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People get into fasting for a lot of reasons:
- To lose weight.
- To lose body fat.
- To look better.
- To take a break from foods they may be allergic or sensitive to.
- To intensify autophagy and clean accumulated debris and clutter out of their cells.
- To increase levels of NAD (nicotinamide dinucleotide) (a compound that’s essential to life and DNA repair, which the body makes more of when we fast)
- To experience ketosis and switch from burning glucose to burning fat.
- To activate their sirtuin (longevity) genes.
- To kill off some sickly old senescent cells, get rid of defective mitochondria
- To trigger stem cell regeneration and mitochondrial biogenesis (these occur in the week or so after a 3-5 day fast or fasting mimicking diet).
When we’re fasting, we feel hungry and may be tempted to started adding little snacks in various forms… cream to our tea and coffee, and munching on carrots, celery sticks, cream cheese and peanut butter to the celery. “Little things” that we do to make the fast easier. So the question comes up frequently –– “Does this break my fast?”
The answer is, it depends on what type of fast you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. There are dry fasts, water fasts, tea and coffee fasts, juice fasts, and even diets that mimic the effects of fasting, but let you keep eating some food during your “fast”. So what breaks it depends on what sort of fast you’re doing and why.
Dry fasts are fasts in which you don’t eat or drink anything for a while. Personally I don’t do dry fasts or recommend them. But if you’re doing a dry fast, eating or drinking anything will break it.
Some people even say that taking a bath or shower, or washing your hands breaks a dry fast. People get a little carried away doing these sometimes.
I don’t like or do dry fasts, and would never recommend doing one for more than a few hours. We need water. Our early ancestors sometimes went for days without food when meat was scarce, but knew the importance of drinking water: “If you’re thirsty, find a stream and drink.”
Water fasts are easy, right? Or at least they’re easy to describe. You just drink water.
But even on a water fast, many people add some sodiujm, potassium, or other electrolytes. They might add a dash of salt or a teaspoon or cream of tartar. Technically these are “breaking” the fast because it’s no longer water-only. But most health authorities would say that it’s absolutely necessary to add electrolytes, and you’re risking serious health consequences if you don’t.
If you’re doing a water fast, then drinking anything but water… such as coffee or tea… would technically break it. But if your goal is to promote autophagy (a kind of deep cellular cleaning) or lose weight, drinking coffee, green tea or Earl grey tea would be fine, because they promote autophagy.
If you’re fasting because you think you may have food allergies, and want a break from all foods, then a water fast is obviously the way to go.
TIME RESTRICTED EATING
If you’re trying to lose weight or reset your metabolism, you may be doing a type of fasting called TRE, or time restricted eating.
If you’re doing TRE, then technically anything but water breaks the fast. Even a sip of coffee can start your liver enzymes working.
This doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing to have tea or coffee in the morning, if you’re doing TRE. It’s not hurting you. But you do need to count the first sip of tea or coffee as the end of your fast and the beginning of your “feasting” period. So if you have coffee at 7 a.m., and are doing a 12 hour eating window, your last bite of food needs to be eaten by 7 pm., even if you don’t have your actual first meal until noon or early afternoon.
FASTING MIMICKING DIETS (FMDs)
An FMD lets you eat a small amount of protein, carbs and fat every day. As the name implies, it’s not a real fast. It’s a “diet” designed to mimic fasting. If you’re doing an FMD, eating more than 15 grams of protein a day will break it. Even with FMDs, there are several different kinds. Some allow more fats or carbohydrates. When I do an FMD, it’s based around 400 calories per day, and 15 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbs and 50 grams of fat. Anything more than that will break it. FMDs are starvation diets, fine for a short time, but not a diet you could live on indefinitely.
FMDs are not a good idea if you’re fasting to take a break from food allergens, because you’re still eating regular meals.
Juice fasts are fasts in which we drink water and juices of various kinds. I’ve done LOW CARB JUICE FASTS in which I drank water, pickle juice, and juices made from parsley and celery. I found them great for autophagy, ketosis, and fat loss. Juices like this have zero effect on blood glucose, and won’t interfere with ketosis or autophagy. So I’ll sometimes drink them on a water fast.
But I stay away from HIGH CARB JUICE FASTS based around fruit and berry juices which have more than a single gram of carbohydrates.
This means no apple juice, orange juice, grapefruit juice, grape juice. Anything with more than 1 gram of carbs is breaking a low carb juice fast. (If I’m doing a juice fast, I still count the first sip of celery or cucumber juice as the start of my time restricted eating window.
Fat fasting is a curiosity that originally came from the Atkins diet. In it, you can eat lots of fat… you can pour cream into your coffee… but you don’t eat any other macronutrients. Some people swear by it but personally I wouldn’t recommend it.
“So can I drink coffee or tea when I’m fasting?”
- No, if you’re doing a dry fast. (But again, I don’t personally recommend dry fasting)
- No, if you’re doing a water-only fast. But the only reason I can see to do a water-only fast would be if you’re trying to avoid all possible food sensitivies or allergens.
- Yes, if you’re fasting for weight loss or autophagy. Coffee and green tea promote both. And they won’t interefere with ketosis.
“Can I add cream to my coffee or tea?”
- If you’re fasting for autophagy or ketosis and don’t care about weight loss (or are trying not to lose weight), go ahead and add the cream (but no sugar).
- If you are trying to lose weight, I would say, don’t add cream. The point is to start burning your own body fat, not burning the fat in the cream. And of course don’t add sugar.
- With that said ––– Dr. Jason Fung has pointed out that if adding a tiny amount of cream… a teaspoon or two… help you to keep fasting, go ahead and add them. If it’s a question of breaking the fast and eating a big meal, or adding a tiny amount of cream, add the cream. I’d agree with this advice. But don’t let a teaspoon or two turn into a tablespoon or two. Don’t add a whole pitcher.
- If you’re doing time restricted eating, count the first cup of tea or coffee, or anything but water, as the start of your eating period. If you’re doing an 8 hour eating window, your last meal needs to end 8 hours after your first cup of coffee.
“Can I drink juice when I’m fasting?”
- Yes, if you’re drinking unsweetened celery, pickle or cucumber juice (juices with almost zero carbs).
- But if you’re fasting to avoid food allergens, you should avoid juices of all kinds.
- Personally I would never recommend a high carb juice fast based around fruit juices. They’re a way of playing havoc with your blood glucose, and triggering serious insulin resistance.
Can I munch on carrots and celery and other veggies?
- Try not to. You’re trying to give your system a break from eating.
“Isn’t it easier to just do a water fast?”
- Yes, if you’re new to fasting and want to keep it as simple as possible, or are trying to avoid all possible food allergens.
- But if you know what you’re doing and why you’re fasting, it’s usually fine to add some electrolytes or celery, parsley, cucumber or pickle juice.
- The metabolic effects of a low carb juice fast, or a fast that includes coffee or tea, are pretty much identical to a pure water fast.
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