Intermittent fasting makes it possible to lose weight, boost your brain, improve heart health, enhance your energy and build your immune system, all without counting calories or hours of preparation. (1) No wonder so many people have been trying (and raving about) it!
Despite what it might sound like, intermittent fasting is NOT about starving yourself. So what exactly can you consume while following an intermittent fasting plan? And are there drinks that can make it easier or more effective? We wanted to get to the bottom of that question, and here’s what we discovered.
Feeding vs. Fasting
Intermittent fasting breaks your day into two parts:
- Eating (feeding), and
- Not eating (fasting)
There are entirely different guidelines for what you can eat and drink, depending on whether you’re in your eating window or fasting window. Before we get into those, let’s refresh ourselves on how the schedule works.
There are actually a variety of intermittent fasting schedules you can follow. We have a handy guide to fasting schedules for you to check out here. The most common is the 16/8 plan, which means you eat for 8 hours and fast for 16 hours. You can also choose to do shorter or longer eating windows, or maybe opt for alternate-day fasting. If you’re new to this way of eating and need help getting started, definitely check out our Beginner’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting.
Can I Eat Or Drink During My Fasting Window?
During your fasting window, you need to refrain from consuming any food or beverages that contain calories. So….. no food. But you have several beverage options, and these are important because it is critical to keep yourself hydrated while fasting. Plus, there are certain drinks which can even help enhance the benefits of your intermittent fasting plan. Sweet!
Water is always a great choice, all day long, every day. It can be still or sparkling, whatever you enjoy. You can also add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your water, or infuse a pitcher of water with cucumber or orange slices. But make sure you stay away from any artificially-sweetened water enhancers (like Crystal Light). The artificial sweetener will wreak havoc on your insulin levels, which defeats the entire purpose of fasting!
Technically, black coffee is a calorie-free beverage, and many people drink it during fasting with no adverse effects. There are some people who experience a racing heart or upset stomach if they use coffee during a fast, so monitor your own experience. You can drink caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, but any sweetener or milk is prohibited. Spices like cinnamon are totally fine!
Bonus: black coffee might actually enhance some of the benefits of intermittent fasting. This study demonstrated that taking in caffeine can increase ketone production, which means you’re more likely to slide into fat-burning mode even faster. Coffee has also been shown to improve your insulin sensitivity over the long term, which means more stable blood sugar.
A bone or vegetable broth is recommended for any time you decide to fast for 24 hours. Beware of canned broths or bouillon cubes, as these have tons of artificial flavors and preservatives that will counteract the effects of your fast. A good homemade broth, or one made by a trusted source, is the way to go.
Tea just might be the secret weapon that not only makes your fasting plan easier but also more successful. Read our primer on how to use tea to enhance your intermittent fasting plan.
All types of tea are great to drink during a fast, including green, black, oolong and herbal. But green tea, in particular, has been proven to help suppress appetite and enhance weight loss. (2) And tea, in general, boosts the effectiveness of intermittent fasting by promoting gut health, probiotic balance, and cellular detoxification.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Drinking apple cider vinegar has numerous health benefits, and you can definitely continue drinking it while intermittent fasting. And since apple cider vinegar helps to regulate your blood sugar and improve your digestion, it actually enhances the effects of your intermittent fasting plan.
6. Drinks to Avoid
There are a few beverages that you might not realize are capable of breaking your fast. That just means that if you consume these, you will knock your body out of the fat-burning mode that intermittent fasting put you in: diet soda, coconut water, almond milk, and alcohol!
Even though diet soda technically doesn’t have any calories, the artificial sweetener it contains will spike your insulin levels and wreak havoc with your blood sugar. Same goes for alcohol. And coconut water and almond milk both tend to be very high in sugar. Sugar equals carbs, so as soon as you consume these, you are no longer considered to be fasting.
Combining Intermittent Fasting with a Keto Diet
One of the great things about intermittent fasting is that it is meant to be compatible with any and all dietary preferences or restrictions. Whether you’re following a Keto, Paleo, gluten-free, pescatarian or vegan diet (or no diet at all), you can still adopt the principles of intermittent fasting.
If you’re interested in getting the maximum possible benefits out of intermittent fasting, studies have shown that combining it with a Ketogenic diet can be particularly effective. Not only can intermittent fasting help you get into ketosis more quickly, but combining these two diets can actually make both of them easier to sustain by combating hunger and regulating your blood sugar. You can read more about this here.
Sometimes the transition to fasting can lead to a couple weeks of symptoms like headaches, hunger and muscle cramps. These are pretty normal for your initial adjustment period. We have a few suggestions to help you out in the infographic below.
So many diets fail because they’re too complicated or difficult to follow. The popularity and success of intermittent fasting are attributable to the fact that it is incredibly simple to follow. With these basic guidelines of what you can eat and drink to support your fasting schedule, you should be well on your way to reaping the amazing benefits of intermittent fasting. Good luck!