Caffeine and Intermittent Fasting: A Cheat or a Hack?
Intermittent fasting (IF) has gained popularity thanks to health benefits like weight loss, improved metabolism, and increased longevity. But what about caffeine and intermittent fasting? Coffee and tea are popular choices among those practicing intermittent fasting. Many are left wondering whether these beverages will help or hinder their IF practice to get the most out of this practice.
Caffeine is the most widely used substance of all time—and none of us want to give up our morning cup. The good news is that you don’t have to: caffeine and intermittent fasting are a powerful pair. Caffeine can improve your desired results when practicing caloric restriction techniques like intermittent fasting.
The Basics of Caffeine Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting involves restricting food intake for a certain period, usually between 12 and 16 hours, followed by a shorter time window for eating. While fasting, you should only consume water and low-calorie beverages such as coffee or tea.
During the fasting period, your body shifts from using glucose as a primary energy source to using stored fat instead. This process is called ketosis. It helps us lose weight and can promote other health outcomes as well.
When you combine caffeine and intermittent fasting, you amplify the benefits of intermittent fasting—as long as you do it right.
Caffeine and Intermittent Fasting
In most cases, caffeine will not break your fast. In addition, it is known to enhance some of the benefits of IF. But there is a catch: you should stick to black coffee and tea with no added calories from sweeteners or creamers.
Adding calories and sugar to your morning cup of coffee or tea will break your fast, halt or prevent ketosis, and slow your results from intermittent fasting.
However, drinking caffeinated beverages without added calories while fasting presents several benefits, including:
- improved alertness
- lifted mood
- greater cognitive performance
- increased metabolic rate & fat oxidation
- increased weight loss
- suppressed hunger
Keep in mind that everyone has a unique tolerance for caffeine, depending on their physiology and lifestyle. A standard cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine, while a cup of tea contains about 25 mg. Your performance may peak anywhere between 25 mg and 380 mg.
Intermittent Fasting Coffee
While coffee does contain some nutrients such as protein, fat, and trace minerals, coffee contains a negligible number of calories. Most importantly, coffee does not stimulate insulin release (insulin is the primary hormone responsible for breaking down glucose in your bloodstream. It ends ketosis and breaks your fast).
Benefits of Drinking Coffee During Fasting
Because coffee contains caffeine, it provides all the health benefits listed above that are associated with caffeine. Coffee itself also provides additional health benefits.
Antioxidants relieve inflammation. Coffee can help cleanse your system of free radicals, reducing inflammation, preventing chronic illnesses, and increasing longevity.
Increased liver function. Coffee reduces the risk of liver disease and improves liver function, helping you break down bodily toxins.
Lowered risk of diabetes. Coffee consumption has been linked to a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes. Researchers believe coffee preserves the function of beta cells in the pancreas, which produce insulin and regulate blood sugar.
Supports brain function. Some research suggests that coffee can help prevent and treat neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
Improves heart health. Several studies have shown a strong link between coffee consumption and reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
How to Drink Coffee While Fasting
When drinking coffee during a fast, you should always drink it black. If you can’t tolerate black coffee, there are a few options you can try:
- Switch to a light or blonde roast for a less bold taste
- Switch to espresso shots to decrease the volume
- Add a very small amount of unsweetened almond milk
Whether you are fasting or not, it’s best to limit your coffee intake to less than 3-4 cups a day. Too much caffeine can pose negative health consequences.
Drinking coffee too close to the end of the day can also keep you up at night, disrupting your sleep cycles and complicating your intermittent fasting regimen. Experts recommend drinking coffee no later than 2-3 pm, but you may find that only drinking coffee before 12 pm or even 10 am works best for you.
When practicing intermittent fasting, don’t switch to coffee only. Remember to drink plenty of water.
Risks: Intermittent Fasting and Coffee Consumption
Drinking coffee while intermittent fasting is a great way to increase longevity and other health benefits, but—as with any substance—there are risks associated with it.
The most common risk of intermittent fasting with coffee is stomach irritation. Some people cannot drink coffee on an empty stomach because it leads to discomfort, heartburn, nausea, and acid reflux.
Coffee can also increase anxiety and contribute to dehydration. If you notice that drinking coffee while intermittent fasting causes any of these side effects, consider reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake.
Tea Intermittent Fasting
Tea contains significantly less caffeine than coffee. The caffeine content in one cup of coffee is comparable to 3-4 cups of caffeinated tea, which makes tea a great alternative for those interested in adding caffeine to their intermittent fasting practice.
Benefits of Drinking Tea During Intermittent Fasting
In addition to the health benefits of caffeine, caffeinated teas come in a variety of flavors that each pose unique health benefits.
Green tea. Green tea has a delicate, slightly vegetal flavor, often described as nutty or grassy. Research shows a link between green tea and anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.
Matcha. Matcha is a powder that comes from green tea. It contains a high concentration of antioxidants and L-theanine and is linked to brain health, heart health, and reduced stress.
Black tea. Black tea is bold and robust. It can reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and improve cardiovascular health. Black tea has also been linked to improved gut health and reduced risk of certain types of cancer.
Oolong tea. Oolong has a complex and floral flavor with a hint of sweetness. It aids in relaxation, heart health, and brain function.
White tea. White tea has a light and delicate floral flavor with a subtle sweetness. It contains polyphenols which have been shown to help protect against cellular damage caused by free radicals. It also promotes heart health and skin health.
Yerba mate. This tea has a strong and earthy flavor, and different varieties can have distinctly different flavors. Yerba mate has been linked to improved gut health, increased energy, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
How to Drink Tea While Fasting
When drinking tea while intermittent fasting, be sure to avoid added sweeteners and calories. Clear teas will be the lowest-calorie and pose the best health benefits when combined with intermittent fasting.
The same advice for coffee applies to intermittent fasting tea. However, because tea has less caffeine, you can drink more of it with less risk. Tea is also less likely to upset your stomach.
Final Thoughts on Caffeine and Intermittent Fasting
Adding coffee and tea to your intermittent fasting regimen can be a beneficial way to curb your appetite and enjoy a variety of beverages while fasting.
Remember to drink plenty of water while fasting and be mindful of your total caffeine consumption. Listen to your body and reduce or eliminate your caffeine intake if you find that your body does not respond well to it.
Keep in mind that successful intermittent fasting isn’t just about what you don’t eat: it’s about what you do eat, too. A nutritious diet when you break your fast is very important for longevity. What’s more, considering what and when you eat is only part of the picture when it comes to longevity. A healthy amount of exercise is also necessary.
If you want to learn more about what else you can do to care for your body, mind, and spirit, check out these science-backed longevity hacks.