Before we start discussing how alcohol affects intermittent fasting, let’s make this clear: alcohol breaks a fast. When we are talking about intermittent fasting and alcohol, we mean how does the combination of intermittent fasting and drinking alcohol work? Will alcohol make your progress slower? Does alcohol improve your metabolic health? What should you take into consideration when deciding to mix intermittent fasting and alcohol?
Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol for Fat Burning Benefits
One of the main reasons most people get started with intermittent fasting is fat loss. No wonder why, intermittent fasting has been shown to enhance fat loss.
How Does Intermittent Fasting Help With Fat Loss?
The main mechanism behind intermittent fasting and fat loss and a decrease in calorie intake. However, there is a little more to it:
- Fasting long enough takes you into the fat-burning zone, which means your body runs out of glycogen and starts using your fat cells to produce ketones. When your body runs on ketones, you feel more energetic and less hungry.
- Intermittent fasting reduces the need for insulin, a fat-storing hormone. Anytime you eat, your body needs to release insulin to transfer energy to your cells. If you never give your body a break from having to produce insulin, your cells become less responsive to insulin. That’s what we call insulin-resistant. You struggle with cravings and you can’t lose weight. Lower levels of insulin facilitate fat burning.
- The stress of fasting itself may improve fat burning. When you fast, your nervous system sends norepinephrine to your fat cells. This process increases your heart rate and helps break down fat.
With time, you will notice that your feel more satisfied and free from the hold that food has on so many of us. I know that’s what happened to me. Very gradually, over time, I stopped struggling with cravings. I also noticed that making sure I kept fasting 2-3 days a week even after having achieved my weight loss goal enabled me to keep feeling more energetic and kept my appetite under control.
How Does Alcohol Affect Fat Loss?
Yes, alcohol does affect fat loss. The main issue is that alcohol is a source of calories in and of itself and it can add up pretty quickly. Alcohol is produced by fermenting natural starch and sugar. Most alcoholic beverages contain a lot of calories (on average 7 calories per gram). To give you a reference point, fat contains 9 calories per gram while carbs and protein contain 4 calories per gram.
Besides the number of calories in alcohol, many will notice that drinking makes them want to eat more food and crave carbs. That is something to be conscious of as it could compound the issue of consuming too many calories. Moreover, alcohol is a source of energy in and of itself. When you drink alcohol, your body will use it has energy before accessing your glycogen or fat cells.
Metabolic Benefits of Alcohol Consumption
It is interesting to note that low-to-moderate alcohol consumption may increase your metabolism and improve your metabolic health (wine and beer have the most impact). Metabolic syndrome is a term used to identify the markers that put you at risk for strokes, heart attack, and diabetes. For example, you can think of blood pressure, blood lipids, waist circumference, and insulin sensitivity.
Wine Consumption and Metabolic Syndrome
Red wine is particularly noteworthy when it comes to metabolic health. A 2003 study found a U-shaped relationship between red wine consumption and metabolic syndrome, which means that those who did not consume any wine and those who consumed the most had the highest risk of metabolic disease. It seems like this comes from a chemical compound in red grapes because grape juice offers similar benefits.
Keep in mind that those who abstain in the context of the studies may have been doing so because they had abused alcohol in the past, which had damaged their health already.
How to Mix Intermittent Fasting and Alcohol
As with many other things, when it comes to intermittent fasting and alcohol, moderation is key. Remember that alcohol will inhibit ketone production and autophagy.
How Much and How Often to Drink
If you decide to drink occasionally, it’s obvious that you shouldn’t binge. Keep your drinking down to a moderate amount and increase your protein intake when you drink as alcohol can attenuate some of the muscle mass preserving benefits of intermittent fasting. Furthermore, drinking further from your fasting period is preferable as alcohol tends to mitigate some of your fasting benefits like autophagy, ketone production, and decreased inflammation.
What Alcohol Can You Drink When Intermittent Fasting?
Drink alcohol in its purest form as opposed to mixed drinks. Also, as I mentioned already, wine and bears seem to offer greater metabolic benefits.
Can You Drink Alcohol When Intermittent Fasting AND Keto?
You can drink alcohol if you are intermittent fasting and keto, but you will have to be even more careful with your choice of alcohol. You will need to stick to pure spirits like whiskey and vodka or keto friendly wines.
How to Find Keto Wines
All dry wines contain less than 0.5 grams of sugar per glass, so you should be able to consume a glass of wine with your meal fairly regularly. For more information of finding keto-friendly wines in-store and online, read The Ultimate Guide to Buying Keto Wines in Canada.
Breaking Your Fast With Alcohol?
Considering what I have told you about the way alcohol mitigates some of the intermittent fasting benefits, it makes sense that you should not break your fast with alcohol. In fact, you should drink on days you are not fasting if at all possible.