Can I Drink Coffee Without Breaking the Fast?
People don’t generally fast for fun. It isn’t enjoyable to listen to your stomach relentlessly rumble in protest, and it certainly isn’t amusing to sit through a morning meeting in a caffeine-free fog. So, if you’ve made the decision to fast, it’s probably for an excellent, logical reason.
Still, nothing says sacrifice quite like having to martyr your morning coffee. For that reason, we’ve put together a ton of information and resources to give you the inside scoop on if, when, or how you can get your daily dose of caffeine, despite your journey of abstinence.
What Is Fasting?
Fasting is the willing (yes, you have to agree) abstinence from all or some food and drink. By literal definition, fasting implies that you are to refrain entirely from eating or drinking anything but water for a predetermined amount of time.
However, the fasting can include completely, intermittently, or partially, refraining from indulging in specific food and drink, depending on your preference or reason for fasting.
For most, fasting lasts for 24-72 hours and involves cycling between periods of eating and starvation - also referred to as intermittent fasting. In other cases, like a juice fast or water fast, participants are expected to refrain from certain food groups or food altogether.
Lastly, Religious or spiritual fasts, like Ramadan, last for an extended period of time (i.e., a month) but only restrict eating or drinking to certain times of the day, like sunrise to sunset.
In other words, while some will have you think that fasting is as simple as depriving yourself of food and drink. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple; There are several types of fasts, and the requirements or expectations change with each method.
Why Do People Fast?
You’re probably thinking that starving yourself of nutrition contradicts everything you’ve been told about food being fuel. So, what’s the point?
Well for one, studies have shown that intermittent fasting can have significant long-term health benefits by forcing your body to utilize ketones for fuel, instead of glucose. Generally speaking, ketones are preferred because they preserve muscle mass and put less stress on your brain and body.
Intermittent fasting also has the potential to produce the same results as counting calories, for individuals that are seeking weight loss options. Arguably a simpler method of losing weight, rather than a heavy emphasis on what you eat, intermittent fasting relies on when you eat instead.
However, fasting isn’t just an up and coming weight loss or fitness fad. In fact, it can be traced back for centuries to our ancestors that used, or continue to use, fasting for a variety of medicinal, religious, and spiritual purposes.
Overall, the top 4 reasons people fast are:
Religious or spiritual reasons
Preparing for a medical procedure
Will Drinking Coffee Break Your Fast?
There are no hard and fast rules to breaking a fast. In most cases, you’re setting the standards based on your reason for fasting and have to define what counts as a fasted state.
If you’re fasting intermittently to lose weight, for example, drinking black coffee is generally a welcomed, low-calorie retreat from food deprivation and boosts your metabolic rate to help you burn fat. This helps explain why you’re so hyped after your first cup of coffee in the morning.
While this may be good news for coffee-lovers looking to temporarily purge excess food and sugary drinks from their diet, the rules often change for those that are fasting for religious or spiritual reasons. People participating in Ramadan, for example, refrain from all “intentional eating and drinking,” including water, so coffee is strictly off limits.
To help you determine if indulging in your favorite pick-me-up will derail your fasting plans, we’ve included some common scenarios you might encounter.
Coffee and Intermittent Fasting
You might think that intermittent fasting is a diet fad or popular weight loss tactic. Although you’re not entirely wrong, intermittent fasting is better described as an adjustment to eating patterns.
With intermittent fasting, it’s not so much about what you eat, it’s when you eat. So what does that mean for your cherished morning blend? Well, that depends on your reasons for intermittent fasting.
If your goal with intermittent fasting is to lose weight, drinking low-calorie or no-calorie beverages, like black coffee, won’t break your fast. In fact, because coffee acts as an appetite suppressant, it may actually help curb some of those obnoxious hunger pains.
However, where things get tricky, is when you start adding things like sugar, heavy cream, flavored syrups or even coconut milk. Flavoring your coffee could break your fast, because you’re adding excess calories to the equation.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can add, that still offer a variety of health benefits.
Coffee With Cream While Fasting
If you’re in hot pursuit of a “true” fast, coffee with cream will be at the top of the forbidden list. In general terms, because cream consists of calories, and a true fast eliminates calories to reach a target metabolic state, cream has the potential to throw your body out of ketosis and break your fast.
