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What Breaks a Fast? A Complete Food and Drink List

Published October 17, 2019
Kate Sullivan

Written By: Kate Sullivan, MS

Kate holds a MS in Business Psychology and is currently a PHD researcher in Well-Being and Performance Psychology.

Fact-Checked By: Ana Reisdorf MS, RD

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<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"http://schema.org", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Kate Sullivan, MS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "https://www.warriormade.com", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/09/black-coffee-woman-hands-thumbnail-0257.jpg" } }, "headline":"What Breaks a Fast? A Complete Food and Drink List", "datePublished":"2019-10-17", "dateModified": "2019-10-17", "description":"Intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and live longer. Learn the right and wrong ways to fast and what to eat and drink when you break your fast.", "image": "https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/media/public/2019/09/black-coffee-woman-hands-thumbnail-0257.jpg" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "https://schema.org", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "What Is Intermittent Fasting?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "At its most basic, intermittent fasting is just choosing not to eat for a certain set period of time. It’s one of the most straightforward ways to lose weight and improve your health. You can fast for 24 hours once a week, on alternating days, for 16 hours every day (eating when you’re hungry during the other 8), or on any limited-window eating schedule that best suits your lifestyle.<br />But because you have so many options within the broad suggestion of “don’t eat for a while,” intermittent fasting can be confusing! Even after you figure out the length or schedule that works best for you, you also need to know how to stop fasting for the best results. That answer seems to be harder to find in the throng of articles about IF’s benefits." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What Can I Have on a Strict Fast?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "The strictest versions of fasting allow you to have only water during your fast period—absolutely nothing else. That’s because you want your body to be focused on autophagy—breaking down old tissue and replacing it with shiny new parts.<br />On a strict fast, you can have water. That’s it.<br />No coffee, no tea, no juice, no bone broth...nothing.<br />But the science behind fasting shows that super-strict fasts like this aren’t the only way to lose weight and improve your overall health. A less restrictive type of fast that allows some other non-caloric liquids or sometimes even a calorie or two in the form of beneficial electrolytes can have lots of health benefits [7]. Plus, allowing yourself a little leeway can help you stick to your eating plan in the long term. Still, you’ll want to be mindful about what you’re consuming while you’re supposed to be fasting." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What Can You Drink While Intermittent Fasting?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Drinks can be tricky on intermittent fasting. As we’ve mentioned, the strictest form of fasting involves water only. And you should drink plenty of it! Becoming dehydrated while fasting can lead to irritability, headaches, fatigue, and more.<br />Beyond water, you do have some additional options. That’s because while you don’t want to elevate your blood glucose or initiate digestion during a fast, you do want to make sure that you still have enough electrolytes to feel good and perform well. A proper electrolyte balance is essential for your muscles nerves to function well and can also affect your mental health. Drinking too much plain water with no added electrolytes, as during a strict fast, can cause an imbalance by diluting your electrolytes too far." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What Drinks Should I Stay Away From While Fasting?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "You should steer clear of sugar alcohols like erythritol. Although xylitol and erythritol are calorie-free and don’t cause a spike in insulin levels, some people have a hard time digesting them. And if your body is working hard to break down that sweetener in your coffee, it’s not working hard to burn fat and replenish your cells." } }, { "@type": "Question", "name": "What Should You Eat When Breaking a Fast?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Starting to eat again after a fasting period can be complicated. If you fast for more than 24 hours, your body may not be totally happy when you give it calories again. This is especially true of longer fasts that go for three or more days.<br />But even after a shorter fast, you may benefit from being thoughtful about how you go back to eating again. To avoid blood sugar spikes, start slow and gentle—reintroduce some low-calorie liquids, then ease back into your keto cooking favorites." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">What Is Intermittent Fasting?</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">What Can I Have on a Strict Fast?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">What Can You Drink While Intermittent Fasting?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">What Drinks Should I Stay Away From While Fasting?</a></li> <li><a href="#section5">What Should You Eat When Breaking a Fast?</a></li> <li><a href="#section6">Wrap Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>There’s been a lot of talk about <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/a-beginners-guide-to-intermittent-fasting-women" rel="noreferrer" >intermittent fasting</a> in health circles recently. Not eating for controlled periods may help you lose weight, live longer, fight signs of aging, and generally feel better <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo2010171" rel="nofollow noreferrer" >1</a>-<a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S095528630400261X" rel="nofollow noreferrer" >4</a></sup>. But fasting correctly is a little more involved than just saying no to your favorite foods for a few hours each night or a full day each week.