Can You Drink Diet Soda While Intermittent Fasting?
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Diet Soda and Intermittent Fasting
Can you have diet soda while you’re intermittent fasting? In this article, we’ll teach you why the answer is “no”, backed by strong scientific research.
Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy in which periods of food consumption (the ‘eating window’) alternates with fasting periods (the ‘fasting window’).
Many studies have also demonstrated the immense power of regular intermittent fasting for weight loss, reduced insulin resistance, better cardiovascular health, improved neurological activity, and improved liver health.
The key to intermittent fasting is a biological process called autophagy. While fasting, cells in tissues throughout your body must continue to oxidize (or burn) glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids to produce ATP, the cellular form of energy.
However, during a fast, cells all throughout your body have limited access to nutrients from food, and instead generate ATP by oxidizing stored glucose from glycogen, fat from triglyceride, and amino acids from protein.
This process of autophagy is actually very beneficial to your body when done in short and controlled periods, and as a result the benefits of intermittent fasting include:
- Reducing inflammation
- Burning excess fuel stores
- Recycling old or dysfunctional cells
There are multiple methods of intermittent fasting -- the 16:8 method, the 24-hour method, the 5:2 method – and all are designed to allow for intentional, long periods between meals, specifically designed to improve many aspects of your overall health.
So why don’t we recommend drinking diet soda during a fast?
Well, even though diet sodas don’t have calories and won’t technically break your fast, these artificial drinks can counteract the health benefits of performing a fast in the first place.
We’ll explain the scientific reasons below, and also provide some ideas for other, health-promoting zero calorie beverages that amplify the health benefits of fasting.
The Problems with Diet Soda
We Know Regular Soda Has Detrimental Effects on Your Health
Numerous studies and reviews indicate negative effects from the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda or juice. This has become relatively common knowledge in recent years, and these negative effects include:
But what about diet sodas, which are marketed as the “calorie-free, sugar-free” alternative?
Some Truths About Diet Soda
Unfortunately, despite their lack of calories and sugars, diet drinks can be just as detrimental to your health as their sugar-sweetened counterparts.
While diet soda is often portrayed as a weight loss tool and an “acceptable” drink of choice for people with diabetes, the evidence shows some potential risks.
For example, one study found that zero-calorie sweeteners may alter insulin sensitivity, which negates the “zero-calorie” benefits, and could actually worsen your diabetes health.
A similar study from Purdue University showed that diet soda may stimulate insulin production, increasing your risk for high cholesterol, insulin resistance, and central obesity.
Work is being done to isolate the exact biochemical reason that these sweeteners affect your body, but the research is starting to show that consumption of diet soda increases your risk for many chronic diseases.
This correlation is evident in a study published in Diabetes Care, which examined diet soda consumption in a multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis.
Researchers found that 1 daily serving of diet soda (at least 12 oz) correlated with a 36% greater chance of developing metabolic syndrome, and a 67% greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
These results were supported by another comprehensive study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Following 66,000 women for 14 years, researchers found that those who drank diet soda, or artificially-sweetened beverages, were just as likely to develop diabetes as those who drank normal sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages.
In all, there is a strong, growing body of research that diet sodas do increase your risk for many chronic diseases, comparable to the consumption of regular sodas.
How Diet Sodas Interfere with Intermittent Fasting
So the question still remains – can you drink diet soda while intermittent fasting?
One popular rule of thumb for intermittent fasting is that you shouldn’t consume more than 50 calories, otherwise your fasting period will end prematurely. Others recommend not eating or drinking more than 100 calories. However, the exact number of calories isn’t clear in the evidence-based research.
But since diet soda has zero calories, technically speaking, it should be an acceptable drink when intermittent fasting.
Even though diet sodas contain zero calories, perhaps a better question to ask is whether drinking diet soda while intermittent fasting is health-damaging or health-promoting?
The Purpose of An Intermittent Fast
The goal of intermittent fasting is to dramatically lower your calorie intake for an extended period of time.
In the post-prandial state following a meal, tissues are in a high-energy state in which energy uptake and storage is prioritized.
While in a fasted state, tissues oxidize stored nutrients, recycle amino acids, and detoxify harmful molecules.
Intermittent fasting is a conscious process you take to improve your health, allowing tissues to recycle damaged and dysfunctional proteins while burning stored energy.
