Can I Drink Coffee While Fasting?

If you want to start fasting, either for religious or dietary reasons, you have to consider what you drink, including coffee. Here's what kinds of coffee will break a fast, and what won't.

April 27, 2024
A clock featuring a cup of coffee in the center, with the cup's handle serving as the clock's hand.

Whether you’re looking to lose a few pounds or it’s a matter of religious commitment, fasting is a part of many societies around the world. While different fasting styles and traditions have different rules, some are a lot more lax when it comes to drinks. 

If you’re doing it for dietary reasons, black coffee probably does not break a fast, but the things you add to it likely will (milk, cream, sugar, etc.). Black coffee can even boost your metabolism and speed up the digestive process. However, if you’re fasting for religious reasons, what’s allowed or not will depend on the specific rules of your faith or religious guidelines. 

So, with these ideas in mind, let’s dive in and find out more about coffee and fasting. We’ll start by giving you a rundown on the approximate calories in coffee and common additions. 

How Many Calories in Common Coffee Drinks:

Item

Serving Size

Calories

Will it Break a Fast?

Black coffee

8 oz (250 ml)

5 cal

Americano with whole milk

8 oz (250 ml)

40 cal

Americano with semi-skimmed milk

8 oz (250 ml)

30 cal

Cappuccino with whole milk

6 oz (200 ml)

150 cal

Latte with whole milk

8 oz (250 ml)

200 cal

Flat White with whole milk

6 oz (200 ml)

150 cal

Mocha with whole milk

8 oz (250 ml)l

300 cal

Iced coffee with whole milk

8 oz (250 ml)

100 cal

Cold brew with whole milk

6 oz (200 ml)

25 cal

Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk

8 oz (250 ml)

160 cal

White sugar 

One packet

23 cal

Whipped cream

2 tbsp (25 g)

100 cal

Does Coffee Break Intermittent Fasting Rules?

Whether or not coffee breaks an intermittent fast largely depends on the specific program you’re following. Some are more strict than others.

Drinks like black coffee, espresso, and water are usually allowable — they have low to no caloric content, so they don’t impact the integrity of the fast.

However, if you want to add cream, milk, sugar, or other calories to your coffee, you’ll have to fit it into the fasting schedule’s allotted time for food. 

If you've spent any time on the internet or listened to any health or well-being podcasts, you'll have probably heard of this dietary phenomenon. It's essentially when you don't eat for specified periods of time. 

These fasts can last 18 hours, supposedly training your metabolism and body to digest food and disperse energy more efficiently, resulting in weight loss. Whether it works or is healthy is not the point here. 

One of the most popular intermittent diets is the 16/8 method. In this form, you fast for 16 hours, leaving an eight-hour eating and drinking window during which you eat your daily calories. This is a fairly entry-level fast, as many of us are asleep for half of the fasting time. One of the key things about this diet is that there isn’t a calorie deficit or set calories. You eat as normal within your eight-hour window.

A more extreme but also well-known fasting method is the 5:2 diet. This is where you eat as normal for five days out of the week but then allocate two days where you severely restrict your calorific intake — 500 calories for women and 600 calories for men. The two days can be spread out across the week; you don’t need to fast two days in a row.

Does Coffee Break A Religious Fast?

Okay, if you're fasting for religious reasons, the question has a completely different answer. Religious fasts are a lot stricter than dietary fasts as they’re a show of faith. They’re usually designed to help you feel closer to God and become empathetic with those who have less than you.

Coffee could indeed break a fast, whether it’s a delicious creamy Vietnamese coffee or a tiny, short, and sharp espresso. It depends on the religion and the fast.

Ramadan in the Islamic faith is probably the most well-known religious fast and occurs for a whole month. During this time, Muslims can only eat or drink when the sun goes down — this goes for coffee, water, and soda. It’s one of the holiest parts of the year for many people.

Other religions that include fasting as part of their devotion include Christianity with Lent and Judaism with Yom Kippur, but also Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, and Taoism [1]. Fasts depend on the time of year and level of devotion. 

Protocols for different religious fasts vary. In Christianity, if you’re between 18-59 and in good health, you should fast completely on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and if you’re over 14, you should abstain from meat every Friday during Lent (which means coffee of all kinds is fine!). 

As you can see, religious fasting is varied — there are many reasons why and many ways to do it. If you’re considering fasting for religious purposes and unsure what’s allowed, check with a religious leader to make sure.

Does Coffee Boost Your Metabolism During A Fast?

When we’re talking about the relationship between coffee and fasting, it’s important to look at the impact of caffeine on our metabolism. Some research suggests coffee and caffeine, in general, may speed up our metabolism and digestive processes — though this is not conclusive [2].

If you’re fasting for dietary reasons, black coffee can help this metabolism-boosting process along. However, as with anything designed to speed up your digestive system, you need to be careful with how much you drink when you’re eating irregularly.

While it’s not unsafe to have coffee on an empty stomach, it can cause some stomach discomfort and acid reflux because it increases the level of stomach acids that digest food.

FAQs: Coffee & Fasting

Now that we know if coffee breaks a fast, let's check out some quick, frequently asked questions about coffee and fasting.

1. Can I have coffee on an empty stomach?

Yes, you can have coffee on an empty stomach. There have been rumors in the past that having coffee on an empty stomach causes digestive issues, but this only really happens if you have a sensitive stomach or acid reflux. Keep in mind that coffee speeds up your metabolism, so if you have too much on an empty stomach, your body may not have time to absorb the nutrients it needs from food. 

2. Does black coffee have calories?

If you’re trying to lose weight through counting calories, black coffee is a great option with less than five calories per cup. This means it’s easy to get those energetic boosts even when you’re in a calorie deficit. However, it’s all about balance and you should also be drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced diet.

3. Should I drink coffee during Ramadan?

While you cannot drink coffee during the daylight hours of Ramadan, you can have it when the sun goes down, and the daily fast is broken. However, experts don’t advise this as it means you’ll be drinking coffee from 10 pm onwards, which can dramatically harm your sleep quality and pattern. 

4. Does coffee improve fasting?

Studies are inconsistent on whether coffee can improve your metabolism [2]. If you’re looking to keep your motivation up and improve your metabolic rate, black coffee might be beneficial. However, remember to have everything in moderation so that you don’t harm or irritate your digestive system when you do eat.

5. Will black coffee help me lose weight?

Research is inconclusive on whether coffee can help you lose weight or not. The biggest influence is in how you drink it, not if you drink it. Sweet coffees like frappes or Vietnamese coffee have a lot of calories. You can swap these coffee-styles with black coffee to reduce your sugar and fat intake throughout the day. 

However, black coffee alone won’t help you lose weight – you need to look at the rest of your diet and exercise plan. 

References

  1. Trabelsi, K., Ammar, A., Boujelbane, M. A., Puce, L., Garbarino, S., Scoditti, E., Boukhris, O., Khanfir, S., Clark, C. C. T., Glenn, J. M., Alhaj, O. A., Jahrami, H., Chtourou, H., & Bragazzi, N. L. (2022). Religious fasting and its impacts on individual, public, and planetary health: Fasting as a "religious health asset" for a healthier, more equitable, and sustainable society. Frontiers in nutrition, 9, 1036496. 
  2. Schubert, M. M., Irwin, C., Seay, R. F., Clarke, H. E., Allegro, D., & Desbrow, B. (2017). Caffeine, coffee, and appetite control: a review. International journal of food sciences and nutrition, 68(8), 901-912.