Does A Cup of Coffee Help or Hurt While Intermittent Fasting

Medically Reviewed by Ana Reisdorf MS, RD on January 25, 2020.

Many people who are doing intermittent fasting often ask if they can drink coffee while fasting. The short answer to this question is yes, or maybe no. It depends on what you add to your coffee and how many cups you take.

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that involves alternating fasting and feeding periods. Unlike a specific diet, IF focuses on eating or fasting for a certain period each day. For example, in the 16/8 method, you are allowed to eat only during the 8-hour period. However, you should refrain from taking calories during the remaining 16 hours.

IF has demonstrated benefits for weight loss, improving gut health, and slowing down the aging process. Learn EIGHT amazing health benefits of intermittent fasting

This article takes a closer look at the benefits (and risks) of drinking coffee while intermittent fasting. Besides, you will also learn tips to make your coffee work for your weight loss goals. If you’re curious to find what more can you drink during IF, here’s our detailed list of the drinks that will not break your fast and the ones to avoid.

Does Coffee Break Your Fast?

No, coffee does not break your fast. However, there is a catch. If you add heaps of sugar or cream into your cup, they can sabotage your weight loss efforts. Black coffee is ok when intermittent fasting.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a cup of regular black coffee contains fewer than 5 calories. Likewise, a fluid ounce of black espresso contains about 1 calorie. The number of calories in black coffee is too little to break your fast or negate the effects of intermittent fasting.

Moreover, coffee is a rich natural source of caffeine. Caffeine may aid weight loss by:

  • Reducing appetite. This might prevent you from consuming excessive calories.
  • Increasing fat burning. Fat burning or thermogenesis is a process in which your body releases heat by digesting the food you take. This can help boost your metabolism and promote weight loss.

What about Coffee with Cream or Other Ingredients?

According to Mayo Clinic, 1 ounce of heavy whipping cream contains more than 100 calories. If you take a cup of coffee with one ounce of cream three times a day, you will consume more than 300 calories. This might not be a problem if you indulge occasionally. Nonetheless, if it becomes your daily habit, this can cause problems with losing or maintaining your weight.

Here is a quick recall of the link between the number of calories and weight. Consuming 3,500 calories can add about 1 pound to your body weight. Interestingly, losing or gaining weight is far more complex than these simple calorie calculations. That said, what’s sure is that gulping down cups of cream-loaded coffee will not help with weight loss.

Coffee with Sugar while Intermittent Fasting

Sugar is nothing less than a treat for your sweet tooth. However, do not forget what satisfying your sweet tooth can do to the weight scale. One teaspoon of sugar contains about 16 calories. This does not seem like a big number, right? Wait, let’s look at the stats.

Each day, a male American consumes about 335 calories coming from added sugars. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends no more than 200 calories from added sugars, if your daily calorie requirement is 2,000 calories.

Most intermittent fasting methods do not allow the intake of more than 500 calories on fasting days. Thus, you should not consume more than 50 calories from sugar. This equals 3 teaspoons. The bottom line is one or two cups of coffee with sugar may be allowed while fasting. Nonetheless, the addictive nature of sugar can make you overindulge.

Can You Add Coconut Oil or Soy Milk to Your Coffee?

One cup (250 ml) of homemade coffee with soymilk contains about 55 calories. Thus, a cup or two on fasting days should not be an issue. Besides, if you cannot digest milk, unsweetened soymilk is a great alternative. It contains generous amounts of protein and potassium. However, soy is a common allergy-causing food in both adults and children. Before adding soymilk, make sure you are not allergic to soy.

One tablespoon of coconut oil contains about 121 calories. Most people use two tablespoons in a cup. Thus, a cup of coffee with two tablespoons of coconut oil contains about 242 calories. Thus, it is a good idea to avoid adding coconut oil to your coffee.

Is Adding MCT Oil to Your Coffee OK?

MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil contains many active ingredients. These ingredients may aid weight loss, improve brain function, and boost metabolism. Nevertheless, MCT oil is rich in calories. One tablespoon of MCT oil contains about 115 calories. The high-calorie content may interfere with your weight loss efforts. Thus, it is best to take MCT oil with coffee in moderation.

Coffee with Milk

The calories in milk depend on the type of milk you take. For example, a cup of:

  • Nonfat milk contains about 88 calories
  • Reduced fat-milk contains about 122 calories
  • Whole milk contains about 150 calories
  • Skim milk contains about 83 calories

Thus, taking a cup of milk coffee prepared using skim milk or nonfat milk is unlikely to affect the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Top 3 Benefits of Coffee While Intermittent Fasting, Beyond Weight Loss

Coffee has several health benefits other than helping you lose weight. These include:

#1 – Coffee may reduce diabetes risk

Diabetes is an increasingly common lifestyle disease. People with this condition have problems using glucose obtained from the diet. Uncontrolled diabetes can damage the kidneys, nerves, brain, and heart.

According to a study, consuming ground-decaffeinated coffee can reduce diabetes risk in older adults. However, the researchers did not find any links between the consumption of instant coffee and reduced diabetes risk.  Likewise, another study found that drinking 3 or more cups a day can cut down the risk of type II diabetes.

#2 – Coffee may reduce Alzheimer’s risk

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) impairs memory and thinking and, eventually, causes problems with carrying out day-to-day tasks. AD is a common cause of memory and disability in people ages 60 years or more.

Recent studies show that consuming coffee can reduce Alzheimer’s risk by more than 50%. While scientists are yet to understand the underlying mechanisms, they believe caffeine could play a central role in protecting brain cells from oxidative damage.   

#3 – Coffee may protect from liver damage

Long-term liver disorders are one of the most common causes of death globally. The causes of liver disorders such as liver fibrosis are heavy drinking, elevated iron levels, and certain types of hepatitis. In liver fibrosis, scar tissues replace healthy tissues in the liver. In a 2017 study, researchers found that consuming more than 3 cups of coffee per day was associated with a lower risk of liver fibrosis.

Potential Side Effects of Taking Coffee While Intermittent Fasting

While a cup or two may not cause any undesirable effects, taking too much coffee can cause several side effects. Most notably, the side effects may be more pronounced when you are intermittent fasting.

  • Jitteriness
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep problems that may slow down your metabolism
  • Loose stools or diarrhea. This may increase the risk of dehydration.
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increased frequency of urination. This may cause dehydration.

The Dos and Don’ts of Using Coffee while Intermittent Fasting

Dos

  • Drink black coffee, preferably without sugar, a few times on fasting days. It does not break your fast.
  • If you love milk coffee, use nonfat or skim milk and consume no more than 2 cups per day.
  • You may add MCT oil but no more than one tablespoon per day. MCT oil can help with weight loss.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Caffeine can cause frequent urination.
  • Soymilk is a great and healthy alternative to milk. Nonetheless, soy is also a common allergy-causing food.

Don’ts

  • Avoid drinking more than 3 cups per day regardless of what you add.
  • Too much caffeine can cause sleep problems. Intermittent fasting may make these problems worse. Thus, avoid drinking coffee after 2 pm.
  • Avoid drinking coffee at your favorite coffee shop. If you need to, make sure to ask for the lowest-calorie variant. Americano and iced mocha are low in calories. Cinnamon shortbread latte and Cafe latte are rich in calories.