When embarking on the journey of intermittent fasting, particularly during the fasting window, it’s crucial to understand what you can consume that aligns with the goals of your fasting plan. The fasting window, a period where eating is restricted, is the cornerstone of intermittent fasting regimes. Many people make the mistake of diving in without full knowledge of what is acceptable and what is not. As a result, they end up not meeting their health goals. Understanding what can be taken during the fasting window can help in two ways. First, it can help you avoid eating the wrong things and breaking the fast unwittingly. Second, it can help you extend the fast by keeping you satiated and hydrated. Here’s a guide to what you can eat or drink during the Fasting Window of Intermittent Fasting.
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Hydration is Key During Fasting Window Of Intermittent Fasting
Water is your best friend during the fasting window. It’s essential for maintaining hydration without breaking your fast. While it is important to hydrate during the window, you should aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Here are some of the benefits of staying hydrated
- Aids Detoxification: Water helps flush toxins from the body and supports kidney function, which is especially important during fasting when the body is in a state of increased autophagy, a process where cells clean out any unnecessary or dysfunctional components.
- Maintains Hydration Levels: Drinking water is essential to stay hydrated and keep body functioning the right way.
- Helps Control Hunger: Drinking water can help control hunger pangs, which are common during fasting. It can make the fasting period more comfortable and manageable.
- Enhances Physical Performance: If you’re exercising while fasting, staying hydrated is crucial to maintain performance and prevent dehydration.
- Improves Cognitive Function: Adequate hydration is important for maintaining cognitive function, which can sometimes be affected during fasting.
- Prevents Headaches and Dizziness: These symptoms can occur during fasting, often due to dehydration. Again, drinking water helps mitigate these effects.
- Supports Weight Loss: Sometimes the body can mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking water ensures that you’re not eating unnecessarily during your eating window, which can support weight loss efforts.
- Supports Metabolic Processes: Water is crucial for various metabolic functions, including digestion and the transportation of nutrients when you do eat.
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Coffee and Tea
Black coffee and herbal tea are excellent choices during the fasting window. They contain minimal calories and can provide a comforting warmth or a refreshing break in your day. Just remember to skip the sugar and milk.
Benefits of Coffee & Tea
Drinking coffee or tea during the fasting window can offer several benefits, particularly for those practicing intermittent fasting:
- Appetite Suppression: Both coffee and tea can have appetite-suppressing effects, which may make it easier to maintain the fast by reducing feelings of hunger.
- Enhanced Metabolic Rate: Caffeine in coffee and certain teas can increase your metabolic rate, potentially leading to increased fat burning during the fasting period.
- Improved Mental Alertness: Caffeine is a well-known stimulant that can help ward off the feeling of tiredness and improve focus and alertness, which can be particularly useful during the fasting state.
- Increased Autophagy: There is some evidence to suggest that compounds in tea and coffee may promote autophagy, the body’s process of cleaning out damaged cells and regenerating new ones, which is a key benefit of intermittent fasting.
- Antioxidant Properties: Both coffee and tea are rich in antioxidants, which can combat oxidative stress and inflammation in the body, especially liver. Recent studies have shown coffee as extremely important for fatty liver treatment.
- Enhanced Physical Performance: The performance-enhancing effects of caffeine can be beneficial if you choose to exercise during the fasting window.
- Mood Improvement: The act of drinking a warm beverage can be comforting, and both coffee and tea help improve mood and well-being.
- Zero Calories: If consumed without added milk, sugar, or cream, coffee and tea are virtually calorie-free, which means they won’t break your fast.
It’s important to note that while a moderate intake of coffee and tea can be beneficial during fasting, excessive consumption may lead to increased cortisol levels, potential digestive discomfort, and disrupted sleep patterns, especially if consumed later in the day.
Bone Broth During Fasting Window Of Intermittent Fasting
Consuming a small amount of bone broth during the fasting window is generally acceptable. It provides electrolytes and can help stave off hunger without significantly impacting the fasting state. It is important to be very careful about quantity because broth does contain calories. I usually take between a quarter to a half cup of bone broth, while some experts say up to a cup of bone broth is okay.
Benefits Of Bone Broth
Drinking broth during the fasting window, especially bone broth or vegetable broth, can provide several benefits:
- Nutrient Intake: Broth, particularly bone broth, can be a good source of vitamins and minerals. It can provide nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, and others without a significant calorie load.
- Electrolyte Balance: When fasting, you may lose electrolytes. Broth contains sodium and potassium, which can help maintain electrolyte balance.
- Gut Health: The gelatin found in bone broth may support gut health and digestion, which is beneficial since intermittent fasting can impact gut flora and the digestive system.
- Satiety: Drinking broth can help stave off hunger pangs due to its savory flavor and the psychological effect of consuming something with a more substantial taste profile than water or tea.
