Thanks to common marketing ploys and promotions like Margarita Monday, Boozeday Tuesday, Wine Wednesday, and Thirsty Thursday, it can feel like there’s a fun (often alliterative) reason to raise a toast daily. Not to mention those happy hour deals …
But what seems like a fun and relaxing opportunity to catch up with friends, enjoy a cozy date night out, or snag your favorite drink at a steep discount can feel like a minefield when you’re intermittent fasting. You know your eating routine shouldn’t prevent you from living life and enjoying what makes you happy, but can intermittent fasting and alcohol even mix, or is it an oil and water situation? And if you can drink alcohol during intermittent fasting, does alcohol break a fast, and will it affect potential intermittent fasting results?
Before your head starts to get as fuzzy as the last time you did tequila shots, let’s give you the low down on everything you need to know about drinking alcohol while fasting. Need a refresher on intermittent fasting in general first? Pop over to our intermittent fasting for beginners guide.
- Like wine and cheese, intermittent fasting and alcohol can pair well together — it’s just about finding the right fit and not overdoing it.
- To avoid breaking your fast, keep alcohol drinking within your eating windows.
- In moderation, alcohol likely won’t affect your health or your fasting results, but drinking often and/or in excess can not only counteract the benefits of intermittent fasting and exacerbate side effects but also negatively impact your health overall.
- Particularly if you’re fasting for weight loss, you want to limit your alcohol intake, as drinking alcohol may lead to things like overeating and craving less nutrient-dense foods.
- If you don’t want to give up alcohol, we recommend prioritizing low-calorie alcoholic drinks like champagne and light beer over craft beer, dessert wine, and creamy, sugary cocktails.
So, can you drink alcohol while intermittent fasting?
If the thought of sacrificing those beers during tailgating or wine and whine sessions with your besties fills you with dread, we’ve got good news for you: alcohol and fasting can go together.
Like any well-crafted cocktail, it’s all about the ingredients, the amounts, and the timing. Imagine if you were handed a White Russian — heavy on both the milk and some bottom-shelf vodka — during a summer wedding. And you were about to play a game of limbo.
Not an ideal combo, right?
While you can, in theory, combine alcohol with fasting, making sure it’s a mixology success involves considering a few things:
- Alcohol is a calorie-dense drink. That means it won’t mesh with your fasting window and can massively add to your total calories consumed during your eating window. It can also stimulate appetite and lead to overeating.
- While moderate alcohol intake may not impact the benefits of intermittent fasting (and has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease or type 2 diabetes in men [2,3]), heavy alcohol consumption could. For instance, it could lead to weight gain or a higher risk of negative health outcomes.[4,5]
- Not all alcohol is created equal — certain drinks and spirits may contain some nutritional benefits and are less caloric than others.
We’ll dig into each of these concepts in more detail throughout the rest of this article, but the bottom line is that alcohol and intermittent fasting can pair well together under certain circumstances.
To learn more about those circumstances and figure out what an ideal fasting plan might look like for you (with or without alcohol!), you can take our SIMPLE quiz.
Does alcohol break a fast?
A fast is broken by consuming calories. Alcohol contains calories.
Unfortunately, no matter how much you toy with the calculator and try to find a loophole, there’s no other way to make this equation work: alcohol breaks a fast.
That doesn’t mean it breaks the effects of a fast, though, as long as you consume it in moderation during your eating window. Though for the best results, we don’t recommend drinking consistently during a fasting-based food routine, even if it is in moderation!
Even though one of the best bits of an intermittent fasting plan is that you’re focusing on when you eat and drink rather than what you eat and drink, we know it’s tricky trying to figure out exactly when and exactly what to eat and drink. That’s why we’ve put together guides on what to eat during intermittent fasting, what you can drink while fasting, and what breaks a fast so you never have to have one of those “wait, is this okay?” moments again.
The effects of excessive alcohol drinking while intermittent fasting
When you’re intermittent fasting, alcohol in moderation may not pose a threat to the process, but what happens if you drink excessively?
