Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?

By Ashley LoseMay 28th 2021

If you find yourself waking up and needing a cup of coffee right away to jolt your brain and get your day started, you’re not the only one. Caffeine is the heart of what makes good coffee – it stimulates our brain, helps us feel alert and energetic.1 It increases our brain activity and elevates signals in our nervous system.2 It’s the secret potion to get us out of our groggy slumber and fill us with cortisol and adrenaline to make us feel vibrant.3 For all these reasons and more, you’ve probably become addicted to having your coffee in the mornings. You might even find that you can’t function very well without it. Now, let’s take a critical look at how the consumption of coffee may affect you if you’re also fasting.

Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?

There are many different types of fasting methods – the 16:8 method, alternate-day fasting, the warrior diet, the 5:2 fast, eat-stop-eat diet, or the spontaneously skipping meals method. Some of these fasting strategies ask that you go for hours or days without food or drink, while others require you abstain from a specific food item for a short period. The key to many of these diets is to restrict unnecessary calorie consumption and get your body to burn fat quickly. So where does coffee fit into the equation?

Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?

Does Coffee Break Your Fast?

Coffee, following water, is the most popular beverage in the United States and the number one source of caffeine consumption in adults.4 In the United States alone, more than 90 percent of adults drink coffee regularly averaging about 4 cups of caffeine a day. That’s like drinking 5 cans of soft drinks.5 As we mentioned above, the main ingredient in coffee is caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant and can be found in the leaves and fruits of some plants,6 in black and green teas, soft drinks, chocolate, and energy drinks.7 In small doses, this will not break your fast. Now that’s assuming you’re just drinking coffee – no cream or sugar added. 

Most fasting techniques are based on time-restricted feeding. That means that you can consume calories from food or drinking within a certain amount of time each day. One cup of black coffee contains about 3 calories with very small quantities of micronutrients.8 For most people, this is not to commence any metabolic change that would break a fast.9,10 Some people even say that drinking coffee during a fasting period helps suppress their appetites and stay true to the fast. However, there is no significant evidence to back this.11 Altogether, it’s totally fine to drink coffee while you’re fasting as long as you’re not adding any extra ingredients into the mix like cream and sugar.

Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?

Drink coffee without the additives

Adding ingredients like milk, flavored creams, and sugars to your coffee could sabotage your fast and the benefits you’re aiming to achieve. While many popular blogs and health sites say that it’s perfectly fine to have coffee, cream, and sugar as long as you keep in between 50-75 calories during the fasting window, there is no scientific evidence of these claims. What we do know is that during a fast, most people have intentions of losing weight, and sweeteners come with lots of calories that may have the opposite effect on your body. Studies show that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day. That’s about 350 calories you’re likely to consume if you had several cups of coffee during the day with added sugars12 For this reason, cappuccinos, lattes, and other high-calorie, flavored coffee should also be avoided during your fast. 

Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?

Risk of coffee consumption

A single cup of coffee (8 oz) contains about 96 mg of caffeine.13 While one cup isn’t likely to cause harm in a healthy person, consuming too much coffee can have side effects including sleep deprivation,14 heart palpitations for people with underlying health conditions,15 and spikes in blood pressure for non-habitual coffee drinkers.16,17

Coffee consumption has also been linked to inducing anxiety disorders and should be avoided if you have a history of depression, anxiety, or sleep disorders.18, 19 

Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?

Coffee may boost the benefits of fasting

On the other hand, fasting has been shown through numerous studies to improve metabolism and brain health.20,21,22 Recent studies show that coffee shares many of those same benefits. One of the root causes of many illnesses in the body is chronic inflammation, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.23,24  Coffee, however, decreases your risk of metabolic syndrome – an inflammatory condition that can lead to excess body fat, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and high blood sugar levels.25,26 Coffee could actually boost your metabolism rate and help you burn fat. What’s more, other studies have shown coffee to play a significant role in decreasing the risk of type II diabetes.27

Can You Drink Coffee While Fasting?