</p> <p>What constitutes a real fast? How do you break a fast the right way? Can you break a fast by accident? Can planning ahead help you get the most from your fast?</p> <p>Let’s take a look at the answers to these questions and more.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>What Is Intermittent Fasting?</h2> <p>At its most basic, intermittent fasting is just choosing not to eat for a certain set period of time. It’s one of the most straightforward ways to <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-to-use-intermittent-fasting-to-accelerate-your/" rel="noreferrer">lose weight</a> and improve your health. You can fast for 24 hours once a week, on alternating days, for 16 hours every day (eating when you’re hungry during the other 8), or on any limited-window eating schedule that best suits your lifestyle.</p> <p>But because you have so many options within the broad suggestion of “don’t eat for a while,” intermittent fasting can be confusing! Even after you figure out the length or schedule that works best for you, you also need to know how to <i>stop</i> fasting for the best results. That answer seems to be harder to find in the throng of articles about IF’s benefits. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>What Can I Have on a Strict Fast?</h2> <p>The strictest versions of fasting allow you to have only water during your fast period—absolutely nothing else. That’s because you want your body to be focused on <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/fasting-and-autophagy-understanding-your-body" rel="noreferrer"><i>autophagy</i></a>—breaking down old tissue and replacing it with shiny new parts.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature06639" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup></p> <p>On a strict fast, you can have water. That’s it.</p> <p>No coffee, no tea, no juice, no bone broth...nothing.</p> <p>But the science behind fasting shows that super-strict fasts like this aren’t the only way to lose weight and improve your overall health <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.22065" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup>. A less restrictive type of fast that allows some other non-caloric liquids or sometimes even a calorie or two in the form of beneficial electrolytes can have lots of health benefits <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11892-017-0951-7" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup>. Plus, allowing yourself a little leeway can help you stick to your eating plan in the long term. Still, you’ll want to be mindful about what you’re consuming while you’re supposed to be fasting.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/homemade-lemonade-glass-pitcher-mint-0257.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/homemade-lemonade-glass-pitcher-mint-0257.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/homemade-lemonade-glass-pitcher-mint-0257.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/homemade-lemonade-glass-pitcher-mint-LR-0257.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="homemade-lemonade-glass-pitcher-mint"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>What Can You Drink While Intermittent Fasting?</h2> <p>Drinks can be tricky on intermittent fasting. As we’ve mentioned, the strictest form of fasting involves water only. And you should drink plenty of it! Becoming dehydrated while fasting can lead to irritability, headaches, fatigue, and more <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/1601899?draft=collection" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup>.</p> <p>Beyond water, you do have some additional options. That’s because while you don’t want to elevate your blood glucose or initiate digestion during a fast, you <i>do</i> want to make sure that you still have enough electrolytes to feel good and perform well<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0002934371901525" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup>. A proper electrolyte balance is essential for your muscles nerves to function well and can also affect your mental health <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/153188.php" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0033318281735321" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup>. Drinking too much plain water with no added electrolytes, as during a strict fast, can cause an imbalance by diluting your electrolytes too far <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://dm5migu4zj3pb.cloudfront.net/manuscripts/102000/102489/JCI51102489.pdf" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a></sup>.</p> <p>Here’s what you can safely have while sticking to your fast.</p> <h3>Water</h3> <p>Water is always okay! In fact, you should drink as much or <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-electrolytes" rel="noreferrer">more water</a> than usual when fasting. Because your body is <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/fasting-and-autophagy-understanding-your-body" rel="noreferrer">breaking down old cell parts</a> and regenerating while you abstain from eating, drinking more water will help flush your system.</p> <h3>Infused Water</h3> <p>Plain ol’ water can be boring, especially when you’re not getting the variety of food you normally would. Water infused with tasty citrus slices or cucumber is just fine while fasting—there’s at most a calorie or two, not enough to disrupt your digestion.