Intermittent Fasting, or a Compressed Eating Window (CEW), are quite in the zeitgeist nowadays. I remember five years ago only obscure biohackers and disciplines of Dave Asprey and Marc Sisson knew about it. Now just “Google” it and you will get millions of hits and thousands of testimonies from people who are doing it. I have been daily fasting since November, 2014. I have not eating anything before noon (and more commonly not until 1:00pm) for over 14,000 days. Pretty amazing. Fasting is a useful tool but it must be done right so today we are talking about what to drink when fasting.
Before we talk about what to drink when fasting, let’s cover succinctly some of the benefits of fasting. We are going to cover it quickly since Naturopathic Earth has two Holistic Health News (HHN) episodes on it as well as a few articles so delve into those for more information. Fasting, on the more nerdy, scientific side, helps with slowing down cell multiplication (lesser chance of DNA mutation or cancer), leads to mitochondrial production, increases growth hormone and testosterone and works well for insulin sensitivity.
But for most people, they don’t fast for those reasons. They fast because it helps you lose weight, improves cognition and workouts. How does it help you lose weight? In short, when you are fasting, your fat reserves are converted to ketones, which are then used as energy by the body. The body will burn carbs/sugars first but when those have been depleted it will tap into your fat reserves. (It is a similar mechanism with a ketogenic diet. Indeed, combining fasting with a keto lifestyle will likely accelerate your weight loss.)
When to fast? Most people have as their eating windows anywhere from 12:00pm-8:00pm, but it can vary depending on your preference and for how long you want to fast. Many fast for 20 hours….many fast for 48 hours.
Going back to what to drink when fasting, it is crucial during your fasting period to hydrate. Not only is it important for regular metabolic and homeostatic reasons, but the body is put under moderate duress when fasting so hydration takes on a bigger role, especially when you are first starting out. So let’s talk about what to drink when fasting.
Depending on your metabolism and epigenetics, everyone’s caloric threshold to break a fast is different. In general, I would say anything over 50 calories will break your fast (and artificial sweeteners). So let’s go.
Water, of course, is fine. Drink it hot, cold, and somewhere in between. If you are tired of drinking water, it is okay to squirt in some lemon juice. In fact warm lemon water in the morning has been used by South Asians for millennia to clean the liver. It would behoove all of us to do this. Also, fruit-infused water overall is fine, but if are worried about breaking your fast opt for the more vegetable-centric ones, like cucumber and mint, over the berry ones. Click Here to see our fruit-infused water recipes. Here too.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The most disgusting of the what to drink when fasting, apple cider vinegar (ACV) is on this list for sure. Independent studies show that ACV can help regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, insulin resistance, suppress appetite and more. ACV is best when it has “The Mother” and it is also ideal not to drink it as a shot. (It can burn your mouth and throat epithelium as well as damage your enamel. I recommend you drink ACV right before you break your fast. Mix it with water. Note: Beware of the ACVs mixed with honey, cinnamon, and other ingredients. While more palatable, these contain sugars and will break your fast.
The most hyper of what to drink when fasting. Of course, you can drink coffee. Despite what you might here, coffee is very good for most of us. Coffee consumption has been linked to improved cognition, accelerate weight loss, stymies hunger pangs, and great for heart health. The key is that you can only drink less than four cups a day. 8 ounce servings. Also, you must drink it black or with a smidge of cinnamon, which doesn’t contain sugar and doesn’t spike your sugar levels.
No milk, creamers, or even stevia. Sorry guys. Also, some people can’t drink coffee due to the higher caffeine levels. They might have palpitations. So if this is you, lay off the coffee and go to…
Gregory’s favorite of the what to drink when fasting, tea is the best. Now most tea can be classified into two categories: the “colored” ones that come from the Camellia Sinensis bush and the herbals. Green, black, and white tea (“the colored” ones) are best for you. Decades-long studies have shown they are amazing antioxidants, accelerate your metabolism, improve heart (and pretty much every organ’s health), improve cognition, and all the other benefits you see from coffee. Drink it!
Herbal teas are amazing as well but in a different manner. Turmeric is great for combatting inflammation and cancer; mint is great for digestion; chamomile for insomnia and anxiety; cinnamon for heart health, to name a few. Click HERE to listen to an HHN episode on the colored teas.
The key with tea is that you must not add anything to it. For example, honey, milk, creamer are no no’s. You can add cinnamon but most people don’t do that. It is best to drink it plain.
What about gum?
The sweetest and less liquid of the what to drink when fasting, gum needs to be covered. Gum comes in three forms: sugar, aspartame-laden, xylitol-laden. Clearly the first one must be skipped when fasting. The other two come have a more nuanced answer.
Though artificial sweeteners boast 0 calories and don’t contain any sugar, they may initiate an insulin spike in the body. If so, it is akin to ingesting sugar. Click HERE to listen to our HHN episode on the Dangers of Aspartame, so we feel it should always be avoided.
Xylitol-laden gum, commonly seen at Whole Foods Market and other organic locations does not contain aspartame or sugar, but rater xylitol. Xylitol is a natural sweetener refined from a particular tree. While xylitol has shown to improve oral health (and for that reason should be the only type of gum you should chew), it may spike your insulin.
At this point it is inconclusive whether or not chewing gum would break your fast. I recommend, especially if you are in the early stages of fasting, that you continue to chew gum. It is certainly not needed so eventually wean yourself off of it, especially the aspartame-laden sugar-free gum.
Buy this organic xylitol-laden gum now.
So in the what to drink when fasting discussion, let’s cover what you shouldn’t drink. Clearly anything with sizeable amount so calories or sugar. So sodas, juices, smoothies, milk, must be avoided. Also, breath mints should as well.
Kombucha is a phenomenal drink, but it’s not on the what to drink when fasting list. It boast a double whammy of being made from a “colored tea” and being a probiotic drink (click HERE to learn the importance of probiotics), it does contain sugar. A full bottle of kombucha contains anywhere from 10-20 grams of sugar. So avoid it. Click HERE to listen to a HHN episode on it.
What about green juices? Here at NPE, we have great green juice recipes. Though vegetables are very low in carbs, it is best to avoid green juices since they do contain calories and sugar, especially when you add carrots and apples.
Once you are acclimated to daily fasting, you will see that it is really easy. All the phenomenal aforementioned biohacks will kick in and you honestly will never return to breakfast. Click HERE to see our HHN episode on why Breakfast Should Be Avoided. Vis-à-vis imbibing, honestly stick to plain tea, black coffee, and water and you will do just fine.