What Can You Eat or Drink While Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that has been shown to potentially be an effective weight-loss method for certain individuals. Its allure is the fact it focuses on when you eat, not necessarily what you eat, literally limiting your eating window throughout the day.
While there are no dietary restrictions, intermittent fasting isn’t a free pass to indulge in calorie-dense food for 8 to 12 hours straight, even if it’s in your designated eating time frame outlined by the IF plan. To get the full benefit of this diet, it is still essential to eat the right foods.
The most common pattern is to fast for 16 hours, including sleep time, and eat for 8 hours, although there are different options for intermittent fasting. Regardless of what type you choose, your diet can still significantly influence your results. So, what can you eat or drink while intermittent fasting? This guide has everything you need to know before trying IF.
Table of Contents
- Foods to add to your diet during intermittent fasting
- Best foods to break your fast with
- Foods to limit during intermittent fasting
- What can I drink while fasting?
- Foods and drinks for the fasting phase of intermittent fasting
- Final words
Unlike many diets, intermittent fasting has no dietary requirements and does not exclude foods or food groups. As a result of this, you really don’t have to make any big changes to your diet. You should, however, eat a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods to maximize your results. Eating the foods provided below can make your intermittent fasting more effective.
Foods to add to your diet during intermittent fasting
Fish and seafood
Fish and seafood provide both protein and heart-healthy fats, as well as high contents of vitamin D. If you follow a vegan diet, opt for omega-3 supplements to obtain beneficial essential fatty acids since our body is unable to produce them on their own.
Experts agree that seafood is a vital part of a healthy diet and even recommend eating 8 to 12 ounces per week in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Carbohydrates get a bad reputation, but not all carbs are unhealthy. In fact, whole grains contain healthy amounts of fiber, which have been shown to promote feelings of fullness and, therefore, can help prevent overeating. They also contain beneficial B vitamins, so you should still enjoy complex carbs from grains and beans as well as simple carbs from fruits on an IF diet.
Whole oats, quinoa, spelt, brown rice, and various types of whole-grain bread and pasta are great examples of healthy complex carbs.
Nuts and avocados
While it is true that avocados have the highest amount of calories of all fruits, this doesn’t mean you should avoid them when trying to lose weight. This is because avocados are rich in unsaturated fats, which will fill you up and stave off hunger even while fasting. The same can be said about nuts. They may have a higher calorie count than other healthy snacks, but they are also rich in unsaturated fats. It’s not just the amount you eat that matters. The quality of food you eat can affect weight loss too.
Beans are a source of fiber and plant protein that will actually give you sustained energy. Eating these will give you a steady stream of energy, even in your fasting periods. In addition, one study shows that black beans, among other foods, might stimulate weight loss, even if you are not restricting and counting calories.
Probiotics are foods that contain live and active microorganisms, which, when consumed, can provide health benefits. In terms of intermittent fasting, eating probiotic foods might help with weight loss. Some foods to try include yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, kombucha, and pickles.
Fruits and Berries
Fruits are a great addition to any healthy diet, and we should be eating them every day. They offer vitamins and minerals, aid digestion, reduce cell damage, and improve skin. In other words, fruits can do it all. You can mix them into yogurt or oatmeal or eat them on their own.
Dark-colored and cruciferous vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables like Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and broccoli are rich in fiber. As previously stated, fiber can help you feel full for a longer time, which can facilitate intermittent fasting periods.
Best foods to break your fast with
While there are no dietary requirements for intermittent fasting, some foods might be better for breaking your fast than others. In fact, some IF experts will tell you that how you break your fast can make or break your diet’s effectiveness.
Regardless of how hungry you are, do not go straight for sweets or a meal loaded with refined carbs. This can cause a steady rise and then a steep drop in blood sugar, which can cause you to crash later in the day. In addition, try to avoid overeating with a large meal. You might experience bloating, which can throw off your entire eating pattern.
Instead, break your fast with a meal that contains a mix of proteins and whole foods, e.g., an omelet with beans and cooked veggies or overnight oats with Greek yogurt or plant-based milk. This will give you the nutrients and energy you need to get you through the day.
