The last thing you want to do is start intermittent fasting and stick to it for a while to figure out you were doing it all wrong! Who knew that innocent matcha tea you thought was so good for you or that pre-workout you were taking before your exercise was ruining all your fasting efforts?
To avoid such a situation, we comprised an ultimate guide to the most asked questions on what breaks a fast. Anything from how many calories break a fast to green tea, coffee, supplements, and much more.
Technically, anything you put in your mouth breaks your fast. In some extreme cases, even water could be considered to break your fast – especially if you are fasting for religious reasons, like during Ramadan or an annual Jewish Yom Kippur celebration (read more about dry fasting here).
For this article, we’ll focus on the most common way of fasting, where one fast to get all the health benefits such as fat loss, increased metabolic rate, autophagy, boost the immune system, and more. If that’s you – then the answer is simple: anything that has calories will break your fast.
Let’s start with getting the most important things right — how many calories will break your fast? Will as little as five calories break a fast?
Technically speaking, even as little as one calorie might break your fast. Yet, there isn’t enough research done to determine the effect few calories might have on the release of insulin and how that might interfere with fat burning or autophagy. To stay on the safe side, it’s better to avoid any calories at all.
However, if you want to ease into intermittent fasting or are doing it purely for weight-loss reasons, up to 20-30 kcal during your entire fasting period might still do the trick. If that’s the case, though, go for pure fat (such as adding coconut oil to your coffee or high fat cream), as it interferes the least with your insulin levels and fat burning.
Plain tea prepared with hot water only is an excellent option for fasting hours, as it barely has any calories and offers a nice break from drinking plain water. You can choose any tea you prefer: green tea, black tea, herbal tea, rooibos, etc., as long it doesn’t have any additives like cream, milk, sugar, honey, or others.
Some teas like green tea might be more beneficial due to its compounds catechins that have powerful antioxidant properties and can help you burn calories. Another tea that is an excellent choice for fasting is ginger tea, known for benefiting the digestive system, aiding the breakdown of food and reducing nausea.
While plain tea won’t break your fast, there are some things to be aware of when it comes to teas. Some popular beverages like matcha tea, ginger tea, or chai tea might be a powder mix that includes sugar, honey, milk powder, or other additives that could cause to break your fast. To be on the safe side, always check the Nutritional Facts label of your drink.
No. Plain green tea without any additives such as milk, sugar, or honey barely has any calories and is completely safe during your fasting window. Green tea might even help to suppress your hunger, support weight loss, and decrease of total cholesterol. Besides, green tea is a clean source of caffeine, which can give you the energy boost you might need to fight the intermittent fasting fatigue. With lover caffeine dosage (up to 30g per cup), it’s a safer fasting choice than coffee.
Besides being known to soothe your digestive system, studies have shown that ginger might even help to burn the fat faster and decrease your hunger – something we all want to reduce while fasting.
No. Coffee is allowed during fasting hours, and, in fact, some studies have shown that it may support the fat burning and reduce insulin sensitivity over time. For many people, it also acts as an appetite suppressant, hence it is an excellent choice for those fasted hungry mornings. Does caffeine break a fast? No, but too much caffeine could harm your body. Do not overdo the recommended daily dose of 400 mg of caffeine (2-2.5 cups of brewed coffee) for healthy adults.
Technically speaking - yes, bulletproof coffee prepared with oil and/ or butter can add up to 200 kcal and hence break your fast. Yet, if your goal with intermittent fasting is to sustain ketosis and burn fat, consuming MCT oil or other fats have shown not to interfere with this process. For this reason, it is allowed as part of Bulletproof fasting. Keep in mind, though, that fats are incredibly high in calories and could easily add up - this is the main reason why we don’t recommend it during our 21 Day Intermittent Fasting challenge.
Yes, it does. Milk should be avoided while fasting due to the milk proteins and natural sugars (lactose), that cause a spike in your blood sugar levels. To put things into perspective - a cup of whole milk has 150 kcal and 12 g sugar!
No. Stevia is a natural zero-calorie sweetener and is a much better choice for making your fasting life easier as compared to artificial sweeteners that might spike your blood sugar. You should be aware, though, that stevia might trigger hunger for some people - something you want to avoid during the fasting window.
The answer very much depends on how much actual fruit juice is in the water. If you just added a slice of lemon (or any other fruit) and didn’t squeeze any liquid of the fruit - you are fine. If you, on the other hand, squeezed entire lemon in your water, you might be looking into 11 calories and over 1g of sugar. And if it’s lemonade, which is usually prepared with sugar, it’s even worse!
While diet soda has zero calories, it contains artificial sweeteners that can trigger sugar cravings and increase your blood sugar levels. For this reason, diet soda and artificial sweeteners should be avoided.
No. Cinnamon is safe to be used while fasting, and due to its sweet taste could be a great supplement to your coffee or tea. Besides, cinnamon has shown to aid in blood glucose stabilization, enhancing the benefits of fasting.
No. In fact, it might be a good idea to add some salt to your water while fasting to help you replenish lost fluids and sodium. This might help mitigate any side effects of intermittent fasting such as headache, nausea, or fatigue. Sea salt or Himalayan salt that is not manufactured and doesn’t have any fillers are your best choices.
Yes. Alcohol is very high in sugars and will break your fast. Also, you should never break your fast with alcohol, as consuming it on an empty stomach will cause more severe hangovers, dehydration, and increased intoxication.
This very much depends on the supplement or vitamin you are taking. Generally, consuming vitamin C or zinc, for example, is safe while fasting. Yet, most supplements should never be taken on an empty stomach or are best observed with food. That’s why you should always check the prescription or consult your health practitioner before.
Yes. Branched-chain amino acids, also called BCAAs, trigger an insulin response that opposes autophagy. Yet, if you are doing an intense strength workout on a fasted stomach and are trying to build up muscles, some health and fitness professionals see no harm in taking up to 10g of BCAAs before exercising. Read more about how to take BCAAs and workout while fasted in this detailed guide.
Yes. Protein powder contains calories and hence triggers an insulin response, which breaks your fast. A lean protein shake is a great way to break your fast, especially if you just exercised and don’t have time to prepare a protein-rich me But, it should always be taken during your eating window. If you are unsure what protein powder is best for you, read our guide here.
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