Whether you’re fasting for rapid weight loss or to build a healthier, brain and body longer term, a question that often comes up is what can you drink during intermittent fasting? Is alcohol strictly off limits? Diet guru Dr Michael Mosley, founder of Fast800 reveals all…
What can you drink during intermittent fasting?
Tea & Coffee
“If you’re worried about a dash of milk in your tea or coffee breaking your fast, it’s not detrimental. Technically, it will break your fast, however, if that dash of milk is otherwise keeping you on track for the rest of the day, it’s okay.
“Strictly speaking, black tea or coffee, herbal teas and water are the most suitable options that will not break your fast. I tend to add lemon, cucumber and mint to my water to liven it up a little.
“Just steer clear of lattes if you’re practising TRE (time restricted eating) and as always on fasting days, include milky drinks in your calorie intake. We always recommend full fat milk as opposed to skimmed or semi-skimmed,” says Dr Mosley. If you prefer plant milks, Mosley advises oat milk, which is an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals. It also contains a type of fibre, beta-glucans, that has been shown to reduce cholesterol.
Can you drink alcohol drink during intermittent fasting?
“Current UK guidelines, which are much lower than in Italy and Spain, advise limiting your alcohol intake to 14 units a week (or around seven 175ml glasses of 12% ABV wine), however the problem with units is that they are almost impossible to pin down.
“The effect of alcohol differs from person to person, depending on body size, gender, and also how you metabolise alcohol. I try to drink within the recommended guidelines of seven medium-sized glasses of wine a week, and I follow the principles of 5:2; having a drink five nights a week and not drinking for two,” says Dr Mosley.
“Alcohol is also high in sugar, which is not only bad for your teeth and your waist, it is bad for your brain as well,” says Dr. Mosley. “This is partly because sugar, like alcohol is horribly addictive. Unless you do lots of exercise, all those excess calories will be laid down as fat.
“We know that people who are overweight or obese are much more prone to depression and anxiety, and that seems to be directly linked to the fat itself. Fat doesn’t just sit there, it sends out inflammatory signals. So when you pile on the pounds, particularly around the waist, you are not only damaging your heart but your brain as well.”
What about red wine?
“Some studies have shown that there are benefits in drinking a glass of red wine, but after a glass or two a day, the benefits drop off pretty dramatically and disadvantages start to emerge, particularly the risk of liver and breast cancer,” says Dr Mosley. “The sensible reaction to all of this is to not give up drinking wine full stop but rather to enjoy your wine, to savour it and have one or two glasses a night.” That is, create mindful alcohol habits.
Call it mindful drinking. We have a tendency to gulp things down, but if you slow down and really enjoy what’s in your glass, you’ll probably drink less as well.
Tips for mindful alcohol and drinking in moderation
Often, people think of mindfulness as meditating, which isn’t for everyone, but the great news is that you can practice mindfulness by creating simple activities and rituals – no meditation necessary. Try some of these ideas:
Avoid alcohol on all fasting days and whilst you are doing The Very Fast 800.
Upgrade your alcoholic beverage. For its health benefits, we recommend red wine as your drink of choice. Why not start by researching the different types of red wines and asking friends for their favourite recommendations? Building your knowledge and red wine experience will help to savour the experience of each drink you try.
Slow down when social drinking. Always alternate your alcoholic drink with a water – and make it sparkling water to keep things interesting.
Set yourself up with alternatives for the triggers that usually lead to drinking alcohol. For example, if you have a long, hard day at work, instead of reaching for alcohol, try a relaxing bath, going out for a walk, or calling a friend.
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