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 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 anytime 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. 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. (21) 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 make actually enhance 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.
Tea and Intermittent Fasting: The Perfect Match
If you’re trying to stick to a new intermittent fasting plan, you’re going to want to see what we’ve learned about tea. Not only can tea make your fasting experience more enjoyable and manageable, but it will actually make your intermittent fasting more effective.
Considered to be a health elixir in many ancient cultures, this simple drink is a powerhouse enhancer for your intermittent fasting lifestyle. You know all those incredible proven benefits you can get from intermittent fasting? Well, drinking the right kind kind of tea will actually increase the health benefits you experience.
Read on to discover the documented benefits that drinking tea can unlock for you, which teas you should be drinking, and also how much. Cheers!
How Tea Enhances the Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
1. Dramatically reduces hunger pangs
Especially in the first couple of weeks of intermittent fasting, it can be very normal to experience hunger pangs. Please know, this is NOT because intermittent fasting causes any kind of starvation.
Those hunger pangs are simply a function of the fact that your system is spoiled and used to being fed every few hours. But remember, your body doesn’t actually move from the “fed” state to the “fasted” state until approximately 4 hours after you’ve had your last meal. You don’t want to give up on one of the most potentially beneficial eating plans around just because of a growling tummy, right?
Tea to the rescue! It’s not just something to fill your belly. Green tea catechins have been proven to lower your ghrelin levels.(22) What’s ghrelin, you ask? Ghrelin is a hormone known as the “hunger hormone,” and it is the primary culprit of those annoying hunger pangs. For many of us, lifestyle, environmental and biological stressors can lead to a hormone imbalance which will actually set off hunger pangs that have nothing to do with a true need to eat.
Normalizing your ghrelin levels will alleviate this problem and help you adapt to intermittent fasting with minimal discomfort. Now that’s a fast fix!
2. Aids in weight loss
Green tea in particular has been proven time and time again to be a successful aid in reducing body fat and LDL cholesterol.(23)(24) This goes above and beyond mere weight loss — these are true long-term health benefits!
The catechins in green tea seem to be particularly effective in burning visceral abdominal fat, which is the most unhealthy (and potentially dangerous!) fat that your body stores. In fact, studies have shown that green tea can aid in reducing waist size without changing body weight. (25)
The other way tea can aid weight loss is because caffeine has actually been proven to increase your body’s production of ketones.(26) This means you’ll slide into a fat-burning mode even sooner.
3. Improves Autophagy (Promotes Anti-Aging)
Auto what? Your body relies on a process called “autophagy” to clear out old and damaged tissues and cells. You can think of it as housecleaning for your body on a cellular level. Autophagy is necessary to maintain muscle mass, reduce the progression of age-related diseases, and maintain mental health and function.
When you fast and give your body a break from the constant effort of digesting food, it is able to focus more energy on the repair functions of autophagy. (27) Even better, drinking tea has been found to enhance the rate of autophagy in your body. This enhanced autophagy is the scientific reason behind why both tea and intermittent fasting have been linked to anti-aging.
4. Boosts detoxification
What makes tea such a unique substance is the polyphenols contained in tea leaves. Polyphenols are antioxidants that battle free radicals found in your body and have powerful detoxification properties. Ingesting polyphenols can help you experience improved gut health and digestion, healthier skin, sustained energy, improved mental clarity, a stronger immune system and reduced stress.
Tea is hands-down the richest source of polyphenols found in nature, but you do need to make sure you are getting them in sufficient quantity to experience these detoxification benefits.
Teas That Enhance Intermittent Fasting
The word “tea” often gets thrown around in a general sense when talking about healthy drinks. But have you ever found yourself staring down the tea selection at your local coffee shop or grocery store aisle and feeling overwhelmed? Us too! Especially if you’re new to tea-drinking, it can be daunting to figure out which type of tea you should choose! We want to help you break it down by highlighting the four types of tea which can be most beneficial to use as intermittent fasting tea.
Did you know that green tea is considered to be the healthiest drink in the world, right after water? It’s true!
