Can you have zero-calorie energy drinks while you’re intermittent fasting?
In this article, we’ll teach you why a better question to ask is “should you have energy drinks during your fast?”
And why the answer is: “no”, backed by strong scientific evidence.
Intermittent fasting is a dietary strategy in which times of food consumption (‘eating windows’) alternate with periods of calorie restriction (the ‘fasting period’).
The potential results of intermittent fasting are powerful, including (but not limited to):
- Weight loss
- Reduced insulin resistance and insulin
- Better cardiovascular health
- Improved cognition and brain activity
- Improved liver health
The key to intermittent fasting is a biological process called autophagy, which happens during periods of low-calorie intake.
Basically, your cells still need ATP, the cellular form of energy, and with less energy available from food, cells in tissues all throughout your body begin recycling dysfunctional and damaged proteins and cells.
For detailed information about the autophagy process, click here to learn more.
This is actually great for your body when done in short bursts.
So why don’t we recommend drinking zero-calorie energy drinks during a fast?
Well, even though these drinks don’t have calories and won’t technically break your fast, these artificial drinks can have negative short-term and long-term effects that interfere with the health benefits of intermittent fasting.
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.
Table of Contents
Can You Drink Energy Drinks While Intermittent Fasting?
If your energy drink is sugar-sweetened or has more than 50 calories, then the answer is a very clear no. It’s become relatively common knowledge in recent years that sugary drinks can have drastic negative effects in the long term, including:
It’s also a generally accepted rule of thumb that eating or drinking more than 50 calories will snap you out of a fasted state, bringing an end to your fasting window.
Because most sugar-sweetened energy drinks contain between 150 to 200 calories per serving (or more), you’ll almost certainly be exiting the fasting state.
But what about zero-calorie or low-calorie energy drinks? For diet drinks, our recommendation is still “no”, for two major reasons.
Caffeine is a product of many natural drinks like teas and coffees, and when consumed in moderation can actually provide some health benefits like increased metabolic rate.
However, in energy drinks, the artificially-high levels of caffeine can have a wide range of negative side effects.
Studies have also shown that energy drinks, when consumed consistently over time, can be toxic in the long term.
Combined with other common side effects like palpitations, tremors, and agitation, and it’s probably worth looking elsewhere for energy.
The artificial sweeteners in sugar-free energy drinks also have negative side effects that can counteract the purpose of your intermittent fast.
Sweeteners like aspartame, erythritol, stevia, and others give zero-calorie energy drinks their sweet taste and are advertised as a risk-free, consequence-free alternative to artificial sugars.
These results have been increasingly supported by further studies from Purdue University. One comprehensive study found that these sweeteners (when in diet soda) correlate to the same risk for diabetes as normal soda.
The Purpose of An Intermittent Fast
This brings us back to our question: “should you drink calorie-free energy drinks while intermittent fasting?”
Our recommendation is still no, a recommendation that applies to other artificial “zero-calorie” beverages like diet soda.
The reasoning here is simple. If you’ve decided to integrate an intermittent fast into your diet strategy, you’ve made a conscious decision to improve your overall health and immunity, which also serve to protect your liver.
Artificial zero-calorie drinks won’t by default “break” your fast, but their negative side effects increase your risk for many chronic diseases and negatively impact your health.
And if you’re intermittent fasting to reverse insulin resistance, these artificial drinks may be equivalent to taking two steps forward, one step back.
What You Can Drink While Fasting
Instead of zero-calorie energy drinks (and diet sodas), there are a wide range of other drinks that will actually enhance the benefits of your intermittent fast.
The drinks in this list can help keep you full and refreshed, curb your appetite, taste great, and may even accelerate weight loss.
- Water — Our first suggestion and 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, helping with weight loss.
- Carbonated Water — Similar to still water, carbonated water keeps you hydrated, curbs your appetite, and makes you feel full. The added benefit with carbonated water is that crisp sensation many enjoy with a soda (with none of the negative side effects).
- Black Coffee - One of the most popular morning routines, scientific research has demonstrated that drinking coffee is effective at reducing blood pressure in subjects with normal blood pressure. Whether black coffee is beneficial at reducing blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in subjects with hypertension remains unknown. The data suggests that black coffee is safe and may be beneficial in the long-term.
- Green Tea — Green tea is a powerful antioxidant and natural medicine, and also comes in at zero-calories. Evidence-based research has shown that green tea reduces your risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease, and can improve your immunity. Serve pure or with just a squeeze of lemon juice to maintain your fast and its protective action.
- Herbal Tea — Herbal teas are packed with antioxidants, which scavenge free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. 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 like cucumber, celery, lettuce, and tomato. These juices are nutrient-dense additions to your diet, but also don’t have enough calories to interrupt your fast. A satisfying and filling option if you’re feeling hungry.
- Apple Cider Vinegar — Apple cider vinegar’s natural nutrients can help control your blood glucose, and reduce feelings of hunger 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 Take-Home Message
Unfortunately, the negative side-effects of zero-calorie energy drinks (and other artificial zero-calorie drinks like diet soda) make them a poor fit for an intermittent fast.
Fortunately, 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 of the above 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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