When you dive into the world of intermittent fasting, you’ll find endless streams of information on what, how and when you should eat. What you won’t find is a lot of information on what to drink while fasting, and why what you choose to sip on is so significant.
Why Is What You Do (or Don’t) Drink So Important?
As we’ve discussed in other articles, hydration is vital. It’s easy — and also quite common — to become mildly dehydrated when fasting. It’s surprisingly easy to simply forget to drink while you’re in the fasting part of your cycle or to mistake thirst for hunger and ignore it. And though you may not realize it, a large part of your fluid intake (as much as 20%) actually comes from the food you eat.
During the fasting part of your schedule, you don’t have access to this source of hydration. This makes monitoring your thirst and consciously choosing to drink essential to staying properly hydrated. However, hydration isn’t the only thing to keep in mind when choosing what to drink while fasting. Many drinks can break your fast. And some drinks — especially those with sugar or carbs — provoke the insulin response and cause your body to secrete the hormone insulin, which can undo the benefits of intermittent fasting.
Let’s take a look at just what you can drink during fasting, and what you should avoid.
What Can I Drink During Intermittent Fasting?
The primary thing to keep in mind when choosing what to drink during fasting periods is calories. Drinks with a calorie count higher than the single digits can break your fast and undo all your effort. And even some non-caloric drinks, such as diet sodas or flavored waters — virtually anything containing artificial sweeteners — can provoke the insulin response and interfere with your fast. So what can you drink?
It’s hard to stress enough that drinking water should be a priority. Not only does water keep you hydrated, it may even help you lose weight. The journal Frontiers in Nutrition suggests that increased hydration can rev up your metabolism and boost your body’s ability to burn fat. So include plenty of water during your fasting period. Infuse it with mint or even cucumber for a more refreshing drink.
However, all water is not created equal. Many brands of bottled water have their minerals removed through reverse osmosis or other processes, leaving you with demineralized water. Since water is a significant source of some trace minerals, particularly magnesium, there are concerns that this may contribute to health problems such as lower bone density down the line.
In the short term, relying on demineralized bottled water can result in mineral deficiencies and contribute to symptoms such as headaches.
So choose your water carefully if you drink bottled. Avoid distilled water, and look for brands that have not been purified using reverse osmosis or ones that have been remineralized.
It’s hard to go wrong with tea while you’re fasting. Black, green, oolong, lapsang souchong, even herbal teas — they’re all good. Actual tea (as opposed to herbal tisanes), may improve the effectiveness of your fasting plan by supporting gut health, and there’s some evidence that green tea, in particular, may increase your feelings of fullness and help with weight loss.
Just make sure you drink your tea plain, without sugar or cream (or artificial sweeteners) as these can break your fast.
Coffee too can be a good choice for some people, though others may find the effects of caffeine on an empty stomach are too much. And if you’re using intermittent fasting in conjunction with a keto diet, coffee may make your regimen more effective; studies suggest that caffeine supports ketone production.
Just monitor your response to the caffeine and try decaf if the side effects are a problem. And as with tea, avoid creamers or sweeteners and keep your java black.
Apple cider vinegar
If you’re getting hungry during your fasting hours, or if you find yourself having food cravings, try a shot of apple cider vinegar.
We know. You’re probably thinking, “Eew! I couldn’t drink that!” But don’t worry. We’re not asking you to drink it straight from the bottle; instead, try a couple of tablespoons diluted in a glass of water. Many people find that this helps reduce food cravings and damp down hunger pangs. It also supports healthy blood sugar, improves digestion and may make your fasting plan more productive.
What Drinks Should I Avoid While Fasting?
During your eating window, there are few limits on what you can or can’t drink. Of course, avoiding sugary drinks is always a smart idea health-wise, especially if you’re doing intermittent fasting with an eye to weight loss, but there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy the occasional soda or glass of juice or even a milkshake during your eating window. During your fasting hours, however, it’s another story.
Any drink with more than a single-digit calorie count is a no-no, and sodas top the list. But diet sodas, in spite of their no-cal or low-cal sales pitch, can also spike your insulin levels and wreak havoc on your fasting plans. Below are some beverages which might sound OK, but which you just shouldn’t drink during your fasting hours.
It contains no calories, sugar or carbs, but diet soda can raise your blood sugar (negating the effect of fasting), cause your body to release insulin, and make you crave sugar. Various studies also suggest that diet soda can trigger weight gain, even if you eat the same number of calories. And diet soda affects the makeup of your gut bacteria, increasing the numbers of “bad” bacteria while decreasing the “good” ones.
With all its touted health benefits, you might think coconut water a good thing to drink when you’re fasting — but it’s not. Don’t let the “water” part mislead you; coconut water isn’t that different from coconut milk when it comes to calories and carbs, and drinking it will break your fast. If you’re going to drink coconut water, save it for your eating window.
Alcohol is an absolute no-no when fasting. Not only will it break your fast thanks to its calorie count, but it’s also dehydrating. And if you’re drinking when in a fasted state, the alcohol will hit your bloodstream in record time, making you more likely to get intoxicated and be hungover the next day.
Many juices are even higher in sugar than soda, and drinking juice will definitely break your fast. You wouldn’t drink a can of soda during your fasting hours, nor would you eat a candy bar. Drinking a glass of juice will have the same effect.
The two most crucial things to remember when it comes to what to drink while you’re fasting are to make sure you drink enough and to avoid drinks that contain calories.
Stick to unsweetened tea, herbal infusions, and coffee (if the caffeine doesn’t bother you), and drink plenty of water. Avoid flavored waters, as they often contain artificial sweeteners, and liven up your H2O with your own flavorings.
If plain coffee and tea are too boring for you, try livening them up with a pinch of cinnamon or other spice. Experiment. But save the caloric drinks for your eating window.
To learn what to eat when fasting, what plan to choose and how to do IF properly please visit our Intermittent Fasting Guide.