However, like a few other coffee additives, cream is low in calories and mostly fat, so in the grand scheme of things, it won’t throw you too far off course.
So will adding a little cream to your coffee “break” your fast? Technically, Yes. Will it derail you from meeting your health and fitness goals? Probably not. Just don’t confuse cream for whipped cream or creamer, those two are definitely out of the question.
Will Coconut Oil Break My Fast?
Who knew that coconut oil could be so controversial? It’s no secret that Coconut oil is packed full of health benefits, but add it to your coffee, and you could be stirring up some drama.
The case against coconut oil is simple: it’s high in calories. So, if you’re counting calories, the coconut oil and coffee combo may, at first glance, feel like a fasting faux pas – especially if you have to spend an extra 30-minutes on the treadmill to burn it off.
Interestingly, however, coconut oil is known to contain medium-chain-triacylglycerols, which is a fancy name for low-calorie dietary fats that contain anti-aging properties and are quickly metabolized as fuel.
What does this mean for your fast? Well, unfortunately adding coconut oil to your coffee would formally break your fast, because you’re consuming calories.
However, because coconut oil contains properties that kick your metabolism into high gear, adding a splash of coconut oil to your coffee has the potential to support long-term fitness or weight loss goals.
In other words, before you abandon coconut oil altogether, we recommend that you consider your reason for fasting and decide from there whether it would be beneficial to stay faithful to your fast or indulge in this low-calorie coffee additive.
Will Bulletproof Coffee Break My Fast?
Dave Asprey, the founder of Bulletproof, was hiking up a mountain in Tibet when locals introduced him to yak butter tea. He was so inspired by the Tibetan beverage, when he got back to the states, he married the concept with a specialty coffee blend and voila - Bulletproof Coffee was born.
Because consuming even a single calorie technically breaks your fast, the grass-fed butter and medium-chain triglyceride oil in Bulletproof Coffee make this unique high-calorie coffee concoction off-limits to fasting purist.
However, avid Bulletproof Coffee advocates assert that if you’re intermittently fasting with a goal of losing weight, the agents in Bulletproof Coffee will not only combat fasting fatigue but will also suppress your appetite for extended periods; increasingly the likelihood that you’ll enter a “fasting state.”
In short, opinions vary on whether or not Bulletproof coffee really “breaks” a fast, so it’ll be up to you to decide whether or not indulging in Bulletproof coffee is conducive to achieving your goals.
Coffee and a Water Fast
The most controversial fast to hit the mainstream media is the water fast, which implies that everything except water is off limits - and it would probably restrict water too, if you didn’t need it to live.
But what about those of us that need coffee to live? Does the ice in your iced coffee count?
The premise of a water fast is that because you’re consuming nothing but water, your body rapidly shifts into a fasting state and sources fuel from stored protein and lipids. Generally speaking, because this method of fasting is not supported by high-quality research studies, it’s pursued by people that are interested in a quick weight-loss tactic.
On the flip side, Livestrong promotes the water diet as a three-day detox that is meant to flush out unwanted toxins and nourishing muscles.
So, what does all of this mean to the avid coffee drinker? Unfortunately, if you’re a coffee enthusiast interested in the benefits of the water fast, you’ll have to shelve their favorite mug and reach for a bottle of H2O instead.
Coffee and Fasting for Blood Work
The short answer to whether or not you should indulge in a cup of coffee before blood work is maybe.
First, it’s important to know that there are a number of reasons that a doctor will require fasting before blood work. While some tests may not require abstaining from caffeine altogether, others, like tests ordered for glucose and triglycerides, will require you to forgo caffeine to encourage accurate results.
What you consume before a blood test can dramatically alter the results, so we recommend that you consult with your doctor to find out what you can and cannot drink before getting blood drawn. If you’re still unsure, it’s better to err on the side of caution and forgo that cup of joe until you get the green light from your doctor.
Fasting traditionalists will tell you that any amount of calorie intake will break your fast, but as you can see, there are a lot of other variable to consider.
For this reason, we recommend that before you make the ultimate sacrifice and say bon voyage to your favorite blend, that you write down your long-term health goals, reasons for fasting, and consider the pros and cons of coffee consumption and how they relate to your goals.