What you need to know about intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting never gets lost in the large variety of diets. It is an old and foolproof method to lose weight, as its whole idea revolves around forgoing meals for a lengthy period of time (25). Fasting doesn’t simply boil down to a weight loss practice. It’s been a commonplace religious ritual in numerous faiths, from Hinduism to Christianity. Therefore, humankind has long been acquainted with the fasting procedure and its impact on one’s health. From a religious perspective, fasting helps you maintain not only physical health but also the spiritual peace within you (11). Some say tea can break a fast, but does it really? This article answers the most popular questions on intermittent fasting and tea.
Before accepting the intermittent fasting challenge, it is better to make sure that you are ready for it both physically and mentally. This religious and weight-loss practice is very demanding, as you are putting your body under tremendous amounts of stress. During a fast, you either drastically reduce your calorie intake or do not eat at all. Fasting can last for half a day, a day, or even a week. So, you have to face the fact that you will feel hungry and, as a result, physically weak for quite a long time. Your mind might always be telling you that you should eat something, and you will have to find a way to overcome the temptation. Likewise, in case you’re determined to commence fasting, you should consult your doctor and check whether you can fast without putting a dent in your health.
- High blood pressure
- Heart palpitations
- Stomach pain
- Back pain
- Arthritis pain
Approaches to intermittent fasting
The typical intermittent fasting patterns include:
- Following this pattern, you will have to fast two full days per week, usually on the weekend. During these two days, you limit your calorie intake to 500 calories, which is 75% less than average recommendations. Daily, this would make 300 and 200 calories. Since you will have to reduce your food intake , it is important to include high-fiber and high-protein products to curb your appetite properly. Once you’re done with the 2-day fast, remember to go back to your normal eating pattern, so that you do not starve yourself (16).
- There are different ways in which you can organize your fasting according to this pattern. For example, you might choose to fast for 16 hours a day and eat only within an 8-hour window. Similarly, you might fast for 14 hours but eat for 10 hours. As people automatically fast in their sleep at nighttime, this fasting method is easier to follow. If you stick to the 16:8 method, you would have to skip breakfast and lunch. With a 10-hour eating window, you are free to enjoy both your lunch and dinner. You can engage in time-restricted fasting as often as you feel comfortable (16). There is also a 12:12 method, which is the easiest type of time-restricted fasting and is perfect for beginners. An 18:6 intermittent fasting is among the stricter types of fasting since it requires you to fast for 18 hours. Like with 16:8 fasting, here you will have to skip a meal or two.
- The name speaks for itself: you have to fast all day long. That is, you might fast from breakfast to breakfast or from dinner to dinner. Avoiding food for 24 hours is particularly stressful for your body, which requires you to eat on a regular basis to get all essential nutrients. It is not recommended to indulge in this type of fasting several days in a row because it might lead to severe health problems. You may practice it once a week but on condition that you have nutritious and balanced meals on the other days (16).
- It is a type of fasting in which you have to cut down on calories every other day (23). Hence, one day, you might eat 500 calories or absolutely nothing but return to your normal diet next day (8).
- Although officially it is not considered an intermittent fasting type, a one meal a day diet actively involves fasting. The concept of this nutritional plan is that you can only eat one meal a day. It has no calorie restrictions or food requirements. You can choose whichever time you want to have your one meal, but you mustn’t eat anything besides that meal for the rest of the day. So, basically, you can say that it belongs to a separate type of fasting – time-unrestricted intermittent fasting.
Does tea break a fast?
During the fasting cycles, the only allowed beverages are water and other calorie free beverages, like tea and coffee. (15). In fact, you are not even restricted in the amount of liquid; you are allowed to drink as much as you wish. It is permitted to drink tea during the fasting periods, which, actually, can help you deal with your hunger. Indeed, liquid can “deceive” your body and create the feeling of fullness. As you are drinking tea, you keep your stomach active, which is important even during the fasting periods.
How to drink tea during a fast?
