Want to know if you can mix intermittent fasting and alcohol? Intermittent fasting is a popular weight-loss diet method that uses cycles of eating and fasting periods. But can you still get results with some alcohol consumption?
Following any diet can be tough, but it can be even harder completely giving up alcohol, even when you’re out with friends. The last thing you want is to work hard by fasting only to see your weight go back up after drinking alcohol.
Imagine still seeing the scale going down while being able to drink some alcohol on your intermittent fasting plan. With some strategic planning, you can enjoy a few drinks during your eating window without sacrificing any of the benefits of intermittent fasting.
In my experience with intermittent fasting, you can enjoy a couple of drinks and still get results, but only if you do it right. So keep reading to discover the best ways to successfully lose weight while still drinking alcohol with intermittent fasting.
What Happens if You Drink Alcohol While Fasting
So can you drink alcohol while fasting to lose weight?
First, drinking alcohol will break your fast if you have it during your non-feeding fasting window.1 Alcohol contains a lot of calories (7 calories per gram), so it will effectively break your fast.2
Even with dirty fasting, you’re only supposed to have less than 50 calories during your fasting window to get most of the benefits of fasting. But alcohol contains so many calories that you’ll easily blow right past this limit, just a shot of vodka has almost 100 calories.
But during your feeding window is more complicated. Alcohol can affect intermittent fasting since your body processes it differently than foods.
Your body sees alcohol as a toxin, prioritizing metabolizing and burning it off first over everything else.3 So all other fat-burning stops while it works to get the alcohol out of your system. This will hinder your results since your body won’t be burning fat while it’s busy getting rid of the alcohol.4
Yet you can still have alcohol while intermittent fasting as long as you’re doing everything else right and limiting your alcohol intake. So if you’re fasting correctly, eating healthy foods during your feeding window, and working out, then you can consume alcohol in moderate amounts.
How Alcohol Affects Intermittent Fasting
If autophagy is one of your goals with fasting, then it’s best to avoid alcohol. Autophagy is the process of your body removing old and damaged cells. Alcohol inhibits autophagy in the liver.5 So to maximize autophagy, it’s best to steer clear of alcohol as best you can.
Alcohol also lowers protein synthesis.6 This is a process your body uses to create new proteins from amino acids. These proteins are used to maintain and repair tissues, produce hormones, create enzymes and other molecules, and regulate metabolism.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lower testosterone.7 This greatly impacts muscle loss, fat gain, and weight gain. But lower amounts of alcohol don’t seem to have near as big of an impact.8
Alcohol is a lot like eating carbs in how it affects weight gain. It stops burning fat, making it easy for your body to store what you’ve eaten as fat. Alcohol gets immediate priority, so most of us are likely to eat junk food when drinking, worsening the fat gain.9
But low to moderate alcohol consumption has also been found to improve insulin sensitivity.10 Alcohol can possibly lower overall food intake too by lowering appetite.11 Both of these can lead to long-term weight loss. So it’s possible that low to moderate drinking of alcohol doesn’t cause weight gain.
How to Drink Alcohol and Still Get Results With Fasting
Now that you know how drinking alcohol affects fat-burning and fasting, it’s time to find out how to get results while still having some alcohol.
First off, it’s of course best to limit your alcohol intake. Excessive drinking and heavy binge drinking can be disastrous. It’s best to take an alcohol break during the week and limit alcohol intake to two or three drinks on the weekend.
But as long as you’re following a few principles, you can still drink during the week in small amounts. Here’s how:
- no alcohol during your fasting window
- limit carb intake
- avoid alcoholic drinks with carbs and sugars
- lower dietary fat intake
- eat high protein
- best to limit 1-2 days per week in small amounts
Cutting your carb and fat intake on days you’re drinking will keep your body from storing a lot of fat. Higher protein will help with protein synthesis, and it’s more satiating, making you feel fuller for longer.12
Occasionally drinking alcohol can also help to get rid of stubborn water retention by activating the whoosh effect. So if you’ve been stuck in a plateau then drinking a little bit of alcohol once in a while can help to flush it out.
Consuming alcohol will slow down your results, but it won’t completely eliminate it. If, for you having a little alcohol can keep you on track the rest of the time with fasting, then go for it. Long-term results will triumph over the short-term if it allows you to stick with fasting for longer.
You can drink alcohol at night but remember your fasting window doesn’t begin until you stop drinking. So if you’re following a 16/8 fasting method, then the 16-hour fast won’t start until the last drop of alcohol is drank.
Alcohol Belly and Intermittent Fasting
Alcohol belly, aka the “beer belly,” is excess belly fat caused by drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time. It can cause increased distension of the stomach leading to a rounder “pot belly” appearance.
The good news is you can get rid of alcohol belly with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting has been found to reduce abdominal fat.13 With fasting, without any incoming food, your body will gradually have to utilize body fat stores (belly fat) as fuel.
Your alcohol tolerance will also go down with intermittent fasting. You’ll be back to being a “lightweight,” making getting a buzz off only a drink or two easier. You’ll also save money since you don’t have to keep buying as much alcohol to get a buzz.
