Can you drink coffee while intermittent fasting?

Can you drink coffee while intermittent fasting?

It’s a natural appetite suppressant and energy boost, but can you drink coffee while fasting? Let clinical dietitian, nutritionist, and author Jaime Rose Chambers explain. 

Let’s begin by thinking about what breakfast actually is or what it means. Breakfast is literally the meal that breaks our overnight fast. The question is, does it make a difference to our weight and to our overall health if that fast is consistently broken early in the morning shortly after we wake up, or later in the morning?

This is such a common concern for people embarking on an intermittent fasting journey that I think it’s important to really comb through the research on breakfast eating and breakfast skipping, so you’re able to make the best decision for you.

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The evidence

A recent weight-loss study divided individuals into early eaters and late eaters. Those who ate their larger meal earlier in the day had a better weight loss than those who ate their larger meal later in the day. This is likely because insulin sensitivity is at its highest in the morning where it’s best equipped to deal with a greater load of food.

In some studies, skipping breakfast has been associated with a greater risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults. The concern with these studies is that they do not define exactly what ‘skipping breakfast’ is. They also don’t look at the quality of the individual diets and other lifestyle factors, such as stress, physical activity, smoking and alcohol intake – all of which can contribute to these chronic diseases.

Is skipping breakfast really that bad?

It’s generally believed that breakfast-skippers tend to have less healthy behaviours in general, for example, a poorer-quality diet and reduced physical activity. But it’s simply not known yet if breakfast-skipping is good or bad for us. It appears that there’s no simple answer. What we eat and other lifestyle factors are likely greater contributors to conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart disease than skipping breakfast alone.

Help! What about my coffee?

One of the most common questions I’m asked is, can I have milk in my coffee? If you can avoid it, that is ideal as milk contains calories from carbohydrates and protein, which can stop a fast. However, researchers agree that it’s better to fast and add a dash of milk if that’s what it takes to get you through, rather than not fast at all.

You can also use sweeteners such as Stevia if you must. But it is best to avoid sweeteners for your general health.

The 16:8 Intermittent Fasting Lifestyle Plan by Jamie Rose Chambers, published by Macmillan Australia, RRP $34.99. Photography by Rob Palmer.