< Blog < Eat Well < Diets & Fasting < Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol: Does Alcohol Break a Fast?

Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol: Does Alcohol Break a Fast?

9 min read
a glass of red wine with a bottle vs. a clock that tracks intermittent fasting periods_intermittent fasting and alcohol
Melissa Mitri post Reviewer Melissa Mitri post Reviewer
Verified by Melissa Mitri
MS, Registered Dietitian, Former President of CT Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Can intermittent fasting and alcohol coexist? Let’s find out if alcohol breaks a fast and how it can influence your weight loss progress.

Table of Contents

If you’re into weight loss and fitness, you must have heard about intermittent fasting (IF). 

We’ve talked in-depth about it before, but here’s a quick re-cap: it is a dieting method that involves switching between fixed eating and fasting periods. There are no restrictions to what you can eat or drink during an intermittent fasting eating window. 

You can even drink water or non-caloric beverages like tea or coffee during fasting windows. But what about alcohol? 

In this post, we’re going to explore the link between intermittent fasting and alcohol. Does alcohol break a fast? How does it affect the health benefits of IF? Let’s find out.

Can You Drink Alcohol While Intermittent Fasting?

This is probably the first question that comes to mind regarding intermittent fasting and alcohol consumption. 

To answer that, you must understand that alcohol is a calorie-dense drink. One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories — a little more than a gram of sugar and a little less than a gram of fat. This means you can’t drink alcohol during your fasting window. [1]

But can you fit a drink or two in your eating window? Theoretically, you can. 

However, there are a few things you need to take note of. 

First, you need to make sure that you have food in your stomach when you have your alcoholic drink. Drinking when your stomach is empty is never a good idea. Alcohol can absorb into your system faster and you can become drunk quicker. You also risk severe dehydration if you have your alcoholic drinks before meals. 

So, the best thing to do is to have your drink after a meal or with your meal. For this reason, it’s not a good idea to break a fast with alcohol. 

Second, alcohol can make you hungrier. It is proven that alcohol can increase appetite, thus leading to higher calorie consumption [2]

People often follow intermittent fasting as a weight loss method, and having more food during the eating phase can obviously offset the effects of calorie restriction during the fasting phase.

Third, alcohol itself is a high-calorie drink, as we already mentioned. The number of calories in your drink can be easy to miss if you’re not carefully tracking your drinking. These numbers will add up and increase the total amount of calories consumed, thus leading to weight gain. 

The best thing to do is to keep track of your calories with an all-in-one weight-loss app, logging your meals, drinks, and physical activity.

You should also remember that the calories in alcohol are empty calories. This means they will not fulfill any nutritional requirements or provide any health benefits to you.

So, Does Alcohol Break a Fast?

Short answer? Yes, alcohol does break your fast if you drink it within your fasting period. 

You are not allowed to eat or drink anything that contains calories during this interval and as we already explained, alcohol carries calories. 

This doesn’t mean you need to give up drinking altogether while you’re on your IF regimen, but you need to get a few facts straight if you want to make an informed decision.

Does Alcohol Undermine The Success of Intermittent Fasting?

If you think about weight loss, it’s the quantity that matters the most. 

According to scientific studies, it appears that moderate alcohol intake does not largely affect weight gain. [3] 

Heavy drinking, on the other hand, can considerably promote weight gain and obesity, research says. [4] 

So, if your goal is to lose weight, you should track how much alcohol you’re consuming on a regular basis—even if you do so within the eating window.

In order to gain the most benefit and best results from IF, it’s recommended to limit alcohol intake during your eating window and practice moderation.

Here is how excessive alcohol intake can interfere with the benefits of intermittent fasting:

Inflammation Reduction

One positive effect of IF is reducing inflammation. The influence of alcohol on inflammation also seems to depend on the amount of alcohol you consume. While moderate amounts are said to curb inflammation, extensive drinking can trigger inflammation throughout your system. [5] [6]

This means you can reap the benefits of IF while enjoying an occasional drink. However, you need to keep a close eye on your drinking habits if you don’t want to offset the advantages IF brings about. 

Fat Oxidation

Intermittent fasting also enhances fat oxidation, thereby burning off excess fat. [7] 

Alcohol, however, inhibits fat oxidation, creating a fat surplus. [8] 

This non-oxidized fat usually gets dumped around the midsection of your body, creating the so-called beer belly. So, if you are after the perfect figure, you need to think twice before reaching for that glass of booze.

