Can I Drink Coffee/Tea with Milk on the 16:8 Intermittent Fasting?

Like me, most people generally need to start the day with a cup of tea or coffee. I like taking my black tea with a splash of milk to balance out the flavour. However, if you’re on the intermittent fasting diet, you’re not suppose to have any intake of calories on your fasting zone. 

Drinking straight tea or black coffee is 0 calories which means that it’s allowed during your fasting zone. Whereas if you were to drink a Starbucks salted caramel cream nitro cold brew, it would have broken your fast. This is because the grande (473ml) without any customisation would have been 230 calories. This is around the same amount of calories in a glazed donut from Dunkin’ Donut. 

All of the additions such as sugar and milk will add in fat and calories. Both of these are something that you should avoid during your fasting period. While black coffee is just 0 calories, it’s adding the milk or sugar that loads up more calories into your diet. If you were to consume it, it means that your body will be able to utilise fuel from something other than your body’s storage. The more calories you provide your body, the more it has to use as energy which means that your fast is broken. 

Although in a true fast, putting a splash of milk or cream in your tea/coffee will definitely be considered as breaking your fast. However, for some people who absolutely must have a splash of milk or cream, it’s not the end of the world. Dr. Jason Fung, one of the leading experts on intermittent fasting have stated that a little milk or cream is alright, as long as there’s no sweeteners or sugar. He’s noticed that allowing this had improved people’s compliance to the fasting rules. 

It mostly depends on what your goal of doing intermittent fasting is. Some people fast for weight loss, reduce insulin resistance, lowering their risk of type two diabetes, reducing inflammation in the body or just as a challenge. Having a bit of cream or milk won’t inhibit fat burning in your body, but it will affect autophagy negatively. Sometimes, this might not matter if it doesn’t connect to what you’re doing intermittent fasting for. 

Interest for autophagy has been increasing recently. Autophagy is sometimes achieved through intermittent fasting. The idea of autophagy is that because there is no external sources of fuel in your body, the body should start to eat itself. Hence the term auto (self) and phage (eat). It’s believed that the body can use and recycle your own damaged cells and proteins to create new and healthier versions of it. People believe that it’s good for preventing yourself from diseases such as cancer. Evidence has suggested that autophagy influences a wide range of tissues and organs. However, you would have to fast for at least around 20 hours. Dr. Jason Fung suggested that it happens “probably in the later stages of a long fast – somewhere around 20 to 24 hours.” 

While you are fed, insulin is increased and therefore the rate of autophagy is low. As insulin drops while fasting, autophagy will increase. Autophagy is suppressed when there is insulin resistance, this might explain why people with diabetes or obesity have a higher risk of negative effects. 

If you are not fasting for autophagy, then there is a slight leeway for you to have a bit of milk or cream in your drink. However, do not forget it is all about the calories in the end. The calories in milk depends of what type of milk you take. For example:

  • A tablespoon of nonfat milk is 5 calories
  • A tablespoon of 2% milk is 9 calories
  • A tablespoon of whole milk is 9 calories
  • A tablespoon of soy milk is 8 calories
  • A tablespoon of cream is 29 calories

Therefore, in my opinion, taking a coffee/tea with a tablespoon of milk/cream should be fine. As long as you are not drinking 5-10 cups during your fasting period, you will be safe to have a cuppa or two. 

On the other note, plain green tea actually helps fasting! Dr. Jason Fung actually asks his patients to drink black or green tea during fasting periods. The green tea catechins can help support the weight loss. Catechins are also present in black tea, however there is much higher concentration of catechins in green tea than black. Evidence shows that green tea catechins can help lower ghrelin (hunger hormone) and therefore decreases your hunger pangs. It also has the ability to block carbohydrate absorption. One study presented that the amount of extra calories burned was around 106 calories a day through drinking a beverage with caffeine, green tea catechins and calcium 3 times a day. The benefits of green tea for weight loss might not be high, but if you were to consider around 100 calories a day, it’ll add up to 1000 calories in 10 days. 

If you want to stay safe from the milk in coffee or tea, you can also drink water. Drinking water is pretty important during your fast. Sometimes you might mistaken thirst with hunger or drinking water might help you feel fuller or stuffed. Water is very important to your body. If you find the taste of water bland, you could spice it up by adding some lemon, lime or cucumber slices. Adding a slice or a squeeze won’t add any number of calories that will have effect on your intermittent fasting. 

In the end, it’s all up to you. It is your diet and your body, you should have complete control of it. While it is safest to stick to water, black coffee or straight tea during intermittent fasting, you should not do something that will make you detest it. If you need to drink a coffee with a splash of milk, do it. You are doing intermittent fasting to improve your life and if that is what it takes to help your fast then it is worth it. 

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