Meanwhile, diet sodas are packed with artificial sweeteners and other chemicals to give them their sweet taste, like aspartame, stevia, sucralose, and many others.
So while a diet soda may not technically break your intermittent fast, it may have short and long term negative effects that counteract the benefits of intermittent fasting in the first place!
That’s why we recommend that you choose other, zero calorie beverage alternatives during your intermittent fast that promote your health, like the ones listed below. They can provide you with key nutrients, stabilize your blood glucose, and even enhance the benefits of your intermittent fast.
And always remember, if you have to eat or drink calories because you’re irritable, feeling weak or lightheaded, or going hypoglycemic (as is possible if you have insulin-dependent diabetes), then that’s okay. A small, whole-food snack won’t entirely negate the benefits of intermittent fasting as long as you keep your calorie intake as close to zero as possible.
Some Recommended Drinks for Intermittent Fasting
Putting your body into a fasting state means keeping your calorie balance as close to zero as possible, to take advantage of the benefits of autophagy.
So we’ve put together a list of recommended beverages for intermittent fasting. The drinks here can help keep you full and refreshed, curb your appetite, taste great, and may even accelerate weight loss.
Water — Our first suggestion is also our simplest. Drinking water is the easiest way to stay hydrated, and also reduces your hunger and feelings of craving by making you feel full.
Carbonated Water — Much like still water, carbonated water keeps you hydrated, curbs your appetite, and makes you feel full. The added carbonation can provide the crisp sensation many enjoy with a soda, but with none of the negative effects.
Green Tea — Green tea is one of the healthiest beverages on Earth. Evidence-based research has consistently demonstrated that green tea helps reduce your risk for cancer, improves artery function, and protects against cardiovascular disease.
Note: Research has also shown that even adding small amounts of milk to green tea can block its protective action, so we recommend enjoying your tea plain or with a squeeze of lemon juice
Herbal Tea — Herbal teas like black tea, Oolong, and many others can be an excellent addition to a low-fat plant based whole-food diet because they are packed with valuable antioxidants. In this regard, one tea stands above the rest — Amla Green. Thanks to amla (Indian gooseberries), the strongest pound for pound antioxidant on the planet, this tea offers a tasty mix of hibiscus or Oolong Green Tea that can also enhance your intermittent fast.
Green Juices — Green juices are juices made from leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables such as cucumber, celery, lettuce, and tomato. These juices can be extremely nutrient-dense additions to your diet, but also do not contain enough carbohydrate energy to interrupt your fast. A great solution if you’re looking for something that tastes satisfying and filling.
Apple Cider Vinegar — Often referred to simply as “ACV”, apple cider vinegar is packed with natural nutrients that can help stabilize your blood glucose, shutting down hunger and cravings before they start. It doesn’t take much — usually one or two tablespoons — for this natural remedy to have an effect, which makes it an excellent quick fix during your fast.
The Final Word
With the options above, you’ll be able to stay hydrated, curb your hunger, and give your body crucial nutrients that may even help accelerate your intermittent fast.
Our personal favorite is Amla Green, due to its vibrant flavors and the many metabolic benefits of amla. If you’re interested, you can click the link below and try your first batch entirely risk-free.
Amla Green has strict guidelines for scientific references in our articles, and we rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, governmental organizations, and reputable medical organizations. We do our best to avoid using non-evidence-based references in all articles. The references in this article are listed below.
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Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD
Cyrus Khambatta, PhD, is a cofounder of Mastering Diabetes and Amla Green is an internationally recognized nutrition and fitness coach who has been living with type 1 diabetes since 2002. Using an evidence-based approach to nutrition and fitness, he first reduced his own insulin usage by more than 40%, and has educated thousands of people with all forms of diabetes how to reverse insulin resistance using food as medicine. Cyrus earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 2003, then earned a PhD in Nutritional Biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 2012. He is the co-host of the annual Mastering Diabetes Online Summit, a featured speaker at the Plant-Based Nutrition and Healthcare Conference (PBNHC), the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) Conference, Plant Stock, and has been featured on Forks Over Knives, NPR, PBS, KQED, Fast Company, and is the author of the upcoming book Mastering Diabetes.
- Cyrus Khambatta