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Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol: Will Drinking Alcohol Break Your Fast?


Intermittent fasting and alcohol don’t make the best combination. While intermittent fasting has many beneficial effects on your body, alcohol does the opposite. For starters, alcohol is a toxin and is linked to short-term and long-term health risks (*).

Yet, it’s no secret that some people enjoy drinking in social situations. For those incorporating fasting into their lifestyle, a common concern is whether alcohol impacts their fast, even low-carb alcohol.

This article explores the effects of drinking while fasting, the best time to drink alcohol, its potential drawbacks, and more.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Intermittent Fasting?

The straightforward answer is yes, you can drink alcohol during intermittent fasting. However, it’s best to do it during your feeding window, after you’ve eaten something, and not immediately after a fast.

Also, keep in mind that although alcohol isn’t completely off-limits when following a healthy lifestyle, ultimately, it will affect your results, especially if you drink more often.

Does alcohol break a fast? It certainly does, because alcohol contains calories, and in order to reap the full benefits of fasting, you need to avoid any calories. Besides breaking a fast, alcohol also hinders fat loss and autophagy. We’ll cover more about the effects of alcohol later in this article.

As you’ll learn, not all alcohol is great during your eating window. Some types increase your overall calorie and sugar intake. Before getting a drink, make sure it’s not something that totally works against your diet — for example, a low-carb or keto diet.

How Much Alcohol Can You Drink While on Intermittent Fasting?

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a maximum of 2 drinks for men and 1 drink for women. This is what moderate drinking looks like, and it’ll help “reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms” (*). Follow these guidelines on any fasting day.

Furthermore, avoid all alcohol if you’re currently taking medications that can interact with alcohol, such as antibiotics, antidepressants, and antihistamines (*).

People with a history of alcoholism or who are recovering must not take any amount to avoid the possibility of drinking to excess (*).

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

It’s a good idea to wait until your eating window if you want a drink. Eat first, preferably a meal with carbohydrates, for example, around 30 grams of carbs, along with proteins and fats, so that alcohol is absorbed more slowly.

Here’s what that looks like: Let’s say you did a 20-hour intermittent fast where you fasted from 8:00 pm to 4:00 pm the next day. You need to eat your post-fasting meal first — e.g. salmon fillets, sweet potatoes, and broccoli — then wait for about an hour before having that glass of wine.

Note that drinking alcohol on an empty stomach, especially in large amounts, is dangerous. Research shows that the rate of alcohol absorption is the fastest when you haven’t eaten anything, and this is especially true for carbonated alcoholic drinks like sparkling wines, champagne, and hard seltzers (*).

You’re likely to feel the effects of alcohol faster, such as dizziness, loss of motor skills, and even gastritis (in which your stomach lining becomes inflamed).

There’s definitely truth to the saying, “Eat before your first drink.”

Potential Drawbacks When Drinking Alcohol During Intermittent Fasting

If you’re intermittent fasting for weight loss and longevity, you’d want to limit alcohol intake to occasional celebrations. If these celebrations fall on days you’re ending a fast (or you’re still in the middle of a fast) — here’s what you should know.

1. Alcohol breaks your fast

At 7 calories per gram, alcohol will certainly interrupt fasting if you consume it during your fasting window. It’s the second most calorie-dense macronutrient next to fat.

However, unlike dietary fat, the calories in alcohol provide no nutritional value, although your body still needs to burn off those calories.

Remember that the only way to truly maintain a fasted state is to not take in anything while fasting, except for water and sometimes black coffee or herbal teas.

2. May inhibit autophagy

One of the biggest benefits of intermittent fasting is autophagy, a vital process where your body cleans out damaged and old cell components. Studies have shown that autophagy has anti-aging effects (*).

Contrastingly, alcohol may prevent autophagy in the liver. Furthermore, autophagy is significantly decreased with chronic alcohol consumption (*).

A 2018 study notes, “Failure to eliminate potentially harmful substances by autophagic processes might disturb cellular integrity and may cause cell death, inflammation, and hepatic disease.” (*)

3. Heavy drinking causes inflammation

Intermittent fasting limits inflammation, which in turn lowers your risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and bowel diseases.

Drinking to excess, on the other hand, contributes to persistent inflammation throughout your whole body — and not just in your gut and liver. Ultimately, this could lead to organ damage (*).

4. Stops the fat-burning process

Intermittent fasting and drinking alcohol are the worst combinations if you’re looking to lose weight. If this is your fasting goal, you may want to skip the alcohol altogether.

Alcohol is a toxin, which your body needs to neutralize and eliminate. Moreover, research shows that alcohol inhibits fat oxidation, resulting in higher body fat in the long term (*).

5. Poor food choices

Another mechanism by which alcohol contributes to weight gain is that it increases your cravings for junk food. It can make your blood sugar levels fluctuate, and this may lead you to eat higher amounts of carbs and sugar.

Since alcohol also lowers your inhibitions, you’re likely to make food choices that are completely different from your usual diet.

Potential Drawbacks When Drinking Alcohol During Intermittent Fasting

What Types of Alcohol Are Allowed While Intermittent Fasting?

Unless you’re taking any medication that interacts with alcohol or you’ve committed to an alcohol-free lifestyle, alcohol doesn’t have to be completely off the table.

In addition to drinking in moderation, know that certain types of alcohol are better than others. Below are a few options that are also good for those following a low-carb or keto diet:

  • Dry wines like sauvignon blancs, pinot grigio, chardonnay
  • Distilled spirits, such as vodka, tequila, rum, and whiskey
  • Low-carb beers, although keep in mind that most beers aren’t keto

The Bottom Line

A few reasons alcohol and fasting don’t go together are that alcohol breaks a fast, prevents fat loss, increases inflammation, and hinders autophagy.

In other words, drinking counteracts a lot of the benefits of intermittent fasting — and to a greater degree in excessive amounts.

But if you decide to drink during your eating window, you would be better off choosing quality dry wines and spirits.

Limit yourself to no more than 2 drinks (for men) and 1 drink (for women). Also, never drink alcohol on an empty stomach. In that case, here’s a list of intermittent fasting foods to eat and avoid.

10 References

World Health Organization. Alcohol.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol.

Weathermon R et al. Alcohol and Medication Interactions. 1999

American Psychological Association. Understanding alcohol use disorders and their treatment. 2012

Paton A. Alcohol in the body. 2005 January 8

Aman Y et al. Autophagy in healthy aging and disease. 2021 August 12

Menk M et al. Chronic Alcohol Consumption Inhibits Autophagy and Promotes Apoptosis in the Liver. 2018 April 27

Menk M et al. Chronic Alcohol Consumption Inhibits Autophagy and Promotes Apoptosis in the Liver. 2018 April 27

Wang H et al. Alcohol, inflammation, and gut-liver-brain interactions in tissue damage and disease development. 2010 March 21

Traversy G et al. Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update. 2015 January 8


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