First up, let’s clarify something: “excessive” can be a relative term. Sure, if you’re mixing the two, you probably want to aim for an experience that’s more spinning on the dance floor than having the spins. But what’s considered “excessive” can vary from person to person, depending on your unique circumstances and the goals you have for intermittent fasting in the first place.
So, for the sake of having a general (if not super inclusive) figure in mind, let’s use the CDC’s definition : moderate drinking is up to two drinks a day for men and one for women, and excessive drinking is anything beyond that.
And no, sadly, those glasses that can hold a bottle of wine don’t count as “one drink.”
In excess, alcohol can undermine the success of intermittent fasting by counteracting potential intermittent fasting benefits. For example, excessive alcohol consumption can:
- Trigger inflammation throughout your system ;
- Prevent fat oxidization ;
- Impede liver function ;
- Prevent cell repair and increase neural damage [10,11]; and
- Interfere with glucose metabolism , which can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Of course, some occasional overindulgence won’t create lasting damage, and we’re not here to judge if that sweet serenade of the wedding’s open bar is a siren call you can’t resist. Just keep in mind that alcohol in excess can be like the little devil on your shoulder who doesn’t always have your best interests at heart — and may be actively working against the goals you’ve set for yourself.
How does drinking alcohol impact weight loss?
While we think of intermittent fasting as a lifestyle rather than a “diet,” one of the most common reasons people choose to adopt a fasting-based food routine is to support weight loss.
If you’re fasting for this reason, alcohol is like the demotivational inner saboteur you didn’t know you had.
Alcohol — especially in excessive amounts — may not only decrease the long-term success of your weight loss journey but also stimulate overeating [1,13], particularly once you’ve taken your first bite , and may increase levels of the hormone that makes you feel hungry.
It may also lead to having more cravings and making less health-promoting food choices during your eating windows.[16,17] (Here’s looking at you, extra salty chips and hungover carb binges.)
Since a large amount of alcohol can stress your stomach and make your liver work extra hard in processing all that extra sugar , some studies also suggest it can slow your metabolism by getting in the way of nutrient uptake and contributing to metabolic dysfunction.[19,20]
Bottom line: alcohol and weight loss go together like you and beer pong — there’s a time and a place, and there’s always room for the occasional spontaneous indulgence, but it’s probably not a great weekly choice.
If you’re considering drinking alcohol while intermittent fasting for weight loss, we can help you find a plan that works for you, keep you on track with your goals, and answer any specific questions you have about things like “Can I drink alcohol while fasting?” and “Does intermittent fasting slow metabolism?” Just head over to our SIMPLE quiz to get started!
So, do I have to give up alcohol completely while intermittent fasting?
As long as you avoid excessive amounts of alcohol, intermittent fasting doesn’t need to translate into a teetotal transformation.
And before you raise a glass to that, here’s some extra good news: there are a few things you can do to make sure that “bottoms up” moment doesn’t turn into upending your whole fasting plan.
- Eating before drinking: While there isn’t actually a ton of research to support that drinking on a full stomach is actually better for your health or safety , eating before you start drinking may not only help you feel less drunk but also ensure you’re at least getting some of the nutrients you need for the day in case your body starts craving less nutrient-dense foods when it starts to digest the alcohol.
- Pre-stocking your fridge: If a night out is in the cards, stock the house with calorie-free drinks and health-promoting foods you enjoy so you’re less tempted to stumble home and fall directly into the comforting embrace of calorie-dense and nutrient-poor foods. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that greasy takeout or eating shredded cheese straight from the bag once in a while if it’s something you enjoy, but that enjoyment is crucial — you want your choices to be guided by what actually tastes good and not whatever drunchies are within reach of your hunger hulk.
- Set up strategies to help reduce alcohol-related calories: Getting ready for a long night of dancing or an all-day summer barbecue? Try alternating alcoholic drinks with calorie-free soft drinks to boost hydration while lowering that total calorie count. You can also shoot for single-spirit drinks and low-to-no calorie mixers, like diet sodas, no-sugar-added juices, or flavored sparkling waters. Particularly if you’re aiming for weight loss, consuming too many calories during your eating window is one of the most common ways you end up in the “intermittent fasting not working” dilemma, and alcohol can definitely pack a sneaky caloric punch if you’re not careful.
