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Can You Drink Coffee During Intermittent Fasting?

"Michael Philips is a California-based professional with a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, who is also a trained sports nutritionist and certified personal trainer. He is an accomplished professional in the academic and commercial sectors, with a focus on scientific communications and education over the past decade. He is experienced in the research, development, and marketing of ingestible consumer goods and medical devices, and is passionate about the intersection of science and human health."

Looking to try intermittent fasting but don’t want to give up your daily caffeine boost? The great news is – you don’t have to choose!

Do not hesitate to drink coffee while intermittent fasting or not. YES, you can but there are some rules of thumb I recommend following to ensure that you don’t break your fast!

Does Coffee Break A Fast?

Lattes and cappuccinos and espressos, oh my!

There are so many different ways to drink coffee and you can make it based on your personal taste.  

For example, some prefer it plain and some drink with cream and sugar. If you decide whether to drink coffee while fasting or not will depend on how you prepare it and whether or not you add anything to it.

Short and sweet: plain, unsweetened version will not break a fast. Coffee with sweeteners (i.e. sugar) and/or fat (i.e. cream or butter) can break a fast.

To achieve many of the benefits of IF, the body must remain in a fasting state. When enough calories in the form of carbohydrates, protein, or fat enter the system, the body will elicit a response to metabolize those calories. This switches the body to a non-fasting state, therefore, the fast is broken.

Here are some types of coffee you can have:

  • Plain Brewed
  • Plain Iced 
  • Plain Espresso (hot or iced)
  • Brewed with non-nutritive sweeteners (i.e. stevia or sucralose)

Types of coffee to avoid:

  • Cappuccinos 
  • Lattes
  • Blended coffee drinks
  • Sweetened coffees (hot or iced)
  • Fat-Infused Coffee (i.e. Bulletproof coffee)
  • Any variants with creams or milks (dairy or non-dairy)
  • Coffee drinks with protein

So, if you jumped on the Bulletproof coffee craze, unfortunately, the fat that you’re adding into your drink will not only break your fast, but it will add quite a lot of calories to a drink that normally has very little, which may cancel out the benefits of fasting in the first place.

If you can drink it without any forms of added sugar, fat, or protein, you will not break your fast. If you prefer to sweeten it up, you may be adding too many calories and break your fast. 

If you find it difficult without cream or sugar, it may be worth exploring different types of coffee beans that naturally provide a sweeter or less bitter taste or talking to a local roaster about finding a blend to fit your palate. You can also explore using non-nutritive sweeteners to balance the flavor. 

So, does coffee break fast? The short answer is not until added a large source of calories like cream, sugar, milk, or butter.

Should you drink coffee while fasting?

We know that you can drink coffee during your fasting window (when it’s unsweetened) but should you drink it while IF?

Coffee is a commonly consumed beverage worldwide, with a lot of research available on its benefits. And since intermittent fasting plans focus on when to eat rather than what to eat – it will be up to you what choice you want to make. 

If you do choose to drink it, there can be some great benefits associated with it:

Cutting Calories

To start, try replacing sugary drinks with unsweetened coffee. This usually results in lower calorie intake and potential weight loss. Already this looks like a good addition to your intermittent fasting routine [1]. 

Meeting Fluid Needs

The flavors and caffeine found in different types of coffee beans may allow you to skip any additions, while also providing hydration allowing you to hit your recommended daily liquid consumption (3.7 L for men and 2.7 L for women) [5]. Strategies like adding coffee, tea, or other unsweetened beverages may help you get through your intermittent period easier and can help with your food and sweetened beverage intake once your eating window opens. 

Phytonutrients

However, coffee offers more than just hydration, with purported benefits related to its phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are natural chemical compounds produced by plants that often have some beneficial effects on the human body. Phytonutrients often show antioxidant or anti-inflammatory activities and may even enhance immunity. There are some studies that showed that drinking two to three cups of coffee daily may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative disorders [2]. Additional benefits are related to heart disease, cancer prevention, athletic performance, and alertness [6-9]. 

Caffeine for Mental & Physical Performance

One of the most studied beverage ingredients of all time is caffeine. Caffeine is very natural and can be found in over 60 various plants worldwide, including the two main species of coffee, Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora, also known as “robusta”. Caffeine produces many different physiologic effects in the human body and may produce beneficial effects on both mental and physical performance. Intermittent fasting benefits plus the benefits of caffeine: yes, please!

The way how you actually brew your coffee will directly affect the amount of caffeine in your cup and may even affect how much of the health benefits you’re able to pull from the bean itself [3]. So, to get the most caffeine out of those coffee beans and into the liquid that you drink fast, you’ll want to keep this in mind.