As mentioned above, the catechins in green tea are proven to aid in reduction of body fat and LDL cholesterol. And since green tea contains not only these amazing catechins, but also caffeine, these two elements work together to boost your metabolic rate and ability to burn fat.
In fact, one study showed that your daily calorie expenditure could increase by up to 4% by drinking green tea. (28) When that increase is happening on a daily basis, it makes more of a difference than you’d think!
The green tea catechins are also potent antioxidants, which are thought to protect the body from cellular damage and inflammation. And don’t forget what we mentioned above about green tea affecting your ghrelin levels, so you’ll definitely want to grab a cup anytime you’re struggling with hunger pangs or cravings.
Fun fact: black tea and green tea are derived from the exact same plant! The only difference is in how the tea leaves are processed. Black tea leaves are fermented, while green tea leaves are not.
While green tea has continually claimed all the attention of the health world, black tea is finally starting to get the recognition it is due, particularly because of its fermented properties. Most people don’t realize that black tea is a very potent prebiotic, excellent for promoting balanced gut health!
The fermentation process means that black tea provides slightly less antioxidants than green tea, but it also means that black tea provides more caffeine.
This might make black tea a great choice for you, because caffeine can not only help give you energy if fasting is causing you to lag, but it also has been shown to enhance your ability to switch to fat-burning (ketosis) and increase the rate of autophagy in your body.
The compounds found in black tea have been linked to increased heart health, plus improved digestion and detoxification, and even reduced stress levels. Black tea contains something called methyl xanthine, which boosts your serotonin levels. Increased serotonin leads to improved mood and relaxation.
So if you happen to find yourself stressed about your new intermittent fasting regimen, or maybe a bit grumpy during the hours you can’t eat (it’s okay, we won’t tell!), black tea might be your new best friend.
A tea with added ginger is an excellent option while fasting. Ginger is well known for its ability to soothe an upset stomach, but drinking it can actually reduce hunger pangs and cravings. Ginger also has the added benefits of improving your digestion and boosting your immune system. So you can be less hungry and stay healthier too!
Known to be a potent detoxification elixir, rooibos tea is an excellent herbal option, for when you don’t want the caffeine boost that green and black teas will give you. Legend has it that Cleopatra drank rooibos tea regularly for clear and glowing skin. She was on to something, because rooibos does indeed help the body fight off toxins and improve circulation.
Even better, rooibos also supports your liver in processing fats and clearing them from the body. One study showed that rooibos caused existing fat to be metabolized faster and prevented new fat cells from forming.(29) No wonder rooibos tea is considered to be a powerful addition to an intermittent fasting plan!
Fasting and Autophagy
Autophagy is how your body detoxifies and repairs itself. And considering it plays a major role in anti-aging, we wanted to share a little more about this fascinating cellular process, including what health benefits you can expect and also how to turn it on!
Benefits of Autophagy
Autophagy is sort of like cell recycling. We all know that recycling is good for the planet, but what can this cellular recycling do for our bodies? For starters:
Might help you live longer
Protects your brain
Helps fight disease
Full disclosure, the function of autophagy was only discovered in the past few decades, so we’re still learning about all of its implications. Many more long-term studies on humans are required before we know more, but for now, scientists who have been studying autophagy are referring to it as having a “key role in preventing diseases such as cancer, neurodegeneration, cardiomyopathy, diabetes, liver disease, autoimmune diseases and infections.” (34) Here’s more about what we know:
1. Might help you live longer
It’s virtually impossible to prove that any one thing can help every person live a longer life. All we can do is look at the science and decide what might work for us. So consider these facts: One of the primary reasons our bodies age is because of the accumulation of damaged parts of our cells. The more damaged cells we have, the faster we age.
Now, autophagy clears out these damaged cellular components, which means that increasing autophagy can help slow down the aging process.(35) And this is more than just a theory — scientific studies show that increasing autophagy can extend the lifespan of several species of animals.(36)
Is this a fountain of youth for humans? The evidence isn’t quite so black and white, but we do know that increased autophagy can reduce your risk of contracting disease, and that’s definitely a great way to live longer!