Brain Health

IF has been shown to increase brain health by prolonging the lifespan of brain cells. Alcohol, on the other hand, induces brain damage if drunk excessively. [9] [10] 

Intermittent fasting is also said to aid in cellular repair not only in the brain, but throughout the entire body. Excess alcohol acts as a toxin and prevents cell repair, and can even provoke DNA damage in organs. [11] [12]

Liver Function

Speaking of alcohol toxicity, it will overburden your liver if you consume too much alcohol or drink on an empty stomach. This clashes with another benefit to intermittent fasting, which is improving liver function. [13] 

So, can you drink alcohol while intermittent fasting? You can, but moderation is key. Alcohol can reduce the health benefits IF can bring about if you’re not mindful of your drinking habits. While an occasional glass may help you relax, excessive drinking seems to work against your success.

Is All Booze Bad? Or Is There a Better Choice Of Alcohol For IF?

There is such a thing as the worst and best alcohol choices for intermittent fasting. The number of calories is what you should focus on. The total calorie amount depends on the drink and which mixers you are adding to it, if any. 

The following is a list of some of the best alcohols for intermittent fasting [14]:

best types of alcohol for intermittent fasting illustrated, including red wine, white whine, beer, champagne, whisky, etc., intermittent fasting and alcohol
  • Dry red wine
  • White wine
  • Dry vermouth
  • Light beer
  • Dry champagne
  • Scotch on the rocks

You need to limit certain types of alcoholic drinks such as

  • Regular beer
  • Craft beer
  • Sweet wine
  • Sugary cocktails
  • High-calorie beach drinks (such as piña coladas)

In a broad sense, you should choose drinks with a lower ethanol percentage and hard spirits (such as vodka) mixed with a non-caloric beverage like sparkling water or club soda.

Mixed cocktails and sweet wines are out of the equation as they bring loads of calories and sugar to the table.

In addition to the type of booze, you need to pay attention to the amount you take in and how often you drink. The CDC recommends women have one or fewer drinks per day and men should consume two or fewer drinks per day. This applies to everyone, whether following IF or not.  

FAQ: Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol

🍷 Can I drink alcohol while intermittent fasting?

Yes, you can, but only during the eating window, as alcoholic beverages are usually high in calories. Ensure your alcohol intake is low to moderate, as excessive alcohol intake poses some health risks, including a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, etc.

🍷 Does alcohol break the fast when intermittent fasting?

Yes, alcohol breaks a fast. Any caloric foods and beverages break a fast, and alcohol is no exception.

🍷 What happens if you drink alcohol while fasting?

How alcohol affects your fasting game really depends on what you’re drinking and how much. While it does break your fast during the fasting window, drinking during an eating window is generally okay as long as you don’t drink too much too often and pair alcohol with food.  

🍷 Does alcohol eliminate the benefits of intermittent fasting?

Low to moderate alcohol intake will unlikely ruin your IF results and eliminate the health benefits you get. However, excessive drinking can pose serious health problems as well as stop your weight loss progress.

🍷 Can you drink during 16/8 fasting?

Yes, you can drink alcohol on the 16/8 intermittent fasting, but only during the eating window. Keep your alcohol intake low to moderate (a couple of portions per week) so as not to eliminate all the benefits of intermittent fasting for health and weight loss.

🍷 What alcohol is best for intermittent fasting?

Low-calorie unsweetened alcohol mixed with a non-caloric beverage like sparkling water are the best for intermittent fasting. Some examples include dry red or white wine, dry champagne, light beer, etc.

🍷 What alcohol to avoid when intermittent fasting?

Avoid strong drinks mixed with sugary syrups like sweet wines or cocktails, as they contain too much unnecessary sugar and calories.

Bottom Line

If you’re in a hurry, here’s the TLDR version of this somewhat lengthy article.

  • You can drink alcohol while intermittent fasting but you need to do so within the eating window. It’s also best to stick to moderate amounts.
  • Alcohol can break a fast but it’s never a good idea to end your fast with alcohol. The best option is to have your drink after or during a meal.
  • Alcohol can counteract the benefits intermittent fasting can bring about if you don’t pay attention to how much and how frequently you are drinking.
  • Some alcohol choices are better than others and you should choose wisely.

If you have any more questions about intermittent fasting and alcohol consumption, it’s best to consult your nutritionist or dietician. Make sure you have a list of questions ready to ask your nutritionist before you meet with them so you make the most of your visit. 

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

You may also like

We recommend reading