This is why it’s best to have alcohol in the middle or toward the end of your eating window. After a long intermittent fasting window, it’s not a wise idea to break your fast with alcohol since your tolerance will be very low. So having some food in your body will help to keep you from getting excessively drunk.
Remember, excessive drinking will negate the results of intermittent fasting. Only occasionally consuming small amounts will be tolerable for achieving results. It’s hard to stay disciplined with intermittent fasting and making the right food choices if you’re hungover the next day.
Drinking too much can give you the munchies and cause you to make poor food choices. Deep restful sleep is negatively impacted by alcohol, making it harder to have self-control the next day.14 And then you’ll have less motivation to work out if you’re tired and hungover.
Best Alcohol for Intermittent Fasting
If you are going to consume alcohol, it’s best to avoid the worst ones that will be the most fattening. While alcohol is higher in calories, your body also won’t store these calories since they’re a toxin. But what else you drink and eat with the alcohol will be.
The best alcohol to drink are straight spirits, liquor, and cleaner alcohols with no sugar, carbs, or added sweeteners like fruit juices. Hard straight spirits like vodka, whiskey, gin, etc. are very low in their carb content (if any) and have no added sugars. You’ll also get a buzz easier with a smaller amount than you would have to drink a beer.
Beer is higher in carbs which isn’t good to have with alcohol. If you are going to drink beer, then limit your consumption. Stouts, IPAs, and Porters are higher in carb content and should be limited if you are going to drink them. Light beers or hard seltzers like White Claws are unsurprisingly a better option since they’re low in carb content.
Mixed drinks are also poor alcohol choices since they’re usually mixed with sugars and juices. Mai tais, cosmopolitan, gin and tonic also contain sugars and should be avoided. But a vodka soda is a good choice since it’s just vodka mixed with a club soda and a squeeze of lime.
Wines are tricky since some varietals and brands contain more sugars than others. Drinking only a dry wine like sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, or pinot noir is best. Avoiding sweet dessert wines and sangria.
Cheaper wines can also contain residual sugars to make them more palatable, so be careful unless you want to get a wine belly. But dry wines are generally going to be less fattening than carb-heavy beers.
What to Do if You Get Hungry While Fasting
The hunger during your fasting window is the most challenging part of intermittent fasting. The good news is that you have some drinks during your intermittent fasting window to suppress appetite and boost your metabolism.
Unless you’re following a pure water fast, most will benefit from drinking coffee in the morning. Coffee is a natural thermogenic since it contains caffeine and polyphenols.14 This will help boost your metabolism, give you energy, and curb hunger.
Water should also be drunk frequently in the morning during your fasting window. Your body will be dehydrated in the morning after sleeping all night without drinking water. Your body can confuse thirst for hunger and send hunger signals to your brain.15
You can also drink teas, seltzer waters, and lemon water if you don’t add sugar to them. I stay away from zero-calorie sodas and energy drinks during my fasting window in case the excessive sweetness elevates insulin levels.
Alcohol Stops Keto Fat-Burning
Alcohol does blunt ketone production since your liver has to prioritize processing the alcohol over making ketones.16 This can slow down weight loss since ketones are needed to burn body fat when fasting.
When fasting and on the keto diet, your body converts fat stores into a fuel source called ketones. But by drinking alcohol, you’ll make it harder for your body to do this, which lessens results.
So be sure to add in C8-MCTs in the morning to your coffee. These special type of MCTs are quickly converted by your liver into ketones and don’t break your fast.17 These ketones will then help to kickstart the fat-burning process during your fasting window.
Support Many of the Keto Benefits Associated With Increased Ketones, & Support Them FAST, but Without the Difficulty of Doing Keto...
- 3X Better Than Coconut Oil, Butter or MCTs
- Heightened energy levels
- Reduced cravings & appetite
- Graceful aging
- Healthy metabolism
- Increased mental clarity & focus
- Heightened physical performance and recovery
I know for many, completely abstaining from alcohol can be the hardest part of dieting. It’s understandable if you want to have a drink or two after a long stressful day.
The good news is that if you’re doing everything else right, then you can afford a little leeway with alcohol. So if you’re fasting consistently, making the right food choices, sleeping well, and working out, then you can strategically add a little alcohol and still get results.
Just make sure you follow the above principles to minimize the damage alcohol can have on your weight loss. While alcohol can slow down your results from intermittent fasting that doesn’t mean it completely stops it. Taking an alcohol break during the week and only having moderate alcohol consumption on the weekends on cheat days is the best practice.
Low to moderate alcohol consumption can have health benefits like improved insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, and fight against diseases like Alzheimer’s and increase longevity.18,19
As long as you’re drinking the right kinds of alcohol in small amounts during your eating window, there’s no reason you still can’t get results with intermittent fasting.
Josh holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Nutrition Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) by the National Strength and Conditioning Association and he’s a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) by American Council on Exercise. He’s worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at the high school and college levels. He has over 15 years of experience as a personal trainer and nutrition coach. He is also the author of The Flat Belly Formula. He strives to bring inspiration and results for people to live healthier lives through smart diet and exercise.