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May 14, 2021 / Nicole Villeneuve

Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?

Mason jar filled with ice coffee on a navy blue and white striped fabric napkin next to a spoon.

You may have heard about the benefits of intermittent fasting and considered doing it, but there’s one burning question on your mind: Can you drink coffee while fasting? Going without food for long periods of time might be possible but a morning without your cup of caffeine sounds unmanageable.

Don’t give up hope for a successful fast yet. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to break the caffeine habit while you’re fasting but what you put in your coffee can change the results of your fast. Before you start your fast, read on to find out what the science says about intermittent fasting and coffee.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is when you intentionally fast for certain periods of time between eating. It is considered an eating pattern and research has shown intermittent fasting to deliver positive health benefits. These benefits include weight loss and improved insulin resistance. Studies also point to its ability to decrease the incidence of diseases, increase longevity, and increase stress resistance.

Intermittent fasting has also been found to improve outcomes in cases of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke. Beyond all these benefits, recent studies also suggest intermittent fasting offers an effective non-medicinal treatment option for type 2 diabetes.

People decide to practice intermittent fasting for a variety of reasons. One of the most common goals of intermittent fasting is to reduce overall caloric intake for weight loss purposes, but for many people, the more important goal is metabolic: boosting insulin sensitivity and increasing fat-burning by triggering ketosis. For some people, intermittent fasting is part of a prediabetes diet plan because it has been found to offer beneficial results for people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

Types of intermittent fasting

There are multiple types of intermittent fasting to choose from when you decide to practice this eating pattern:

Can You Have Coffee While Intermittent Fasting?

In other words, does coffee break a fast? The answer is, you can have coffee while intermittent fasting and you do not need to worry that it will compromise your fast.

Some people believe that any calories consumed at all will break your fast, so it’s black coffee or nothing. While this may be true in principle, it’s important to ask yourself: What am I trying to achieve by fasting? While certain additions to your coffee may alter your desired effect, others may have negligible effects on your fasting results, so knowing your goals is key. These goals can help you determine what you can add to your coffee to achieve your desired results.

Can Coffee Boost the Effects of Intermittent Fasting?

The good news is that drinking coffee can actually help you with your fast! One study found that coffee promotes good health by stimulating autophagy, which is the body’s process of clearing damaged cells and regenerating healthy new cells.

If you use intermittent fasting as a method of weight loss, coffee might also help boost the effects of the fasting. A study demonstrated that weight, BMI, and body fat reduction might be promoted by caffeine intake.

Additionally, studies have found a correlation that supports a cause and effect between habitual coffee consumption and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. So, if intermittent fasting is done with the goal of preventing diabetes, coffee supports that goal.

Now that you know you can drink coffee while fasting and that it supports your fast, you may wonder about how typical coffee add-ins factor into your fast.

What Can You Put in Your Coffee That Won’t Break Your Fast?

Although black coffee is perfectly acceptable for an intermittent fast, you may want to know if you can still add any of your usual mix-ins to your cup. In general, many health experts claim a fast isn’t broken if you consume less than 50 calories within the timeframe of the fast. With this in mind, let’s go over intermittent fasting coffee additions that won’t break your fast.

Fats (coconut oil, MCT oil, butter)

From strictly a calorie perspective, technically, you’re not fasting if you add any of these to your coffee because they all contain calories. However, fats themselves won’t influence your insulin or blood sugar levels, so they’re the most recommended choice if you’re looking to boost your insulin sensitivity (for example, if you have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes).

While you may have heard recommendations for “bulletproof coffee” – made by adding butter and MCT oil to coffee – be aware that it contains over 230 calories in a 16-ounce serving (made with a tablespoon of each fat). This fatty concoction is great for those on the keto diet, but it pushes the envelope when it comes to fasting. It’s worth noting, though, that if you’re fasting for weight loss, a little bit of fat may also help curb your craving so you can fast longer.

To maintain your fast, add only a small amount of either MCT oil, butter, or coconut oil to keep it under 50 calories.

If you're curious about the ketogenic diet for weight loss, check out our keto diet tips to see if the diet is right for you.

Artificial sweeteners

Sure, there are lots of options for calorie-free sweeteners that won’t break your fast but do artificial sweeteners affect blood sugar? And how else do they affect our metabolism? Science shows many artificial sweeteners can actually increase our sugar cravings. This is counterintuitive for fasting and doesn’t bode well for the choices you’ll make when you break your fast.

So, if you’re used to having a spoonful of sugar or sweetener in your coffee, try measuring out less and less over the course of a week, until you’re not adding it anymore. If the habit is too hard to beat, try opting for the best artificial sweeteners. You’ll be amazed by how your tastebuds adjust!

Nut milks

A bit of nut milk likely won’t affect your fasting goals if you select an unsweetened version that isn’t made with extra protein (make sure you check the label!). If you’re at a coffee shop, however, it’s best to avoid them – the offerings are likely sweetened, and you may not be able to control the amount added (there’s a big difference between a tablespoon of almond milk added to black coffee and the half cup needed to make a latte, too!).

Heavy cream

When it comes to creamer, heavy cream is a better choice than low-fat dairy. Even though the latter contains fewer calories, it contains nearly double the amount of protein and carbohydrates found in heavy cream. These particular nutrients lessen autophagy, so the fewer you consume the better. While a splash of heavy cream may slightly hinder autophagy, it won’t stop it altogether, and some autophagy is better than none.

The Takeaway

Fasting is not an all-or-nothing method. While this topic is heavily debated, many concede that you can consume up to 50 calories during a fasting period without hindering your desired effect. Some will consume even more than that by way of bulletproof coffee to prolong their fast. As with any diet or nutrition plan, you’ll likely need to adjust it slightly to work for you. While you shouldn’t be adding spoonfuls of sugar or buying flavored lattes during a fast, a little bit of cream likely won’t hurt.

Intermittent fasting with coffee is just one way to incorporate healthy lifestyle changes into your day. Are you looking for other ideas to boost your overall health and wellness? PlateJoy Health offers a wide range of services, including custom meal plans, personalized recipes and grocery lists to help you prepare and eat a healthy diet. Start your free trial today!

Nicole Villeneuve

Nicole Villeneuve is a certified Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. A graduate of Yale University, she previously worked in book publishing, with a focus on cookbooks and health, and ran the food blog Paper and Salt. Her writing has been featured in Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, and The Daily Beast. Nicole lives in San Francisco and loves cooking, reading, exploring new restaurants, and running by the ocean. You can (very occasionally) find her on Twitter.

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