2. Protects your brain
The health of your brain cells can be very dependent on autophagy. Scientists have learned that many neurodegenerative disorders are caused by deformed proteins accumulating around the neurons of the brain.(37) This causes death of brain cells which leads to a gradual loss of mental functioning. Yikes!
But if autophagy is running at a normal or increased rate, these problematic proteins are more likely to get cleared out so that they can’t accumulate and wreak havoc on your neurons.(38)
3. Reduces inflammation
We typically associate inflammation with something unhealthy, right? Like putting too much strain on our muscles can make them inflamed, or eating a poor diet can cause our digestive tract to flare up. The truth is that even a superhumanly healthy person will eventually experience inflammation as part of aging.
Here’s the unfair reality: no matter how healthy your lifestyle, the world exposes you to toxins that eventually cause a buildup of free radicals in your body. These free radicals cause cell damage, and this happens at an increased rate as we get older. The cell damage is what causes inflammation in our bodies, and that inflammation can put you at greater risk for contracting disease.
The scary part is you might not even realize you’re suffering from inflammation! It’s not always as obvious as being sick. Do you battle regular headaches or just feel tired all the time? Maybe it’s remarkably difficult for you to lose weight? Inflammation could be the culprit.
Since cell damage is what leads to inflammation, getting rid of damaged cells is the key. And that is precisely what autophagy does. Autophagy is essentially the general housekeeping of your cells, sweeping away any of their damaged organelles. (39)
4. Helps Fight Disease
Autophagy helps keep you illness-free on two fronts: 1) by battling pathogens in your body and 2) by boosting your immune system so you don’t catch as many illnesses to begin with.
When you have an infection, there is a certain amount of toxins that build up within your cells. Autophagy is responsible for clearing these out. (40) This is why it’s so important that autophagy is working properly — the faster these toxins get out, the faster your recovery!
Autophagy is also particularly important to battling infectious disease. There are nasty little microbes that find their way into your cells when you contract an infectious disease. Studies have shown that autophagy can clear these microbes right out, including those associated with tuberculosis, streptococcus and HIV. (41)(42)(43)
How to Boost Autophagy
If you’d like to avail yourself of any of those benefits above, you might be wondering just how you can increase your body’s own rate of autophagy. That’s what we wanted to know, and we’ve learned that there are three main ways to boost autophagy: 1) fasting 2) exercising and 3) sleeping.
1. Intermittent Fasting
One of the reasons that intermittent fasting has become so popular is because it has been linked to anti-aging benefits. And, you guessed it, the reason intermittent fasting diets can claim to slow aging is because of autophagy.
Studies have demonstrated that the restricted eating schedules of intermittent fasting do indeed activate autophagy in your body. (44) That’s because it creates a condition of stress on your cells.
Here’s how it works: while you’re in the fasting period of your eating schedule, your cells no longer have a ready supply of nutrients coming to them. In order to make sure your cells can keep functioning without this nutrient supply, your body turns to autophagy to increase the recycling of the useful parts of your cells. (45)
Another very productive way to harness the benefits of autophagy is through exercise. You see, when you stress your lungs, muscles and cells through exercise, your body automatically fires up the autophagy process to help your cells recover from that stress. (46)
Do you remember learning that strength training actually creates little tears in your muscles, and that’s how you get stronger? Well, in order to heal those little tears in your muscle fibers, your body relies on autophagy. So essentially, exercise helps your cells detox.
Okay, so technically sleeping is not putting stress on the body. However, studies have shown that getting proper sleep is absolutely critical to autophagy. You know how the circadian rhythm affects your sleep cycle? Well it also affects your autophagy cycle. If you’re skimping on sleep, your body will not cycle through autophagy as fully as it is meant to do. (47)
Frequently Asked Fasting Questions
If you’re still not sure this intermittent fasting thing is for you, we want to take a minute and answer the most common concerns.
How can an eating schedule have so many benefits?
Turns out, the time we spend eating can be just as important to our health as the foods we are eating. Here’s why: at any point in time, your body is either “fed” or “fasted.” While you might assume that your “fed” time only includes the time spent eating, it actually refers to the approximately 4-hour period of time in which your body is digesting and absorbing the food you’ve eaten.
