Intermittent fasting (IF) comes with a variety of potential health benefits, including weight loss, fat burning, autophagy, and more[*]. It’s simple to do, and a lot of people do it as part of a healthy lifestyle.
This kind of fasting is pretty straightforward. You set a fasting period each day, then eat all your meals in a shortened eating window (for example, fasting for 18 hours, and eating all your calories over the course of six hours).
But if you’re new to intermittent fasting, it can be intimidating to start. What are the rules of fasting, exactly?
One of the most common questions is: can you drink alcoholic beverages during intermittent fasting? Or will alcohol affect your fast?
This article covers how alcohol affects intermittent fasting, and whether some types of alcohol are better than others when it comes to fasting.
During intermittent fasting, your body goes through a variety of hormonal and cellular changes. Many of them are responsible for the unique benefits of fasting — autophagy, decreased inflammation, fat burning, and more.
But in order to get many of those benefits, you have to consume zero calories for an extended amount of time[*].
Alcohol contains calories, meaning it will break your fast if you drink it during your fasting window.
If you’re fasting for health, you may want to avoid drinking to excess, or at least limit it to occasional celebrations.
While the occasional drink can actually be good for you (read more below), heavy drinking works against your health goals, and directly counters several of the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Impaired Fat Burning and Weight Loss
A lot of people use intermittent fasting to lose weight. If you’re one of them, you may want to skip the alcohol.
Several studies have found that heavy drinking may sabotage your weight loss goals.
Alcohol slows down your ability to burn fat, possibly because your body focuses on processing alcohol before digesting food[*].
Alcohol also impairs your judgment, which makes you more likely to snack or overeat[*]. If you’re sober, you’ll probably pass on that midnight pizza order. If you’re drunk, you may go for it — and over time, that increased calorie intake can slow down weight loss, or even lead to weight gain.
It’s worth noting that moderate drinkers (1-2 drinks per night) don’t see the negative health effects that heavy drinkers do[*]. Light-to-moderate drinking is unlikely to make you gain weight.
Heavy Drinking and Inflammation
Intermittent fasting is great for reducing inflammation.
Drinking to excess, on the other hand, actively causes inflammation across most of your body.
Heavy drinking puts stress on your liver and gut, triggering an inflammatory response. Over time, heavy drinking can cause serious inflammatory issues, like fatty liver disease and leaky gut[*].
Excess Alcohol Prevents Autophagy
One of the main benefits of intermittent fasting is autophagy. During autophagy, your cells clean themselves up, getting rid of any old or damaged parts and replacing them with brand new versions.
After a fast, your cells are younger and more efficient.
Excess alcohol may prevent autophagy[*], turning off cellular repair and reducing the benefits you see from intermittent fasting.
Drinking alcohol during your fasting period will disrupt your fast.
However, drinking alcohol during your eating window is just fine — and it turns out the occasional drink may have some health benefits.
Drinking to excess is undeniably bad for you. But research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink/day for women, 1-2 drinks/day for men) may actually be good for your long-term health.
Correlation is not causation, so take this research with a grain of salt. But several large studies have found that people who drink moderately have better blood sugar control and a decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, diabetes, and more[*][*].
A glass of wine with dinner may actually make you healthier. Just make sure you keep your alcohol intake to one or two drinks a night.
If you’re going to drink during an intermittent fasting diet, be careful about breaking your fasts with alcohol. You’re probably better off eating something first, or at least having your drink alongside a large meal.
When you’ve been fasting and you don’t have any food in your stomach, you’ll break down alcohol much more quickly than you usually would[*].
As a result, more alcohol makes it into your bloodstream, and you feel the effects of drinking much more strongly and rapidly. Even a couple drinks on an empty stomach can get you fairly drunk.
Certain types of alcohol are healthier than others.
Here are a few guidelines for drinking during your eating window. These guidelines are also good for a keto or low-carb diet.
Avoid Sugary Cocktails and Premixed Drinks
Sugary drinks have a bunch of extra calories. And while there’s no research, many people say they feel worse the next day after drinking high-sugar cocktails.
Sugar also destabilizes your blood glucose, which can lead to hunger pangs and cravings. You may go off the rails with late-night snacking, especially if you’ve had quite a few drinks.
Choose Dry Wine, Champagne, or Distilled Spirits
Dry wines and dry champagnes are low in sugar, carbs, and calories, making them a great choice if you’re going to drink.
This guide to keto wines can help you find low-sugar wines and champagnes.
Liquor is also a good choice. Distilled spirits are almost entirely alcohol with no extra ingredients.
Whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila, and other distilled liquors are good low-carb choices when you drink.
If you don’t like them straight, try making your own cocktail with bitters, fresh fruit juice, and stevia, monk fruit, or another natural sweetener.
For a more in-depth look at drinking and keto, check out this article on the best and worst drinks for a keto diet.
Alcohol contains calories, which means it will break your fast if you drink it during your fasting period.
In addition, drinking heavily counteracts a lot of the benefits of intermittent fasting.
However, moderate drinking may actually be good for you, especially if you avoid sugary cocktails. Instead, choose high-quality dry wines and spirits.
Want to learn more about the rules of fasting? Here’s a list of foods and drinks that break your fast, as well as what you can have during your fast.