Reader Q&A: Intermittent Fasting Beverages; Stubborn Fat

Reader Q&A 2

Today’s Q&A comes from Amy, who has experience with 24 hour fasts, but is now giving Intermittent Fasting a go!

“I just purchased your book from Amazon and I’m anxious to jump in. I have two questions for you. All information that I read on IF talks about fasting from food but I haven’t yet seen anything in regards to beverages. I am a coffee drinker but am dairy-free and use coconut or almond milk in my coffee each morning. Is that ok in a fasted state? Also, red wine… is that only allowed during the break from the fast? In other words, if my 6 hour window is from 2pm to 8pm, can I still have a glass of red before bed around 10pm or should that only be consumed until 8pm?

One more question. Do you know anything about IF in regards to stubborn fat pockets? I could be (and have been in the past) too thin to where people make comments yet my arm fat and love handles are out of control…. like embarrasingly disproportionate to my body. Do you know if IF can help this?
Thanks for your help and I’m enjoying what I have read/watched so far!!”


Alrighty, let’s give this a go!

Yes, you can indeed consume non-caloric beverages during your fasting window. While I simply loathe artificial sweeteners (I believe they disregulate insulin and may negtively alter the gut microbiome), this does *technically* mean a diet coke or Crystal Light is ok if you’re just doing IF, and not Paleo. But to stay Paleo, choose coffee and green tea (or any other tea without added sweeteners.)

As for adding creamer/coconut milk/almond milk/etc., a negligible amount should be ok. When I first started intermittent fasting 4 years ago, I drank coffee and tea with half & half every day (this was before my Paleo Days). Just cap the creamer option at a tablespoon or so, and do not use creamers with added sugars and such (which is basically like every pre-made creamer out there). Like Amy, use a dash of coconut or almond milk. You can also add some MCT oil, if you want to go Dave Asprey’s bulletproof coffee route.

And of course, only use zero calorie sweeteners. Do NOT put sugar in your drink. Even something “Paleo” like honey. If you consume sugar, it will tell your body to enter a sugar burning rather than fat burning mode, which is counterproductive to the whole intermittent-fasting-fat-burning thing.

Consuming wine does break a fast. But it’s a little complicated. While eating a meal switches your body from fat burning to fat storing mode, drinking wine switches your body from fat burning to alcohol burning mode. It’s weird because, while having a meal raises insulin and puts you into fat storing mode, drinking wine during a fast actually regulates insulin (and may even lower it) – your body simply starts burning alcohol as its fuel source. On the flip side, having a glass of wine after a meal will halt the body’s processing of your food a smidge, since the body immediately deals with the alcohol first.

So Amy wants to know if having a glass of wine at 10pm messes up her 6 hour 2pm-8pm window. Yes and no. At 10pm, she’s likely not going to be in the fasted state yet anyways from a simple biological perspective (as she is still processing food), so having a glass of wine at 10pm isn’t “kicking her out of” the fasted state. (It takes 12 hours or so after a meal to enter fat burning mode.) So the wine may simply be prolonging when she re-enters the fasted state the next day. In Amy’s situation, if she likes having her glass at 10pm, I’d say just keep it as so, and “accept” an 8 hour eating window instead.

And as a sidenote, using a strick hour based approach like Amy is a great way to get used to the IF lifestyle. Once it becomes habitual and routine, you may find you can play around with the fasting/feasting hours: eating in a longer window on some days, and a shorter window on others. Same with the wine. You can play around with having it before, during, or after the eating time window.

Amy also told me she seems to lose more weight when consuming wine regularly, and didn’t notice any weight loss difference without it. I tend to agree. Check out my post, Can You Have Your Drink And Drink It Too? for more on that.

Can IF Help With Stubborn Fat?
This one is a doosey! The short and awesome answer is YES, IF can blast away your stubborn fat! I addressed the concept in my post How to (Easily) Burn Fat With Intermittent Fasting, but let’s look at it again!

The whole stubborn fat thing is a very REAL phenomena. It’s not all in your head. It’s those little pieces of fat which just won’t seem to go away, no matter what you do. You calorie count and diet and do endless cardio, and yet those love handles just don’t budge. {sigh}

So heres why.

Fat stores in general are “guarded” by receptors which determine whether fat is going into or out of the cells. There are two basic types of fat receptors, alpha-2 and beta-2 receptors. Various hormones called catecholamines are like “keys” which open these receptors. But here’s thing. To put it very simply, Alpha-2 receptors are hard to open, while beta-2 receptors are easy to open. Your fat stores which you easily lose likely have a lot of beta-2 receptors, while “stubborn” fat likely has a lot of alpha-2 receptors.

Also, when insulin is present (from a snack or meal), the fat stores are basically OFF LIMITS. So eating constantly throughout the day is just not a good way to burn fat. Surprise surprise.

To burn stubborn fat, (and fat in general), you’ve got to lower insulin, ramp up your catecholamines and start opening the beta, and especially alpha, receptors. You can do this with supplements like caffeine, some High Intensity Interval Training, or fasting! Intermittent fasting lowers insulin, making the fat cells potentially open in the first place, ramps up the hormones (catecholamines) which give you the keys to open the cells, and also increases blood flow, which is necessary for the keys to reach the fat cell “doors.” (On a side note, this is often why your stubborn fat is cold to the touch – from a lack of blood flow. In fact, you can idenitfy your more stubborn areas by this whole cold pinch test.)

And there’s one more main reason IF can burn your stubborn fat!

The stubbornness of your stubborn fat is there as a LAST RESORT during “starvation”. You’re probably not gonna touch it by a simple calorie counting approach, as the body will simply downregulate the metabolism to align with the new calorie intake, rather than burn the stubborn fat. Sneaky body. Intermittent fasting however, allows you to dip into a “starvation” mode during the fasted window, without calorie restriction, as you will resume your normal calorie intake upon eating. As such, your body will tap into stubborn fat stores without down regulating the metabolism! This is the golden key to fat burning! In fact, your metabolism may even increase. Go figure.


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