What Can Break Intermittent Fasting?

Published on
Intermittent Fasting

Are you planning to start or already practicing intermittent fasting (IF) and wondering what to eat and avoid while fasting?

Well, with all the buzz around IF, and ample information on the internet, it’s understandable to feel lost. 

Can you indulge in a cup of coffee or tea or incorporate supplements like MCT oil or bone broth? Do you also have these questions?

We conducted a thorough investigation to determine which foods and beverages won’t break a fast, which ones technically break a fast but still retain some of the benefits of fasting, and which ones you should avoid at all costs while fasting. 

The results are in, and we have the inside scoop on what you need to know.

But First, A Quick Refresher On Intermittent Fasting

As the name suggests, intermittent fasting is all about restricting food intake for short periods. 

Some major beneficial processes triggered by intermittent fasting are autophagy and ketosis.

Autophagy is the body’s mechanism for disposing of damaged cells and cellular components. 

In contrast, ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs due to reduced carbohydrate intake, leading to the burning of fat and the production of ketones for energy.

Here are some popular intermittent fasting methods:

Time-Restricted Eating (The 16/8 Or 14/10 Method)

This method involves setting fasting and eating windows, such as restricting eating periods to eight or ten hours. 

It is convenient for many people to extend their overnight fast by skipping breakfast. It can be repeated as often as you like or done once or twice weekly.

The Twice-A-Week Method 

 This approach involves capping your calories at 500 for two days a week, while maintaining a normal diet for the other five days.

Alternate Day Fasting

This method involves fasting every other day, with limited calorie intake on fasting days (500 or about 25% of your normal intake). On non-fasting days, you can resume your regular healthy diet.

The 24-Hour fast

This method involves complete fasting for 24 hours, once or twice a week. However, it can have side effects such as fatigue, headaches, irritability, hunger, and low energy.

Dirty Vs. Clean Fasting

Dirty fasting is a term used to refer to the consumption of some calories during a fasting window, in contrast to traditional or “clean” fasting, which prohibits all food and calorie-containing drinks.

For dirty fasting, you can consume up to 100 calories during the fasting period. This may involve adding milk and sweetener to their coffee or drinking a cup of bone broth.

However, it should be noted that there is no standard definition of dirty fasting, and some individuals may consume significantly more calories during a dirty fast, while others may consume fewer.

With this in mind, we would like to clarify that all the details below apply to clean intermittent fasting.

So, Is There a Calorie Limit That Can Break a Fast?

Technically, consuming any calories breaks a fast.

That means even a small amount of calories can diminish the benefits of fasting, such as autophagy. 

However, some benefits of fasting, like ketosis, can still be active while consuming certain macronutrients. 

Many also believe that the calorie limit is 50 for not breaking the fast; however, there isn’t enough evidence to support this.

Technically, experts prefer sticking to zero calories, but it isn’t one-size-fits-all. If you feel dizzy or have other symptoms, you can consume a healthy, low-calorie food item (more on this below).

What About That Cup of Tea Or Coffee During Fasting Hours? 

Well, the answer may surprise you.

While there’s no conclusive evidence that coffee can break a fast, some experts recommend a “close to zero calorie” approach with filtered water and herbal teas during fasting hours. 

However, caffeine has some fantastic benefits for fasting, such as suppressing your appetite. So it can be just the trick to keep you going during fasting hours. 

But hold on, the good news doesn’t end there. 

Coffee and tea won’t interfere with the perks of fasting, such as ketosis and fat burn. 

In fact, drinking coffee may even amplify some of the benefits of fasting, such as improved insulin sensitivity. So, your daily cup of joe might be doing more good than you thought.

Is It Okay To Have Healthy Fats?

If you’re new to intermittent fasting, the idea of not eating for hours on end may seem daunting. 

That’s why some people include healthy fats like MCT oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, or coconut oil in their fasts until noon. 

While this “fat fast” technically breaks the fast and reduces autophagy, it can still help curb cravings while maintaining some of the key benefits of fasting.

Experts suggest that a fat fast can be really helpful for improving satiety and holding off on eating a full meal.

It can also aid support body fat metabolism and ketone production in the morning when cortisol levels are typically high.

Without a dose of fat, these elevated insulin and cortisol levels may potentially trigger hunger or cravings.

Bonus: Consuming healthy fats like MCT oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, or coconut oil in the morning can also help keep you regular. This may be particularly beneficial if you’re not focused solely on weight loss.

Besides, for certain women, incorporating healthy fats into their fasting window can be even more important. 

Because fat is required to produce hormones, a fat fast can be a great technique to support healthy hormone balance for women dealing with adrenal fatigue or hypothyroidism.

And What About Bone Broth?

If you’ve been searching for a liquid to sip on during your fast, bone broth may be your answer. 

