No matter what fasting schedule you choose, you may need a bit of a pick-me-up when you wake up. After all, if you depend on that morning cup of joe, you probably don't want to ditch it because you're intermittent fasting. But that begs the question of whether or not coffee or tea breaks a fast. Read on to find out whether or not you can have your favorite morning drink during your fasting window.
Things to Know About Breaking a Fast with Beverages
Be careful with calories.
First, if your morning coffee is more like dessert—we see all of you caramel macchiato and PSL lovers out there—the answer is yes. A high-calorie drink will most definitely break your fast. So, before you add a lot of calories to your black coffee or green tea, think about the primary goal of fasting, which is to have little to no calorie intake during your fasting window. This also includes teas heavily sweetened with honey or sugar.
However, plain coffee or tea on their own have minimal calories. One alternative is to choose flavored coffee and teas, which have a bit of extra taste without the additional calories. Consequently, you can even add a splash of oat milk or sweetener if you need extra vibrancy. Amy Shah, MD, refers to this as "dirty fasting." Essentially, you are fasting but adding minimal calories to your fasting period.
Know how your body works naturally.
Our bodies rely heavily on our circadian rhythm to function at their best. Therefore, we are naturally geared to operate on a 24-hour cycle that includes sleeping, eating, and other bodily functions. Having caffeine can impact our circadian rhythm, which you may have experienced if you've had coffee in the afternoon or evening.
However, consuming coffee can enhance the results of intermittent fasting. The tasty beans are known to reduce inflammation when combined with regular eating and fasting periods. Plus, coffee and a regular intermittent fasting schedule can decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. In a study on animals, results showed that coffee reduced autophagy, which is the process of clearing out damaged cells. Although this isn't positive, the impact wasn't significantly high.
Coffee also increases ketosis—fat burning—which is an added benefit. Fasting periods are for burning fat and allowing your body to perform other functions besides digestion. Having caffeine can amplify those processes.
Realize what breaks a fast.
Essentially, too many calories break a fast. Fasting is refraining from food and drinks that cause your body to digest and metabolize, therefore taking some of the body's attention away from repairing cells and burning fat. Even artificial and low-calorie sweeteners can impact your fast, especially when you are genuinely trying to rest your gut.
Again, you can get away with minimal calories, but experts say that you should consume less than 50 during your fasting period. And that is in total, not per cup. Four cups of tea that have 40 calories each—with a total of 160 calories—will most certainly break your fast. Of course, any food consumption constitutes breaking a fast, so avoid that unless you have a good reason to do so.
Consume drinks with additional health benefits.
Some are concerned that coffee contains mycotoxins, which are tiny fungi that grow on crops—such as coffee—during storage. Although most coffee has fungi, the amount is so minimal that it doesn't impact health.
An evidence-based article on Healthline encourages coffee aficionados not to worry about mycotoxins in their favorite drink since the level is well beneath the safety limit. If you are genuinely concerned, several coffee brands claim to be fungi-free. Plus, we've already touted the metabolic benefits of caffeine, which is a reason alone to keep consuming.
If you can look past the bitter taste of Japanese green tea, it is one of the best teas to use while intermittent fasting. Drinking green tea is beneficial for fat burning and increasing antioxidants, which help keep cells healthy. Another significant benefit is that Japanese green tea aids in suppressing appetite, which is helpful when adhering to an intermittent fasting plan.
Let's talk about drinking during your consumption window.
Beyond your fasting time, it's essential to consider what you are drinking. Each and every calorie counts, even during your consumption window. Of course, during that time, you don't have to worry about caloric intake up to a certain point (please don't consume 5000 calories!). However, choosing suitable beverages is vital.
Stay away from unhealthy drinks.
Don't add calories unnecessarily if there is no health benefit. So many teas have tremendous benefits, such as lowering blood pressure and fighting inflammation. We think of caffeine when we drink coffee, but the beverage also has other nutrients, such as B2 and B5. Other healthy drinks include lemon water and natural juices.