If you are in a hurry and don’t have time for a nutritious breakfast, you can use a protein shake to break your fast.
Foods to limit during intermittent fasting
Just like any diet or usual healthy nutrition, it is best to avoid highly processed foods or foods high in sugar.
You probably already know the guilty pleasures we are referring to–soda drinks, ice cream, cereal bars, cakes, store-bought sauces, doughnuts, french fries, the list can go on. They have little nutritional value, which means you are eating empty calories and will have a growling stomach soon after. Eat them only in moderation, or better, avoid them at all.
What can I drink while fasting?
Certain drinks are better than others during intermittent fasting. We will cover which ones are worth drinking below.
Water is necessary for every single one of our bodily functions. Staying properly hydrated can prevent the body from confusing thirst with hunger, so it is also vital during intermittent fasting. The body needs a consistent and steady flow of electrolytes and requires proper fluid intake to function optimally.
You can track your hydration levels through your urine color. Urine the color of lemonade (light yellow) is a sign of being hydrated, but if your urine is yellow, like the color of apple juice, it’s time for a glass of water.
In moderation, coffee is great for your body and intermittent fasting. However, drinking coffee on an empty stomach may be overstimulating and can potentially cause jitters and digestive upset. It is important to keep hydrated if drinking coffee during the fasting window and to stay away from added cream or sugar.
Whether you need an energy boost or something to help you relax before bed, tea is a great option while fasting. Tea has been known to aid digestion and promote relation and gut health. Some studies have linked green tea with facilitating, although black and herbal teas are beneficial too. However, it is important not to add any sugar, cream, or sweeteners to your tea so that you don’t break your fast.
Bone broth is popular among some fasters and paleo dieters, but it is not the best option while fasting. This is because bone broth has protein, which contains calories that would, therefore, break a fast.
Still, bone broth is a great option to start your eating window. Opt for broth with healthy protein & carbs in it (e.g, tofu, lentils, cooked vegetables).
You should avoid drinking soda whether or not you’re fasting, even if it is zero calories. The artificial sugars in the zero-calorie options have been shown to negatively affect the balance of good and bad microflora in the gut.
Most sodas contain zero nutritional value, and regular sodas are filled with sugar that can spike blood sugar levels.
Alcohol and IF do not mix well, and they should never be consumed while you are actively fasting. This is because alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream much faster on an empty stomach, which can amplify its effects.
In addition to this, you are more likely to binge eat due to the effect alcohol has on hormones that stimulate appetite. Research has shown that those who consume a high amount of alcohol are more likely to overeat compared to those who don’t consume alcohol at all.
Related article: Does Alcohol Break a Fast?
Foods and drinks for the fasting phase of intermittent fasting
Consuming anything containing calories technically qualifies as breaking a fast.
However, as previously stated, drinking unsweetened tea, black coffee, and water is okay because these beverages do not contain calories.
If your stomach is growling and you can’t stop thinking about food, try opting for one of the above beverages. Eventually, your body may adapt to your fasting patterns.
You may also stumble upon the advice to munch on sugar-free gum to reduce hunger. However, these typically have artificial sugars, which aren’t the best option either.
If at any point you begin to experience any symptoms of non-diabetic hypoglycemia, break your fast and eat. Symptoms of this condition include shakiness, lightheadedness, irritability, sweating, and nausea accompanied by hunger.
Hypoglycemia can happen when your blood sugar is so low that your cells don’t have enough energy to properly function. It is important to listen to your body, even if that means that IF isn’t the right plan for you.
Note that constant hunger throughout the fasting window may also indicate that you have a poor diet or that IF is not the best option for you.
If you are looking to lose weight without overly restricting yourself, intermittent fasting is a great solution. Like any diet, it is important to include nutrient-dense foods into your IF regimen. To boost the weight loss process, you can also combine IF with a low-carb diet regimen, keeping in mind that your nutrient ratio must be very accurate.
In addition to IF, exercise and good sleep hygiene are essential to healthy living and will also facilitate your weight loss efforts. You can also use a fasting app to manage your fasting routine and track the micronutrients you get with meals.
However, the best way to determine if intermittent fasting is right for you is by consulting a healthcare professional.