The different effects of ethanol on insulin sensitivity may be due to complex reasons. Here, we focus on the various daily ethanol consumption frequencies in rats fed a high-fat (HF) diet and explore the possible mechanism mediated by adiponectin and AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). A total of thirty-six male Wistar rats were fed a HF diet and were randomly divided into three groups: those that received tap water (C); those that received ethanol via a gastric tube twice per d (E1); those that received free access to ethanol for drinking (E2). The total daily ethanol dosage in groups E1 and E2 were the same (5 g/kg per d). At the end of 18 weeks, insulin sensitivity was evaluated. Adiponectin AMPK and GLUT4 levels were determined. We found that the different administration frequencies led to markedly different plasma ethanol concentrations and there were intimate relationships between plasma ethanol concentration and insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance was markedly improved in group E1, whereas only a slight improvement was observed in group E2. Accordingly, adiponectin, phosphorylated AMPK and GLUT4 levels were significantly increased in group E1. Based on these findings, we propose that ethanol concentration might be the major influencing factor mediating the effect of ethanol on insulin sensitivity. At a total daily dosage of 5 g/kg per d, twice daily administration of ethanol was more beneficial than continuous drinking. The protective effect of ethanol might be mediated by increased adiponectin levels, which subsequently improve the activation of AMPKα and GLUT4 expression in adipose tissue.