However, avoid diet sodas and sports drinks that flaunt their low-calorie count yet have zero additional benefits to your body. In fact, they can do more harm than good. Many contain artificial—read chemical—sweeteners that can cause adverse effects, such as bladder cancer, weight gain, and brain tumors. So, choose wisely. Your best no or low-calorie drinks are black coffee, unsweetened tea, and water.
Be mindful of fruit and vegetable juices.
Fruit juice is healthy, right? Well, that depends on the kind of juice you're drinking, so be sure to read the label. Stick with liquids that are 100% juice and are free from artificial sweeteners. Juice blends can also be tricky, so scour both the ingredients and nutrition facts to find out how natural the fluid is.
Take a look at some of the healthiest juices you can consume. In addition to drinking these natural juices, eating the fruit or vegetable has the same health benefits. So, stock up and drink—or eat—up!
Beet Juice - Although beets are sweet, the juice is relatively low in calories. They are also high in antioxidants and can help lower blood pressure.
Prune Juice - Prunes are widely associated with keeping the digestive system regular, which is true. However, the juice also has other benefits, such as being high in both vitamin C and antioxidants.
Orange Juice - Those who start their day with a cup of OJ can rejoice! It's obviously high in vitamin C, but it also contains folate and potassium, essential to our bodies.
Apple Juice - Another popular juice, it's best to choose cloudy over clear. Why? Cloudy contains a bit of pulp (which is reasonably undetectable as compared to orange juice pulp), which increases the number of antioxidants present.
Pomegranate Juice - Although this is a reasonably new juice, the fruit is a collection of small, edible seeds, which are power-packed with vitamins K and C.
Choose your tea wisely.
If you're thinking Southern-style sweet tea, banish the thought! Although this is ok for a treat every once in a while, it's high in calories and sugar, which doesn't make it the healthiest of drinks. What we're referring to are loose-leaf varieties, which either come loose or in small, single-use bags.
Certain varieties of tea have health benefits, and here are a few favorites beyond the Japanese tea mentioned above. Also, be mindful of how you sweeten your tea. Honey and lemon are the best choices. However, it's common to add a bit of sugar and a splash of milk. Whatever you choose, just don't overdo it in the calorie department if you can help it.
Black Tea - Contains antioxidants, caffeine, potassium, proteins, and manganese.
Oolong Tea - Can help lower blood pressure, shed pounds, and improve sleep.
White Tea - Protects against osteoporosis, reduces the risk of heart disease, and fights cancer.
Green Tea - Helps to burn fat, lengthen life span, and increase brain function.
Herbal Tea - Essentially, this depends on the type of herb the tea contains, but popular flavors are chamomile (for relaxing), ginger (for digestion), and rosemary (to reduce cancer).
Fruit and Flower Teas - Ingredients in this type of tea can be single, such as hibiscus flower (which is excellent for lowering blood pressure), or they can be a blend. Citrus fruit peels like lemon, orange, and lime are popular, as are other flowers, such as rose and lavender. No matter what they contain, the natural elements are soothing for the body and soul.
Know the benefits of drinking coffee.
Besides giving you a jump start in the morning, coffee has benefits beyond the initial energy boost. Coffee helps burn fat, increase brain function, and lower the risk of diabetes. Interestingly enough, it also can stave off diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, so drink up! Just don't sweeten it too heavily if you can help it.
So, can I have coffee while fasting?
In short—yes! And it can be very beneficial to your metabolism. Whether you choose coffee or tea, just be careful about what additions you make. Skip sweet, dessert-style drinks altogether, or save them as a treat during your window of consumption. So, have that guilt-free morning pick me up to start your day. Not only will it wake up your mind, but it can also jump-start your metabolism and help your intermittent fasting plan be even more successful.
This article originally appeared in the Fastful Blog.