 

However, studies also show that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, alcohol consumption should be controlled if it is to be consumed. 

Stimulates Hunger And Overeating

Another negative effect of alcohol is that you may have the desire to eat more during or after alcohol consumption. People can easily consume a lot of high-calorie snacks with alcohol.

Alcohol can also lead to overeating by stimulating related hypothalamic neurons[7] in the brain that are normally activated by starvation and hunger. 

It is an important mechanism because calorie-dense foods normally suppress these neurons and decrease appetite, but in the case of alcohol consumption, this doesn’t happen.

Researchers also indicated that blood leptin levels decreased[5] after a meal with alcohol consumption compared to regular meals. Leptin[8] is the main hormone that makes you full and tells you to stop eating, helping your body to regulate its metabolism. 

This can help explain why alcohol consumption makes it harder to feel full,  due to decreased leptin levels.

Another study investigated the effects of alcohol on ghrelin,[9] the hormone that makes you hungry, and found that alcohol consumption can increase ghrelin levels. It can cause severe hunger crises and eating cravings after alcohol consumption. 

This can negatively affect maintaining intermittent fasting and the ability to withstand long periods of fasting.   

Mental Effects And Depressive Feelings

After drinking alcohol and its effect wears off, the pleasure of alcohol is replaced by depressive feelings and emptiness. For this reason, alcohol consumed in excess can also affect people psychologically. 

High alcohol consumption may elevate inflammatory biomarkers[10] in the blood, leading to several negative outcomes[11] such as confusion, inattentiveness, fatigue, or depressive feelings. It can also trigger depression-related eating attacks in those with an emotional eating disorder.

Leads To Water And Electrolyte Loss

One of the side effects of alcohol consumption is the loss of body water and electrolytes, leading to dehydration.  This results in lethargy decreased metabolic activity and even reduced mental function. 

It is essential to drink enough water during your intermittent fasting, especially if you drink alcohol, to prevent these effects.

How Much Alcohol Can You Drink During A Fast?

So how much alcohol can you safely have? For the general population, the Dietary Guidelines For Americans[12] define moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men.

One standard drink is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

However, avoiding consuming alcohol on consecutive days can be helpful so that it does not become a habit.

Choosing The Right Alcohol For Your IF Diet

If you consume alcohol, choose wisely based on nutritional value (if any) and calorie content.  Wine is consumed even in the Mediterranean diet, and has a high antioxidant capacity. 

You can drink a glass of wine in your eating window. For example, suppose you want to drink alcohol on the 16/8 fasting diet and have a special evening event with your friends. In that case, you can start your eating window at 12-1 pm and eat your last meal with a glass of wine at 8-9 pm.  

Mixing alcohol with soda will reduce both the alcohol rate and the calorie amount, which affects your metabolism. 

Especially cocktails containing sugar or syrup can drive up the calorie content very quickly.   It is, therefore, better to avoid calorie-dense sugary cocktails. 

Here are the calorie amounts of some alcoholic beverages;

Drink, milliliters, ml,Calories, kcal
12% wine, standard glass, 175 ml133 kcal
5% strength beer, a pint, 473 ml239 kcal
17% cream liqueur, 50 ml153 kcal
4% alcopop, standard bottle, 330 ml172 kcal
17.5% fortified wine, double measure, 50 ml77 kcal
40% gin, double measure, 50 ml95 kcal

The Bottom Line

While consuming alcohol, choosing a balanced and healthy meal in terms of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins will help you feel full and reduce the hunger stimulator effects of alcohol. In addition, increasing your water consumption allows you to lessen the negative metabolic effects of alcohol, such as dehydration and electrolyte loss.

You can drink alcoholic beverages during intermittent fasting if you stick to the general dietary guidelines. Limit it to one drink per day for a woman and two drinks per day for a man. Additionally, d consume it in your eating window so as not to break your fast. 

Otherwise, you should still experience the benefits of intermittent fasting or any diet you follow.

+ 12 sources

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Sevginur Akdas

Written by:

Sevginur Akdas, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Sevginur Akdas is a researcher, medical writer, and clinical dietitian, who is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in metabolism, chronic diseases, and clinical nutrition fields. She has many scientific articles, meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and book chapters on nutrition, chronic diseases, dietary supplements, maternal and child nutrition, molecular nutrition & functional foods topics as a part of a research team currently. Besides her academic background, she is also a professional health&medical writer since 2017.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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