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April 22, 2019 / Nicole Villeneuve

Can I Have Coffee While Fasting?

Cold brew iced coffee

So you’ve read about the benefits of intermittent fasting, but there’s one burning question on your mind: Can I have coffee while fasting?

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: Here’s the skinny on fasting and coffee.

The Benefits of Drinking Coffee While Fasting

The good news is that drinking coffee can actually help you with your fast! Coffee works as an appetite suppressant, working to stave off hunger until your first meal if you’re practicing the time-restricted feeding method. Caffeine also has a stronger effect when ingested on an empty stomach, so it does a better job at helping you battle fatigue and “brain fog.” This makes increased concentration another perk of intermittent fasting with coffee.

What Is Your Goal with Fasting?

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 be negligible, so knowing your goals is key.

One of the most common goals of intermittent fasting is reducing overall caloric intake, but for many people, the more important goal is metabolic: boosting insulin sensitivity and increasing fat-burning by triggering ketosis. These goals can determine what you can add to your coffee for best results.

What Can You Add to Coffee While Fasting?

Fats (coconut oil, MCT oil, butter)

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.

If you're curious about the ketogenic diet for weight loss, check out our easy keto meal plan 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. However, 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 any more. 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 is better than none. This brings us to an important concluding point:

Fasting Is Not an On/Off Switch

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 in order 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.

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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