Does lemon water break a fast? — explained by SIMPLE
When you’re intermittent fasting, drinking plain old water can get pretty boring, pretty fast.
As a human with taste buds, you naturally want to bring a little flavor to your day. You spy a lemon on the kitchen counter. Could you add a few drops of that to your water, you wonder??
Or does drinking lemon water break a fast?
Let’s get some answers for you and see if we can add some zing to your fasting.
- Drinking lemon water during a fast can help you stay hydrated and support your overall health.
- Lemon water makes a suitable alternative to plain water, coffee, or tea.
- Lemon water does not break a fast during intermittent fasting as it contains very few calories.
- Other kinds of fruit, vegetable, herb, and spiced (yes, really!) waters can work too.
So, will lemon water break a fast?
When life gives you lemons, make lemon water. Even when you’re fasting!
What breaks a fast is any food or drink that contains calories. A whole lemon contains 12 calories and 3.2 g of carbohydrates. But when you make lemon water, you’re usually adding around 3–6 calories of lemon juice in total (about a quarter to half of the lemon).
So will lemon water break a fast? Nope!
However, calories can mount up. Be sure to not drink any more than 3 fl. oz. (roughly 90 ml.) of lemon juice during your fast to be on the safe side.
Hold on, what is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a style of eating where you rotate between periods of eating and not eating (i.e., fasting).
There are various methods available that involve fasting either daily, on alternate days, or across the week. They all offer potential benefits around improving metabolic health, losing weight, and helping you change your eating habits. Check out our intermittent fasting guide for beginners for the lowdown on each IF plan we recommend.
The common theme that unites each intermittent fasting method is the fasting part, i.e., periodically taking a complete break from eating.
It’s this aspect that helps you enter ketosis, which is when your body uses stored fat — instead of the glucose provided by food — for energy. This, in turn, can lead to weight loss and improve your health.
Unlike other diets which come with detailed lists of foods to eat and avoid, IF puts the power back in your hands. First and foremost, it lets you choose when to eat. And then, what to eat. During intermittent fasting, you’re the boss.
If you’re curious about whether IF would suit you, take our SIMPLE quiz, and we’ll help you road test it!
Health benefits of drinking lemon water while intermittent fasting
Lemon water not only tastes great and helps you stay motivated while fasting, but it can also benefit your health in other ways.
Stronger immune system
Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C, an important nutrient that helps keep your immune system in fighting shape.
So if you get sick, drinking lemon water could help you recover more quickly. Take that, germs!
Lemon water could improve your skin. The antioxidants in lemons have been found to reduce damage caused by free radicals that can lead to wrinkles and other signs of aging.
While you’re intermittent fasting, it’s imperative that you stay hydrated.
It’s just that plain old H2O can get a little dull after a while. Adding lemon water to your fasting drinks roster can bring a little extra zest, variety, and enjoyment and help you hit hydration harder.
To make sure you’re hitting your hydration goals, take our SIMPLE quiz and get your hands on our hydration tracker (as well as a fasting buddy). We’ll send you reminders to drink, so the only thing you’ll have to worry about is whether you’re adding some lemon or mint to that next glass of water.
Water can also help regulate your appetite and curb hunger.
This can be one of intermittent fasting’s most persistent side effects, so if adding lemon helps you get a little extra water in the tank, great!
Health risks of drinking lemon water while intermittent fasting
There are also some potential risks that come with regularly drinking lemon water.
Autophagy is a process where your body cleans up old or damaged cells during a fast.
Some science experts have suggested that the taste of lemon could stimulate digestive enzymes that would disrupt the autophagy process.
However, more research is needed before we can confidently draw a conclusion.
The acidity found in lemons has been associated with the erosion of tooth enamel.
To avoid this, alternate lemon water with less-acidic drinks or drink it through a straw to minimize the risk of damage. You gotta look after those teeth!
In some people, the citric acid found in lemons may result in some gastro-related symptoms, including heartburn, acid reflux, and other digestive issues.
Lemon water alternatives
If you’re not a fan of lemon water, or you want to jazz things up even more — we’ve got you covered! There are plenty of alternatives that won’t break your fast.
Made by simply adding a few slices of cucumber to your water, this drink is both refreshing and hydrating.
Grate some fresh ginger root and add to boiling water. Easy!
This drink not only spices things up but also has anti-inflammatory properties shown to potentially soothe digestive issues.
If you prefer mint to ginger, try that instead for a similar anti-inflammatory effect.
If you hanker after a different taste, try adding some fresh fruit to your water, like strawberries, limes, raspberries, or watermelon.
To really make this pop, throw in some herbs like basil or thyme. No need to worry about sugars, as only the essence gets released.
On a cold day, you need a warm drink. Herbal tea is a great go-to here, so if you love to unwind with a cup of peppermint tea or are curious as to whether ginseng can boost your energy, try them during a fast!
