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 tips on what to drink while you fast, and why what you choose to sip is so essential.
Why Is What You Drink (or Don’t Drink) So Crucial?
Hydration is vital. It’s easy – and common – to become mildly dehydrated when you fast. It’s surprisingly simple to forget to drink while you’re in the fasting part of your cycle, or to mistake thirst for hunger and ignore it. You may not realize it, but a significant part of your fluid intake (as much as 20%) comes from your food.
During your fasting window, you don’t get water from your food. So, you’ll need to monitor your thirst and make a conscious effort to drink. It’s essential for you to remain hydrated. However, hydration isn’t the only thing to keep in mind when you choose what to drink when you fast. Drinks with sugar or carbs provoke an insulin response, which causes your body to secrete the hormone insulin. And insulin can cause you to miss out on the benefits of intermittent fasting.
What Can I Drink During Intermittent Fasting?
When you choose a drink during your fasting window, be aware of calories. Drinks with calories higher than single digits can break your fast and undo your effort. Even some non-caloric drinks, such as diet sodas, flavored waters, or anything containing artificial sweeteners, can provoke the insulin response and interfere with your fast. So what can you drink?
We can’t emphasize how essential drinking water is – it’s one of your top priorities. Water keeps you hydrated, and it can help you lose weight. The journal Frontiers in Nutrition suggests 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, not all water is created equal. Many brands of bottled water have their minerals removed through reverse osmosis or other processes, which leaves you with demineralized water. Water is a significant source of some trace minerals, particularly magnesium.
When you rely on demineralized bottled water, it can cause you to have mineral deficiencies, and contribute to symptoms such as headaches.
So choose your water carefully. If you drink bottled water, avoid distilled water, and look for brands that don’t purify their water with reverse osmosis or remineralize their H20.
Mineral water manufacturers bottle their water at the source, so it contains natural minerals and trace elements you won’t find in distilled or tap water; including magnesium and calcium. The exact mineral composition of water depends on where it comes from. There’s a link between mineral water and many short term and long term health benefits, like improved bone health and reduced blood pressure. We want to note some concerns about bottled water in general because of potential endocrine/hormone disruptors in the plastic. So the choice is yours – but if you’re going for bottled water, we always recommend mineral!
Tea is excellent for your fast. Black, green, oolong, lapsang souchong, even herbal teas — they’re all excellent. Actual tea (as opposed to herbal tisanes), may improve the effectiveness of your fasting plan by supporting your gut health, and there’s some evidence that green tea may increase your feelings of fullness and help with weight loss.
Just make sure you drink your tea without sugar, cream, or artificial sweeteners as these can break your fast.
Coffee has a plethora of health benefits when you drink it in moderation, and it may be a terrific choice for you. Sometimes the effects of caffeine on an empty stomach can be a bit much. But, 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.
Monitor your response to the caffeine and try decaf if the side effects are a challenge for you. Avoid creamers or sweeteners, and keep your java black.
Apple cider vinegar
If you get hungry during your fasting hours, or if you have food cravings, try a shot of apple cider vinegar. You’re probably thinking, “Eew! I can’t drink that!” But don’t worry; You don’t have to drink it straight from the bottle. Try a couple of tablespoons diluted in a glass of water. You may find it reduces your food cravings and helps with hunger pangs.
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, it’s always best to avoid drinks with sugar or artificial sweeteners. If your intermittent fasting goal is to lose weight, there’s no rule that says you can’t enjoy the occasional soda, juice, or even a milkshake during your eating window. During your fasting hours, however, it’s another story.
Steer clear of any drink with more than nine calories. But, don’t be fooled by diet soda, despite their no-cal or low-cal sales pitch, they can spike your insulin levels and wreak havoc on your fasting plans. Below are some beverages which might sound fasting friendly, but it’s best if you don’t drink them.
Diet soda contains no calories, sugar, or carbs, but research suggests common soda ingredients like sucralose and acesulfame-K may raise your insulin levels. It can negate the effect of fasting and cause you to crave sugar. Various studies also suggest that diet soda can trigger weight gain, even if you don’t increase your calories. And diet soda may affect the quality of your gut bacteria, by increasing the numbers of harmful bacteria while decreasing the beneficial kind.
With all its touted health benefits, you might think coconut water is the right choice of beverage when you fast – it’s not. Don’t be misled by the “water” part; coconut water contains simple carbohydrates and drinking it will break your fast. If you’re going to drink coconut water, save it for your eating window.
It’s best to avoid alcohol entirely, but if you are going to imbibe occasionally, it’s best not to drink alcohol during your fast. Alcohol contains calories, so it will break your fast. It will dehydrate you and spike your blood sugar as soon as it hits your bloodstream. If you choose to drink alcohol during your fast, you won’t reap your fasting benefits.
When you eat a piece of fruit, there’s fiber, as well as fruit juice. The fiber slows down the absorption rate of the sugar in the juice. The fiber has been removed from juice, so it will have the same effect on your blood sugar as soda or a candy bar.
What about Milk?
Milk falls into a grey area, and there is much debate about whether it fits into a fast, and it all depends on how much you drink. If you enjoy a splash (1-2 tbsp) of milk in your morning coffee or tea, then it should be low enough in calories and carbs for you to remain in a fasted state. You may even find a splash of milk helps with your initial hunger when you’re new to fasting. But, ¼ cup or more will break your fast. Dairy products contain calories, and naturally occurring sugars/carbohydrates. For example, one cup of milk contains 100 calories and 12g of carbs. Even though there’s protein and fat to slow down the rise in your blood sugar, if you drink milk, it will still trigger an insulin response.
There are two crucial things to remember when it comes to your beverages when you fast; make sure you drink enough liquids, and avoid drinks containing calories.
Stick to unsweetened tea, herbal infusions, and coffee, and drink plenty of water. Avoid flavored waters since they often contain artificial sweeteners; liven up your H2O with your flavorings you add.
If plain coffee and tea don’t satisfy you, try a pinch of cinnamon or other spice. Experiment, but save the caloric drinks for your eating window.