So let’s say you finish eating dinner at 6pm. Your body actually remains in a fed state until approximately 10pm. Only then does your body enter the fasted state. Assuming, of course, you haven’t had any nighttime snacks after dinner!
Why should you care about whether or not you’re in a fasted state? Because that is where all the good stuff happens. Not only does your body shift to burning stored fat once it enters the fasted state, but a number of other metabolic changes happen here that are responsible for the wide array of health benefits described above.(53)
Getting into the fasted state is actually pretty rare for most of us. That’s why the sole purpose of intermittent fasting is to allow your body to get into a fasted state and stay there for a couple hours.
So when should I eat?
Hands down the most popular intermittent fasting plan is called the 16:8. It means you fast for 16 hours and eat during the remaining 8 hours of your day.
The best part is that you can start your 8-hour window anytime you want. For example, you can try skipping breakfast and only eating lunch and dinner. Need your breakfast? No problem, just skip your dinner instead. Experiment with different windows until you figure out what works well for your lifestyle and personality, and what makes you feel physically at your best.
What should I eat?
Because intermittent fasting plans are purely concerned with WHEN you eat, it’s easy to get confused about WHAT you should be eating during your eating window. Technically, intermittent fasting has no rules about this. You’ll find many intermittent fasting guides that tell you to eat whatever you want.
That being said, it’s common sense that the benefits you reap from fasting will be limited by your food choices while eating.
If you happen to be following a Ketogenic (“Keto”) diet or have been considering one, it actually complements intermittent fasting very well. You can read more about combining the two above.
What should I drink?
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.
Further above, we’ve got a quick-start guide to the drinks that can help your fasting journey.
Won’t I be tired while fasting?
This super common concern about fasting has actually been disproven time and time again. Because intermittent fasting provides your body with more breaks from the digestive process, it will actually give you more energy and boost your productivity.
And if you’re worried that you won’t be able to keep up your regular fitness routine while fasting, not to fear. Studies show that exercising while following an intermittent fasting plan can actually be even more beneficial than just exercise alone.(54)
Isn’t fasting bad for my metabolism?
Quite the opposite! Long-term starvation diets can certainly harm your metabolism, but an intermittent fasting schedule has actually been proven to boost the metabolism (55). And while many weight loss programs result in loss of lean muscle mass, intermittent fasting only targets your stored fat, so you get to preserve all your muscle tissue, which is so critical in keeping your metabolism humming along (56).
I’m terrible at diets, how do I stick through them?
You’re not alone. But people who try intermittent fasting overwhelmingly discover that it is surprisingly easy to implement. The main reason diets fail is because behavior change is hard. But with this, there’s only one rule to follow, and there’s zero advance planning.
In other words, it’s simple enough that you’ll actually be able to keep it up! There’s even scientific research indicating that “subjects quickly adapt” to an intermittent fasting plan, making it a highly effective technique (57).
When can I expect to see results?
As with any diet, results certainly vary. However, in most cases you might have a one to two-week adjustment period where you experience lethargy or hunger cravings. We highly recommend drinking tea to help you out, as it will quell your cravings, boost your energy, and assist in detoxification.
And despite this adjustment period, most people will lose one or two pounds in their first week and will subsequently start to see their energy levels and mental alertness rise while their cravings and excess fat disappear.
Is intermittent fasting really for everyone?
If you are a woman, it’s possible that intermittent fasting may affect you differently. In general, it seems that women tend to respond better to using a schedule that has a wider eating window. For example, some women have noticed increased health benefits by using a 10-hour eating window with a 14-hour fast, instead of the 16:8 plan popularized by male bodybuilders. You can read more in-depth information about intermittent fasting for women above.
As with any diet or exercise plan, we recommend trying different options and listening to your body to see what works best for YOU. There’s a fantastic all-female intermittent fasting Facebook group here for you to check out if you’d like to connect with other women about their experiences.
Also, if you are diabetic, hypoglycemic, have any issues with blood sugar regulation, are pregnant or breast-feeding, or have a history of disordered eating, intermittent fasting may not be for you. You should talk to your doctor before making changes to your eating schedule.