While it technically breaks the fast, it can be a smart addition depending on your goals.

Experts even recommend it as a way to reduce hunger pangs and improve fasting compliance while delivering much-needed minerals and electrolytes. 

Consuming water alone, especially for fasts exceeding 16 hours, can reduce electrolyte levels in the body, leading to potential complications such as low blood pressure, confusion, nausea, muscle spasms, and fatigue.

Bone broth, rich in gelatin and the amino acid glutamine, can also be particularly beneficial if you’re looking to rebalance or heal the gut.

While glutamine can fuel a process called mTOR and prevent autophagy, it would likely take more glutamine than you’d find in a mug of bone broth to negate these benefits altogether.

So, if bone broth is the tool you need to stick to your fast, keep using it.

In Any Case, Avoid This During Intermittent Fasting

According to experts, zero-calorie sweeteners should be avoided during fasting hours and in general. 

Despite having no calories, artificial sweeteners can disrupt gut balance and cause various health issues.

Even though they don’t contain calories, consuming artificial sweeteners during a fast can still impact metabolic functions. 

The taste of sweet affects receptors on the tongue, which can stimulate insulin release. This can have a negative impact on fasting and potentially lead to drops in blood sugar levels, resulting in feelings of hunger and irritability.

Therefore, if you need a sweetener during fasting hours, opting for organic 100% stevia used sparingly is best.

Supplements That Are or Aren’t Likely To Break Intermittent Fasting

According to experts, it is unlikely to become deficient in nutrients while fasting, but it depends on the type of fast and its duration. 

Some people choose to take supplements to ensure an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals. 

However, it’s important to know which supplements could break a fast. Here are a few supplements that are more likely to break a fast:

  • Gummy multivitamins
  • Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
  • Protein powders
  • Supplements containing ingredients like maltodextrin, pectin, cane sugar, or fruit juice concentrate. 

On the other hand, the following supplements are unlikely to break a fast:

  • Multivitamins without added sugar or fillers
  • Fish or algae oil
  • Creatine, 
  • Pure collagen
  • Probiotics and prebiotics.

A Word On Breaking Intermittent Fasting

Eating the wrong foods after a fast can lead to digestive issues, bloating, and discomfort, undoing the positive effects of your fast.

To break your fast, it’s essential to start with gentle foods that won’t overwhelm your digestive system. 

Instead of diving into a heavy meal (such as a greasy cheeseburger or sugary slice of cake), try introducing small portions of nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest.

Here are some great food options to break your fast:

  • Smoothies are an excellent choice since they contain less fiber than whole, raw fruits and vegetables. 
  • Dried fruits like dates, apricots, and raisins are also concentrated sources of nutrients that can help break your fast gently.
  • Soups that contain protein and easily digestible carbs, such as lentils, tofu, or pasta, can also be a great option. Stick to soups that don’t contain heavy cream or large amounts of high-fiber, raw vegetables.

Other gentle food options include cooked, soft, starchy vegetables like potatoes, unsweetened yogurt, or kefir, and foods like eggs or avocados that contain healthy fats.

Lastly, when breaking your fast, it’s crucial to be mindful not to overeat. 

By breaking your fast with care and being mindful of what you eat, you’ll be able to ease back into your regular eating pattern without compromising your health.

Final Words

If you practice intermittent fasting, it’s best to be mindful of what you consume during your fasting period. 

Consuming certain foods and supplements may break your fast, so it’s important to make informed decisions about what you put into your body.

However, the most crucial factor influencing what you can eat is your body’s reaction. Therefore, consuming healthy, low-calorie food options is okay to make you feel comfortable and stick to the dietary routine.

If you struggle with cravings during your fast, you may be tempted to eat small amounts of certain foods. While this may break your fast, it may still keep you in ketosis, so it’s worth considering if you have a hard time sticking to your fasting routine.

During your fasting window, it’s best to stick to beverages and supplements that don’t contain any calories. This way, you can still benefit from the positive effects of fasting without interfering with your calorie restriction.

When you’re ready to break your fast, choosing foods that are easy to digest and won’t overwhelm your system is essential. 

Avoid foods high in sugar, fat, fiber, or complex carbohydrates, as these can be difficult to process, leading to discomfort or even digestive issues.

Once you’ve successfully broken your fast, it’s time to ease back into your regular, healthy eating pattern gradually. 

By being mindful of what you consume during your fasting period and breaking your fast with care, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of fasting without compromising your health or well-being.

Check out these exercises for a well-rounded approach to fitness.

Photo of author


Dr. Kinjal Kanani is a health content writer at Home Fit Headquarters. Previously, she has worked as a senior medical writer and copywriter, covering topics related to health, fitness, and nutrition. Dr. Kinjal Kanani has an MD in homeopathy and is passionate about the concept of holistic health and fitness.