</p> <h3>Sparkling Beverages</h3> <p>Unsweetened sparkling beverages like seltzer or La Croix are okay while fasting. You might feel a little extra puffy from the carbonation because you don’t have any food in your system to buffer it, but you shouldn’t experience any break in your fast. Plus, the variety of flavors and the cold, crisp bubbles can help give you a boost if your energy starts flagging.</p> <h3>Herbal Tea</h3> <p>Noncaffeinated, unsweetened herbal teas or tisanes are a great option while fasting. Pure infusions of grated ginger, mint, or lemongrass in hot water are zingy pick-me-ups that are also easy on your stomach. Yerba mate, a traditional South American infusion, is calorie-free and contains a fair bit of caffeine. It may give you a needed boost while fasting, but should be consumed in moderation (see why in our notes on coffee and tea).</p> <h3>Black Coffee </h3> <p>There’s some debate about whether caffeine helps or harms on a fast <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15562223" rel="nofollow noreferrer">13</a></sup>. Because it gives you a fast hit of energy, caffeine can help combat the fatigue that often comes with a longer fast. However, because your liver has to work to metabolize that caffeine, your body isn’t putting <i>all</i> its resources to burning fat and regenerating cells. Still, coffee can help lower inflammation and insulin sensitivity while boosting the overall health results of your fast <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/84/4/888/4633179" rel="nofollow noreferrer">14</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/198346" rel="nofollow noreferrer">15</a></sup>. With all that in mind, a cup of <i>black</i> coffee might be a good option to help you power through!</p> <h3>Green Tea</h3> <p><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/how-green-tea-extract-effects-weight-loss/" rel="noreferrer">Green tea</a> is proven to do wonders for both metabolism and energy. As long as you don’t sweeten your tea, having a cup can help perk you up during your fast. Plus, the lower levels of caffeine in green tea may be less likely to disrupt your fast than a cup of coffee.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>What Drinks Should I Stay Away From While Fasting?</h2> <h3>Does Stevia Break a Fast?</h3> <p>But what about <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-sweeteners-which-ones-to-use-which-to-avoid" rel="noreferrer">keto-friendly sweeteners</a>? The good news is, low-carb sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit are not likely to boot your body out of the <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/fasting-and-autophagy-understanding-your-body" rel="noreferrer">regeneration state</a> it enters when you stop eating <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.nature.com/articles/ijo2016225" rel="nofollow noreferrer">16</a></sup>.</p> <p>However, you should steer clear of sugar alcohols like erythritol. Although xylitol and erythritol are calorie-free and don’t cause a spike in insulin levels, some people have a hard time digesting them <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5093271/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">17</a></sup>. And if your body is working hard to break down that sweetener in your coffee, it’s <i>not</i> working hard to burn fat and replenish your cells!</p> <p>That list covers your optimal go-tos: the best drinks to hydrate with while intermittent fasting. Here’s what to skip:</p> <h3>Cream</h3> <p>Heavy cream is a keto staple for a reason—plenty of fat to keep you satiated! But your body needs to work to break down the fat and lactose, breaking you out of the benefits of fasting. Stick to black coffee or tea.</p> <h3>Nut Milks</h3> <p>While <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/is-almond-milk-keto" rel="noreferrer">nut milks</a> are low calorie and easy on your digestion, they’re still not appropriate for a “clean” fast where you’re trying to reset your body. Steer clear.</p> <h3>Sweeteners</h3> <p>As mentioned above, small amounts of certain sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit are okay while fasting, but you should avoid erythritol, xylitol, and all artificial sweeteners like sucralose. These can cause some digestive upset in sensitive individuals, which could cause your body to work on correcting that issue instead of resetting and repairing itself as intended during your fast.</p> <h3>Diet Soda</h3> <p>Though diet soda is calorie-free, it can also increase your cravings for sweets by tricking your body into thinking it’s consuming sugar when it’s not <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2892765/" rel="nofollow noreferrer">18</a></sup>. That makes it harder to stick to your planned fast.</p> <h3>Broth</h3> <p>Though <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-science-behind-why-bone-broth-is-liquid-gold" rel="noreferrer">bone broth</a> is incredibly nutritious and low in calories, your body still has to work to digest it. That pushes you away from the benefits of fasting. You <i>can</i> enjoy a bit of bone broth during a longer liquid fast—three to five days or longer—but on an intermittent fast, it’s best to skip.</p> <h3>Juice</h3> <p>At the best of times, juice isn’t terribly keto-friendly—while fruit is a healthier source of carbs than a cookie, it’s also loaded with sugar. Skip when fasting.</p> <h3>MCT Oil or Coconut Oil Drinks</h3> <p>The answer to this one depends on the length and purpose of your fast. While some experts advocate “fasting-like diets” that include extremely restricted calorie intake—less than 200 calories a day—this is more appropriate for longer semi-fasting periods <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/668717/treatment-obesity-moderate-severe-caloric-restriction-results-clinical-research-trials" rel="nofollow noreferrer">19</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00873.x" rel="nofollow noreferrer">20</a></sup>. Consuming a moderate amount of MCT oil or coconut water drink might be appropriate for longer fasting periods or extremely restricted calorie intake. However, regular intermittent fasts give the most benefit if you stay calorie-free, so caloric splurges like MCT oil in your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-benefits-and-how-to-of-coconut-oil-coffee" rel="noreferrer">keto coffee</a> aren’t recommended <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.21581" rel="nofollow noreferrer">21</a></sup>.