Are some types of alcohol better than others for intermittent fasting?
Remember when we mentioned not all alcohol is created equal? If you’re looking to combine alcohol with intermittent fasting, there are two factors to keep in mind for creating a blend that doesn’t separate your tastebuds from your fasting goals: calorie content and polyphenol content.
Calorie content is pretty self-explanatory (just like golf, the lower the number, the better), and polyphenols are a type of plant-based compound naturally found in some foods and drinks that have antioxidant, health-benefiting properties.
(Psst! Wine lovers, rejoice: grapes are one of the most concentrated sources of polyphenols out there!)
So, next time you’re browsing a drinks menu or debating what bottle to add to your shopping cart, consider your choices through the “low-calorie, high-polyphenol” lens. Skip things high in calories and carbohydrates like regular beer, sweet wine, sugar-heavy spirits (like whiskey / rum), and cocktails loaded with mixers and syrups. Instead, prioritize red and white wine, champagne, light beer, and single, clear spirits that pair well with light mixers (like vodka and gin).
Simple’s expert opinion and final thoughts
We at Simple all agree: the best food routine is one that works for you, your needs, and your preferences without getting in the way of the life you want to lead.
If you’re someone who enjoys whipping up a few cocktails on the weekend, looks forward to a standing happy hour, or simply feels like your sanity is occasionally dependent on that glass of wine during Grey’s Anatomy, rest assured that you can drink alcohol during intermittent fasting. For your safety, we do recommend avoiding alcohol entirely, though, if you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, are recovering from or have an active alcohol disorder, or are taking medications that can interact with alcohol.
Otherwise, it’s just about making sure the ingredients, amounts, and timing all align to support the goals you’re trying to achieve. Occasionally having one or two low-calorie drinks during your eating windows isn’t going to turn your intermittent fasting journey into a Sisyphean battle.
When it comes to whether you can drink alcohol on intermittent fasting — and if so, which drinks and amounts may be most suitable — you want to be guided by your unique body, lifestyle, nutritional needs, and fasting goals.
That’s where we can help. By taking our SIMPLE quiz, you can learn more about which intermittent fasting approach might work best for you. Once you have your personalized plan, we’re beside you every step of the way to provide advice and tips on things like what and when you can eat and drink — and coming up with strategies for staying motivated and on track while cutting yourself some slack.
Frequently asked questions about intermittent fasting and alcohol
What happens if you drink alcohol while fasting?
What happens if you drink alcohol while fasting depends on what you drink, when you drink it, and how much you drink. Drinking alcohol during a fasting window breaks a fast, but if you have only a moderate amount once or twice a week during your eating window, it shouldn’t massively affect your intermittent fasting results.
Can you drink alcohol on a 16/8 diet?
Yes, you can drink alcohol on a 16/8 diet (or any intermittent fasting plan!) as long as it’s not during your fasting window. How much and how often you can drink alcohol will depend on your fasting goals and your unique body, but a good rule of thumb is to have no more than one or two drinks during your eating window, ideally after you’ve already eaten a nutrient-dense meal.
Does alcohol break the fast when intermittent fasting?
Yep, unfortunately, alcohol breaks the fast when intermittent fasting. Eating (or drinking!) anything with calories during your fasting window will break the fast. Occasional moderate drinking during your eating windows won’t necessarily “break” the progress of your overall fasting experience, though.
Can I drink alcohol while intermittent fasting?
You can drink alcohol while intermittent fasting as long as you’re mindful of what kind of alcohol you’re drinking, how much you’re drinking, and when you’re drinking it. To get the most out of the fasting process, we recommend not drinking more than a couple drinks one or two days a week.
What alcohol is good for intermittent fasting?
The alcohol that is good for intermittent fasting in terms of being less dense in calories and more dense in nutrients is wine (red or white) and champagne. Light beer and clear spirits with low- to no-calorie mixers are also decent choices. If you’re looking to lose weight or minimize the calories you’re drinking, you want to steer clear of drinks with high-carb and high-sugar content.
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