Conclusion

There are pros and cons to every food and drink that you put into your body. Coffee is not bad. Caffeine is not bad. Fasting is not bad in itself. As long as you do it all in moderation. It’s also critical to have a discussion with your doctor or dietician before committing to any low-calorie diet or consuming caffeine if you are pregnant, have underlying heart conditions, or a history of mental illness. If you are not currently a coffee drinker, you do not need to add coffee to your diet. It should be noted that caffeine does have addictive properties that can lead to caffeine dependency.28 If you’ve been drinking coffee, just be mindful of how much you’re consuming. A good indicator of too much caffeine consumption is if you’re experiencing jitters, anxiety, or having trouble sleeping. As cliche as it may sound, listen to your body. If you feel weak and tired, it might be a sign that your body needs food. If you feel thirsty, you’re probably already dehydrated. When you need sleep, take a nap. You know your body best and you do not want to risk your health and longevity by taking unnecessary risks like fasting for too long, overconsuming caffeine, and not being transparent with your doctor or dietician about the nutritional decision you’re making. 

Sources:

  1. BetterHealth Channel. (2020, March). Caffeine. Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/caffeine#

  1. BetterHealth Channel. (2020, March). Caffeine. Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/caffeine#

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  1. O'Keefe, J. H., Bhatti, S. K., Patil, H. R., DiNicolantonio, J. J., Lucan, S. C., & Lavie, C. J. (2013). Effects of habitual coffee consumption on cardiometabolic disease, cardiovascular health, and all-cause mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(12), 1043–1051. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2013.06.035

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  1. BetterHealth Channel. (2020, March). Caffeine. Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/caffeine#

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  1. U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2020, October 30). Coffee, brewed. FoodData Central. Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1104137/nutrients

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  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. (n.d.). Added Sugar in the Diet. The Nutrition Source. Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/#:~:text=4%20grams%20of%20sugar%20%3D%201,to%20an%20extra%20350%20calories

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  1. Clark, I., & Landolt, H. P. (2017). Coffee, caffeine, and sleep: A systematic review of epidemiological studies and randomized controlled trials. Sleep medicine reviews, 31, 70–78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2016.01.006

  1. University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. (2016, January). Understanding Heart Palpitations. Health Topics. Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://uihc.org/health-topics/understanding-heart-palpitations#:~:text=Caffeine%2Drelated%20palpitations%20can%20come,been%20linked%20to%20heart%20palpitations.

  1. Geleijnse J. M. (2008). Habitual coffee consumption and blood pressure: an epidemiological perspective. Vascular health and risk management, 4(5), 963–970. https://doi.org/10.2147/vhrm.s3055

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  1. Mattson, M. P., Moehl, K., Ghena, N., Schmaedick, M., & Cheng, A. (2018). Intermittent metabolic switching, neuroplasticity and brain health. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 19(2), 63–80. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn.2017.156

  1. Hunter P. (2012). The inflammation theory of disease. The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment. EMBO reports, 13(11), 968–970. https://doi.org/10.1038/embor.2012.142

  1. Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Understanding acute and chronic inflammation. Retrieved January 14, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-acute-and-chronic-inflammation

  1. Grosso, G., Stepaniak, U., Micek, A., Topor-Mądry, R., Pikhart, H., Szafraniec, K., & Pająk, A. (2015). Association of daily coffee and tea consumption and metabolic syndrome: results from the Polish arm of the HAPIEE study. European journal of nutrition, 54(7), 1129–1137. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-014-0789-6

  1. Suliga, E., Kozieł, D., Cieśla, E., Rębak, D., & Głuszek, S. (2017). Coffee consumption and the occurrence and intensity of metabolic syndrome: a cross-sectional study. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 68(4), 507–513. https://doi.org/10.1080/09637486.2016.1256381

  1. Carlström, M., & Larsson, S. C. (2018). Coffee consumption and reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Nutrition reviews, 76(6), 395–417. https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuy014

  1. Addicott M. A. (2014). Caffeine Use Disorder: A Review of the Evidence and Future Implications. Current addiction reports, 1(3), 186–192. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40429-014-0024-9

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