</p> <h3>Dietary Supplements</h3> <p>While supplements can be a great way to turbocharge your metabolism and reach your weight loss goals, your body has to process them. So if you’re on a fasting day, skip your regular <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/protein-powder-is-for-more-than-just-body-builders" rel="noreferrer">protein powder</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-best-keto-collagen" rel="noreferrer">collagen</a>, or even <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/the-truth-about-exogenous-ketones-an-inside-look" rel="noreferrer">exogenous ketones</a>. Your gut and liver need to work to process these, and some have calories from protein or other ingredients. It’s fine to take these within your eating window on, say, a 16:8 fast or on your eating days if you’re doing alternating fasting days, but if you’re trying a 24-hour fast, skip the supplements that day.</p> <p>Think of this list as a toolkit. When you want to stick to a fairly strict fast and all its health benefits but suddenly feel you just need a boost, you can whip one of the approved “tools” out with confidence—whenever the mood strikes!</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/woman-holding-dish-omlette-spinach-pine-nuts-0257.webp" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/woman-holding-dish-omlette-spinach-pine-nuts-0257.jp2" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/woman-holding-dish-omlette-spinach-pine-nuts-0257.jpg"> <img src="https://d1ghrtdbdq2gkr.cloudfront.net/blog-content/woman-holding-dish-omlette-spinach-pine-nuts-LR-0257.jpg" class="img-fluid" alt="woman-holding-dish-omlette-spinach-pine-nuts"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section5"> <h2>What Should You Eat When Breaking a Fast?</h2> <p>Starting to eat again after a fasting period can be complicated. If you fast for more than 24 hours, your body may not be totally happy when you give it calories again<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00683.2005" rel="nofollow noreferrer">22</a></sup>. This is especially true of longer fasts that go for three or more days.</p> <p>But even after a shorter fast, you may benefit from being thoughtful about how you go back to eating again. To avoid blood sugar spikes, start slow and gentle—reintroduce some low-calorie liquids, then ease back into your keto cooking favorites <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00683.2005" rel="nofollow noreferrer">22</a></sup>.</p> <p>To break your fast the right way, start with one of these tasty, healthy, easy-to-digest options:</p> <ul> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/homemade-bone-broth" rel="noreferrer">Bone broth</a></li> <li>Unsweetened nut milk</li> <li><a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/keto-butter-coffee" rel="noreferrer">Butter or MCT oil coffee</a></li> </ul> <p>Have a small cup of one of these when you break your fast, then wait a few hours until you actually feel hungry to try adding heavier food. When you do have something to eat, go for an easily digestible, keto-friendly meal like <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/greek-lemon-chicken-soup" rel="noreferrer">Greek lemon chicken soup</a> or a <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/low-carb-breakfast-frittata" rel="noreferrer">frittata</a>. </p> <p>By reintroducing low-carb foods first and easing back into your regular eating habits, you can avoid a drop in <i>leptin</i>, a hormone that normalizes your appetite and metabolism <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/45/11/1511.short" rel="nofollow noreferrer">23</a></sup>. Your effort to choose the right foods to break your fast will help you stay in ketosis <sup><a target="_blank" href="https://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/45/11/1511.short" rel="nofollow noreferrer">23</a>, <a target="_blank" href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/00365517309084355" rel="nofollow noreferrer">24</a></sup>.</p> <p>Some good foods for later in the day as you ease back into eating normally include:</p> <ul> <li>Whole-milk dairy like Greek yogurt or cottage cheese</li> <li>Avocados</li> <li>Roasted non-starchy vegetables like zucchini, broccoli, or cauliflower</li> <li>Fermented vegetables like kimchi or sauerkraut</li> <li>Eggs</li> <li>Seafood like salmon or tuna</li> </ul> <p>Once you’re back into your regular eating patterns, go ahead and enjoy all your <a target="_blank" href="https://www.warriormade.com/content/diet/14-day-keto-diet-plan-and-menu" rel="noreferrer">keto favorites</a> until your next fast!</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section6"> <h2>Wrap Up</h2> <p>Everyone’s metabolism is a bit different, so while some people might tolerate a stevia-sweetened soda while fasting, someone else might find that they don’t get the results they were seeking. You may need to experiment a bit before you find the drinks that make you feel best while fasting, while still getting the health and weight loss results you’re after.<sup><a target="_blank" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27810402" rel="nofollow noreferrer">25</a></sup></p> <p>The same goes for the pattern of fasting itself that works best for you—your body might respond best to alternating days, while your best friend might do better with 16:8 overnight fasting. Talk to your doctor before starting any new nutrition program and pay attention to your body. With a little mindful trial and error, you’ll be able to find the fast (and break-fast) that works best for you and helps you feel great every day!</p> </section> </article>

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