Supporting Weight Loss Goals

Fasting with coffee, especially caffeinated ones, may help with weight loss. To start, drinking it during a fast may help you stick to your no-calories window and may reduce some of the negative effects like fatigue. And while IF in and of itself may help with weight loss through calorie reduction, caffeine, has been associated with weight loss [4]. Intermittent fasting plus caffeinated drinks sounds like a dream team!

Coffee and the benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting (IF) is a dietary plan when you are switching between periods of eating and fasting on a daily schedule. During the “no-calories” window, pathways that defend against metabolic stress and cellular damage are activated. And during the subsequent feeding window, cells go through a growth and adaptation phase [10]. From well-known varieties such as the 16:8 intermittent fast and the 14:10 intermittent fasting, the main premise is that there will be a feeding window and a no-feeding window, a cycle that may also promote weight loss.

IF is not based around a specific type of food, but rather the specific timing of when your chosen food will be eaten, so it may be easier to adhere to for many people, as you can still eat the foods that you find tasty and filling while fasting. It can be adapted to each dietary plan, such as vegetarian, vegan, or just follow a balanced diet as recommended by the USDA’s Health and Human Services [11,12].

Combining the health benefits mentioned above with the benefits of fasting on its own, such as improved insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and sleep, and weight loss makes this dynamic duo something to appreciate [13-17]. 

Adding coffee into your intermittent fasting routine, either caffeinated or decaf can be a very useful strategy to power through your fasts. It also poses many benefits to your long-term health and wellbeing, not to mention the flavor aspect. Also, you can drink coffee while intermittent fasting to shake up your day from only drinking water and keep you from looking for a salty or sweet snack of empty calories that would ruin your fasting state. 

In conclusion, can you drink coffee while fasting? Yes!
I hope you now see that plain coffee won’t break your fast, and it can add to the benefits you already love!

References

  1. Stookey, Jodi D., et al. "Replacing sweetened caloric beverages with drinking water is associated with lower energy intake." Obesity 15.12 (2007): 3013-3022.
  2. Lindsay, Joan, et al. "Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease: a prospective analysis from the Canadian Study of Health and Aging." American journal of epidemiology 156.5 (2002): 445-453.
  3. Severini, Carla, et al. "Roasting conditions, grinding level and brewing method highly affect the healthy benefits of a coffee cup." Int J Clin Nutr Diet 4.1 (2018): 127.
  4. Westerterp‐Plantenga, Margriet S., Manuela PGM Lejeune, and Eva MR Kovacs. "Body weight loss and weight maintenance in relation to habitual caffeine intake and green tea supplementation." Obesity research 13.7 (2005): 1195-1204.
  5. https://www.nap.edu/read/10925/chapter/1
  6. Keisler, Brian D., and Thomas D. Armsey. "Caffeine as an ergogenic aid." Current sports medicine reports 5.4 (2006): 215-219.
  7. Taylor, Sarah R., and Barbara Demmig‐Adams. "To sip or not to sip: the potential health risks and benefits of coffee drinking." Nutrition & Food Science (2007).
  8. Woolf, Kathleen, Wendy K. Bidwell, and Amanda G. Carlson. "The effect of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in anaerobic exercise." International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism 18.4 (2008): 412-429.
  9. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA). "Scientific Opinion on the safety of caffeine." EFSA Journal 13.5 (2015): 4102.
  10. de Cabo, Rafael, and Mark P. Mattson. "Effects of intermittent fasting on health, aging, and disease." New England Journal of Medicine 381.26 (2019): 2541-2551.
  11. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
  12. https://www.myplate.gov/myplate-plan
  13. Sutton, Elizabeth F., et al. "Early time-restricted feeding improves insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and oxidative stress even without weight loss in men with prediabetes." Cell metabolism 27.6 (2018): 1212-1221.
  14. Welton, Stephanie, et al. "Intermittent fasting and weight loss: Systematic review." Canadian Family Physician 66.2 (2020): 117-125.
  15. Klempel, Monica C., et al. "Intermittent fasting combined with calorie restriction is effective for weight loss and cardio-protection in obese women." Nutrition journal 11.1 (2012): 1-9.
  16. Longo, Valter D., and Satchidananda Panda. "Fasting, circadian rhythms, and time-restricted feeding in healthy lifespan." Cell metabolism 23.6 (2016): 1048-1059.
  17. Jamshed, Humaira, et al. "Early time-restricted feeding improves 24-hour glucose levels and affects markers of the circadian clock, aging, and autophagy in humans." Nutrients 11.6 (2019): 1234.
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