Can You Drink Alcohol While Fasting? [IDEAL Fat Burning]
Updated: Feb 3
That glass of wine when you get home from work. Or that cocktail when you're out with some friends. Will these alcoholic drinks end up breaking your fast?! It turns out the details on alcohol and fasting are a little bit more complicated than it may appear. Today, I'm breaking down all of the details you need to know about alcohol, Intermittent Fasting and whether or not you can drink alcohol while fasting!
But First... Why Are You Using Intermittent Fasting?
First, let's figure out your objective with Intermittent Fasting. If weight loss is your goal, then typically one of the main strategies you may be looking to implement with IF is decreasing your insulin response in order to tap into fat burning mechanisms. For this reason, typically any food or drink that contains protein or carbs would break the fast because they stimulate the storing hormone insulin.
However, alcohol has a little bit different of a story. Alcohol appears to have a different effect on the body and may even bypass insulin and start producing fat via a different route.
Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol
Alcohol's impact on insulin is... complicated. One 2015 review of studies on alcohol's effect on insulin and blood glucose control came up with contradicting results. Some research states "conclusively" that alcohol causes insulin to decrease (which would theoretically be a GOOD thing if weight loss is your goal), while others show that alcohol negatively affects the liver and insulin resistance. (1)
And an important thing to note about these studies is that typically ethanol (the basic form of alcohol) was used. And most of us aren't drinking straight up ethanol. Common alcoholic drinks may be wine, beer or a cocktail, which of course, will have a much different affect on the body than pure ethanol. These cocktails and drinks have additional compounds to consider, namely sugar, which will stimulate an insulin response.
Diving even further into the nutrition nerd deets... alcohol has another interesting effect on energy and how your body uses it. Typically, alcohol will be broken down into a compound called acetyl-CoA. This can jump into our usual energy creating system called the Krebs cycle. However, another by-product from breaking down alcohol (ethanol) is formed that causes a different result... NADH. For my science nerds out there, you'll know that NADH is used to create energy in the mitochondria. If you're not as familiar with this, no need to stress. Just note that because this NADH is formed from breaking down alcohol, the body notes that energy doesn't need to be formed, so instead it shifts into storage. Cue the formation of fatty acids in the liver ~ which is one of the main theories for why higher levels of drinking leads to fatty liver disease.(2)
Alcohol Best Practices With Intermittent Fasting
If your goal with Intermittent Fasting is to achieve a weight loss goal, then using alcohol on the daily is likely not a good idea. However, if you're planning on having 2-3 drinks per week, here are some of the best practices you can experiment with:
Only have alcohol during your eating window. This is important for a few reasons. First of all, alcohol can disrupt your sleep quality, and poor quality sleep can lead to weight gain.(3) So by keeping your drinks to your eating window, this will ensure that you're not drinking too close to bed time and disrupting your sleep.
Don't drink anything with added sugars. Sugar is one of the BIGGEST offenders to insulin production and shifting the body into fat storing mode. Stick to cocktails made with sparkling water, muddled fruit or soda water OR wine (preferably dry-farmed for an even lower sugar content).
Keep it to celebratory occasions. Alcohol appears to lead to increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.(4) If you're drinking wine or a cocktail in response to a stressful day, this could lead to poor quality sleep from possibly elevated stress hormone levels. Instead, you can try using alternative means of winding down (try my bedtime routine strategies in the Complete Intermittent Fasting Bundle) and keep the glass of wine to a fun dinner with your loved ones or friends.