- Comfort: Many people find sipping on warm broth comforting, making the fasting period more pleasant.
Bone Broth: Cautionary Notes
It’s important to note that while broth can be beneficial, it does contain calories and therefore might technically break a strict fast depending on the specific guidelines of the fasting protocol you’re following. Some fasting methods allow for small amounts of caloric intake as long as it doesn’t exceed a certain threshold and doesn’t cause a significant insulin response. Always check the specifics of your fasting plan to ensure broth is an acceptable inclusion during your fasting window.
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Apple Cider Vinegar
A tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (ACV) in a glass of water is another permissible option. It may also help control blood sugar and appetite. If you can get over the taste of ACV, incorporating ACV during the fasting window of an intermittent fasting routine has the following potential benefits:
- Blood Sugar Control: ACV is often claimed to have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar levels, which can be particularly beneficial during fasting when you’re not consuming any food to regulate blood sugar.
- Appetite Suppression: Some studies suggest that ACV might help reduce appetite, which could make it easier to maintain the fast by minimizing feelings of hunger.
- Digestive Aid: ACV is believed to aid digestion by increasing stomach acid, which can be helpful when it’s time to break the fast, as it may improve the body’s ability to digest the first meal.
- Increased Fat Burning: There is some evidence to suggest that ACV may enhance fat burning, although we need more research to conclusively prove it.
- Healthful Properties: ACV contains acetic acid, which has antimicrobial properties and also acts as an antioxidant.
- Weight Management: Some proponents of ACV believe it can support weight management, which is a common goal of intermittent fasting.
- Low in Calories: ACV has very few calories, making it a good option for those who want to maintain a calorie deficit during fasting.
ACV: Cautionary Notes
I recommend diluting ACV in water if you’re going to consume it. Consuming undiluted vinegar can be harsh on the teeth and the stomach. While some people find ACV beneficial, it’s also worth noting that there is limited scientific support for some of these benefits. Also, it may not be suitable for everyone. ACV may not be good for some medical conditions. Also, some specific medications could interact with vinegar negatively. Always consult with a healthcare provider if you’re unsure whether ACV is a good choice for you during fasting.
Any zero-calorie beverages, such as diet sodas or flavored water, technically don’t break a fast. However, be mindful of artificial sweeteners, which can affect blood sugar and insulin levels in some people. I recommend using very water-focused sugar-free / sweetener-free beverages such as:
- Carbonated water
- Lemon or lime water (with less than half a lemon or lime squeezed)
- Lemon or lime “infused” water (lemon vedges soaked water)
- Cucumber infused water
- Berries infused water
When preparing these infused waters, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:
- Minimal Fruit Use: To ensure the drink remains calorie-free or very low in calories, use only a small amount of fruit.
- No Added Sugars: Avoid adding sweeteners to keep the calorie count down.
- Infusion Time: Allow the fruits or vegetables to infuse in the water for a few hours to get the full flavor benefits.
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Benefits Of Unsweetened Zero Calorie Drinks
These natural water-based drinks can be beneficial during the fasting window of intermittent fasting for several reasons:
- Enhanced Flavor Without Calories: Infusing water with lemon, cucumber, or strawberries adds a refreshing taste without a significant number of calories. This makes it more enjoyable to drink without breaking your fast.
- Increased Water Intake: The added flavor can encourage increased water consumption, ensuring better hydration.
- Digestive Benefits: Lemon water, in particular, is often touted for its digestive benefits, as lemon can stimulate digestive juices.
- Antioxidant Intake: Fruits like strawberries provide antioxidants, which can seep into the water, offering some nutritional benefits even in the absence of significant calorie intake.
- Appetite Suppression: The act of drinking flavored water can provide a sense of fullness. This also helps in extending fasting periods.
- Detoxification: While “detox” claims are often exaggerated, staying well-hydrated does support the body’s natural detoxification processes through the kidneys and liver.
Zero-Calorie Drinks: Cautionary Notes
These infused waters are generally considered acceptable during fasting. However, you must make sure they are not sweetened and are consumed in moderation. However, for those strictly monitoring their fasting regimen, it’s worth noting that even small amounts of fruit juice from lemon or strawberries could potentially have a minimal impact on insulin levels. This small spike is typically not significant enough to disrupt most fasting goals.
Supplements During Fasting Window Of Intermittent Fasting
An important note about supplements: if you take supplements, check if they can or should be taken on an empty stomach. Some supplements could break your fast. Also, some supplements are better absorbed with food.
Remember, the goal of the fasting window is to restrict calories to trigger certain metabolic processes. Consuming any calories, even a small amount, can disrupt these processes. Be mindful and intentional with what you consume during your fasting window.