What can you drink while intermittent fasting?
Given that hydration is so crucial when intermittent fasting — did we mention that already? [winks] — it’s important to know where you stand with all the drinks you might choose.
Let’s put some meat on the bones of that perennial intermittent fasting question, “what can you drink while fasting?”
Whether it’s plain or sparkling, mineral water is a top choice. It’s refreshing and hydrating, plus it contains minerals like magnesium, potassium, and calcium that keep your bones and blood pressure happy.
And nope, those minerals will not break your fast! Minerals are calorie-free.
Coffee lovers, ascend!
Black, sugar-free coffee is good to go during your fasting window (remember to switch to decaf after lunch or if you’re sensitive to caffeine). Coffee could actually help suppress your appetite and increase your energy levels.
If you can’t drink it black, no worries. There’s room for one cup of coffee with a couple tablespoons of milk during a fast. Just leave the sugar and cream for when your fast is finished.
Like coffee, tea is fair game when fasting, and you’ll never be short on choice! The list of teas you could try is almost endless (we’ve suggested a few of the best here).
Green tea in particular could be valuable en route to your goals. It contains both caffeine and a polyphenol called EGCG, which have been linked to weight loss and weight maintenance. That said, these benefits were seen on high doses taken via supplementation, so you may need to drink several cups a day to see any benefits.
What can’t you drink while fasting?
Up next, some drinks to avoid during your fast.
Does lemon juice break a fast? No. But only because we add it to water and dilute the heck out of it. If it were possible to drink a glass of the stuff (please don’t try it!), it would break your fast.
So other juices — those you can drink neat — will break your fast due to their calorie content.
Soda and soft drinks
They’re full of sugar and full of calories. Fast-breakers, the lot of them. Unless they’re calorie-free, of course! A couple of diet sodas per fasting window is A-OK.
Keep it to 1–2 tablespoons per fast, and you’re golden. If you like to drink it by the glass, hold off till your eating window opens.
Vodka might be clear, but it’s still calorific. The same goes for gin, whiskey, rum, beer, and every other alcoholic drink you can think of.
Drinking alcohol can also dehydrate you, which is the exact opposite of what we want when fasting. If you’re out partying while fasting, stick a cocktail umbrella in a sparkling water instead. (Especially if you’re planning to bust a move on the dance floor.)
Some say bone broth while fasting is OK. Others say to avoid it.
We’re on Team Avoid — bone broth while fasting gets the thumbs down from us. While it does contain some neat nutrients like protein and fat, those nutrients will break your fast.
SIMPLE’s expert opinion and final thoughts
Drinking water is an essential part of any fast, but it can get a little repetitive and dull after a while, and that can make sticking with intermittent fasting harder.
But a few drops of zesty lemon can make it easier.
Not only will lemon juice in water not break a fast, it also contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can help improve your health.
If lemons don’t bring you joy, consider using other fruits and vegetables to make water more palatable and keep you motivated.
If you’re excited to try intermittent fasting, but you don’t want to go at it alone, take our SIMPLE quiz. With our app, you’ll always have a friendly fasting assistant in your pocket to help you stay motivated, side-step any intermittent fasting mistakes, and reach your goals faster.
Frequently asked questions about lemon water and intermittent fasting
Does a slice of lemon break a fast?
A slice of lemon does not break a fast because it contains very few calories.
If you’re drinking pre-made lemon water, it may contain added sugars. If it does, that will break your fast. Always check the label of products or, better yet, make your own.
Can I put lemon in my tea while fasting?
You can put a few slices of lemon or freshly squeezed lemon juice in your tea while fasting. Water with lemon does not break a fast, whether it’s hot or cold! (Lemon goes particularly well with Earl Grey, so we hear.)
Does lemon water spike insulin?
Lemon water does not spike insulin.
It doesn’t contain enough calories or carbs to do so.
Does lemon water affect fasting blood sugar?
Lemon water does not affect fasting blood sugar levels as, again, it contains very few calories and nutrients.
Does lemon juice affect autophagy?
Autophagy is a process where the body breaks down and recycles old or damaged cells. Some studies suggest certain nutrients like amino acids may affect autophagy.
However, there are not enough studies to know whether lemons impact autophagy. So, if that’s a specific goal of yours, stick to plain water.
Can I drink honey lemon water during intermittent fasting?
You can’t drink honey lemon water during intermittent fasting. Not during your fasting window, anyway, because honey contains calories, which will break your fast.
Feel free to enjoy this during your eating window though! If you want to add some sweetness to your lemon water during your fast, consider using a natural calorie-free sweetener like stevia or monk fruit instead.
Does intermittent fasting slow metabolism?
According to research, intermittent fasting does not slow metabolism.
If you’re feeling confused as to why intermittent fasting is not working for you, it’s most likely not because your metabolism has slowed down. Check in with your nutrition choices, your sleep, activity levels, and stress and see what you can improve.
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