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Alcohol and Health

Can You Drink Alcohol During Intermittent Fasting?

July 19, 2023
9 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 19, 2023
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 19, 2023
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
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Reframe Content Team
July 19, 2023
9 min read

Intermittent fasting has gained a lot of traction in recent years due to its wide-ranging health benefits. From burning fat and reducing inflammation to promoting better digestion and protecting against age-related diseases, it’s become a go-to practice for those looking to boost their health and well-being. The fact that many celebrities have endorsed it — including the likes of Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson, Terry Crews, Jennifer Aniston and Chris Hemsworth — only adds to its allure. 

Unlike traditional diets, intermittent fasting doesn’t focus on what to eat or what not to eat; it only specifies when to eat. The idea is to take a break from food for set periods of time, which can help our body burn fat more efficiently. But what about alcohol? Can we drink alcohol while intermittent fasting, or does it defeat the purpose? Let’s dive in.

Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol: Can You Drink While Fasting?

The simple answer is no. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that alcohol is a calorie-dense drink. So does alcohol break a fast? Absolutely! One gram of alcohol contains 7 calories, a little more than a gram of sugar, and a little less than a gram of fat. When we’re fasting, we aren’t supposed to consume calories, so we shouldn’t drink alcohol. 

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While we can technically drink alcohol during our eating window, it’s probably not wise, as it can end up counteracting the benefits of intermittent fasting. Let’s take a closer look at how.

Alcohol Prevents Fat Burning and Causes Weight Gain

Multiple studies have shown that intermittent fasting can help burn fat, making it an effective tool for weight loss. Some studies found that participants lost between 7-11 pounds over a period of 10 weeks. Another study noted that intermittent fasting helped people reduce 4-7% of their waist circumference over a period of 24 weeks, indicating that they lost belly fat (the least-healthy place to carry excess fat).

Alcohol, however, has the opposite effect: it tends to cause weight gain. One way it does this is by preventing the breakdown of fat. One study found that ingesting an alcohol-rich meal resulted in significantly reduced levels of fat breakdown 5 hours after eating, compared with a meal rich in protein, fat, and carbs. 

Similarly, alcohol tends to cause us to overeat, which can lead to weight gain over time. Contrary to what we might think, alcohol actually lowers our blood sugar levels, which causes us to feel hungry. This is partly why we tend to crave food, especially sweets, while we’re drinking. 

Many studies have found that excessive alcohol consumption can cause increased levels of body fat. Heavy drinking in particular — defined as 4 or more drinks per day for men and 3 or more per day for women — is linked to an increased risk of weight gain and obesity.

Potential Drawbacks of Drinking Alcohol During Intermittent Fasting

Alcohol Promotes Inflammation

In addition to burning fat, intermittent fasting can also reduce inflammation. While acute inflammation helps our body heal wounds and fight off infections, chronic — or long-term — inflammation has been linked to an array of health issues, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Research indicates that intermittent fasting can reduce chronic inflammation by reducing the number of cells that cause inflammation, known as “monocytes,” in blood circulation.

Alcohol, on the other hand, has the opposite effect and promotes inflammation, particularly in important tissues of our body, such as the gut and liver. In fact, research shows that inflammation from excessive drinking may lead to leaky gut syndrome, bacterial overgrowth, and an imbalance in gut bacteria. 

Excessive alcohol consumption can also interfere with our liver, decreasing its ability to filter out potentially harmful toxins. Both of these effects can promote inflammation throughout our body, which can lead to organ damage over time. 

The bottom line? Alcohol can cause widespread inflammation in our body, essentially counteracting the effects of intermittent fasting.

Alcohol Prevents Cellular Repair

One of the most significant consequences of intermittent fasting is its ability to trigger a process called autophagy, in which our body cleans out damaged cells and generates new, healthier cells. 

Research has found that autophagy is particularly beneficial in removing toxic proteins that may be responsible for the development of neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also been linked to reducing our risk of cancer, as it helps clear out mutated cells that could become cancerous. 

But, again, alcohol has the opposite effect: excessive alcohol consumption can inhibit autophagy in liver and fat tissue. While more research needs to be done, it’s safe to say that alcohol causes more harm than good to our bodily processes.

Alcohol Impairs Neurogenesis

Another benefit of intermittent fasting is that it can increase the brain hormone BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which helps promote neurogenesis — the formation of new neurons in our brain. Studies have shown that intermittent fasting promotes neurogenesis specifically in the hippocampus, the part of our brain responsible for learning, memory, and overall cognitive function. 

But, again, drinking alcohol has the opposite effect. Studies have shown that excessive alcohol consumption can impair neurogenesis, leading to fewer neurons being formed. This can contribute to cognitive decline and may make it more difficult for our brains to recover from stress.

Best Alcohol for Intermittent Fasting

As we’ve learned, it’s best to avoid consuming alcohol during both our fasting and eating window while intermittent fasting. However, if we do choose to drink during our eating window, it’s best to stick to low-calorie alcoholic drinks, such as low-carb beers (lagers and pilsners), distilled spirits (vodka, tequila, rum or whiskey), or dry wines, which contain less sugar. For instance, dry whites, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio, usually have minimal residual sugar, resulting in fewer calories. 

What Can You Drink While Intermittent Fasting?

So, what can you drink while fasting? The best drinks to consume while intermittent fasting are calorie-free. This includes drinks like plain water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee. Water in particular is important to consume to ensure our body stays hydrated. Plus, water is vital for nearly every bodily system and helps to flush toxins out of our system. 

Keep in mind that, in addition to alcohol, we should also avoid sodas, smoothies, bone and vegetable broths, and fruit juice, as these all contain calories. 

The Bottom Line

We should avoid drinking alcohol during intermittent fasting, not only during our fasting hours, but also during the window we’re allowed to eat. Alcohol can counteract nearly every one of the benefits of intermittent fasting, including fat loss, reduced inflammation, cellular repair, and neurogenesis. But if we do choose to drink alcohol, it’s best to limit our consumption and practice moderation.

Finally, if you’re struggling to cut back on our alcohol consumption, Reframe can help. We’ve helped millions of people change their relationship with alcohol and become healthier in the process.

Give Your Health a Boost With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

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The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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