What you need to remember when drinking tea, though, is that it should not contain any additives. In other words, you cannot add sugar, milk, cream, or anything else you might think of. Only unsweetened green, black, and herbal teas are allowed on a fast. Depending on how you go through your fast, you can add another harmless drink. If you are literally longing for something more than unsweetened tea, you might have a glass of sparkling water with a sprinkle of lime juice in it (17).
In the majority of cases, tea not only does not break a fast but also does not harm people during it. The study of Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo et al., in which 1422 people participated, shown that fasting with tea for 4-21 days is rather beneficial. By the end of the fasting period, the subjects had improved their mental and physical wellbeing and overcome some of their health problems. In addition, the cardiovascular health of the participants did not suffer in general but on the contrary even improved (19). Similar results were observed in the study conducted by Terra G. Arnason et al., in which people with type 2 diabetes took part. After fasting for two weeks, the subjects lost weight, and their blood sugar level improved dramatically (10).
The effect of tea caffeine on fasting
Tea, both green and black, contains some caffeine, which proves to influence your fasting. Brewed green tea has 28 mg of caffeine per 8 oz., whereas the black one has even more, 47 mg. Caffeine is usually not harmful if its intake makes up 400 mg a day. Nevertheless, caffeine tolerance varies, depending on a person’s health, lifestyle, and habits. Hence, people who regularly suffer from headaches and anxiety should not consume caffeine in great amounts (4).
Caffeinated drinks might aggravate your anxiety and add to your alertness. As a result, ingesting too much caffeine can interfere with your sleeping and complicate your fasting (5). During your fasting periods, you should get enough sleep in order not to yield to the temptation to break the fast. Likewise, your healthy, 8-hour sleep counts as fasting, making it easier to wait for the much-anticipated eating window. Indeed, drinking caffeine beverages might impact your circadian rhythm, perturbing your body functioning. (9)
Additionally, caffeine can result in the increase of both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure by up to 10 mmHg if you ingest more than 250 mg caffeine a day. Furthermore, caffeine can be rather harmful after a lengthy fast. If you have fasted for 10 hours and then consume 150-300 mg of caffeine, your urinary calcium excretion might subsequently increase (8). Thus, there is a chance that drinking a lot of tea during the eating window can eventually result in you having hypercalciuria.
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Green tea: secret of popularity
Green tea is one of the most favorite drinks worldwide, being a runner-up after water. It is low in calories yet tasty and healthy. There are merely 2.5 calories in a cup of green tea, which makes it a great choice during a fast (14). . Green tea is also quite nutritious, as it contains proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, lipids, xanthic bases, pigments, minerals, and vitamins B, C, and E. This drink is also widely used and praised as a therapeutic means, in the traditional Chinese medicine in particular (2).
Green tea is a top-notch antioxidant, which can help prevent a range of severe diseases, from heart conditions to cancers (2, 19). What makes green tea invaluable is the great number of catechins, especially epigallocatechin gallate (ECGG), which is a powerful antioxidant. Not only does it inhibit the growth of cancer cells but it also destroys them without causing harm to healthy tissues. Furthermore, ECGG is said to lower the LDL, or bad cholesterol levels (12).
Why is green tea the most useful?
The reason why green tea is often deemed the most useful one is the way it is processed. The tealeaves, which come from Camellia sinensis, are steamed, hence preventing ECGG from oxidation. Due to ECGG, green tea has a favorable effect on skin, breathing new life into the dying epidermis cells. At the same time, this type of tea proves to be an effective tool against fungi and viruses (12). Overall, green tea is both a tasty and healthy beverage. Dietitians recommend to drink it in moderate amounts. Refusing to drink it, you might miss a number of benefits for your health. As it is low in calories but rich in vitamins and catechins, green tea does not break a fast but rather positively contributes to it.
Slim down with black tea
Another tea type produced from Camellia sinensis is the black one, which is the main rival of green tea in popularity. Although the two tea types come from the same plant, they are quite different, mainly because black tea goes through oxidation and polymerization. As a result of the first process, ECGG are oxidized, while in the next step, benzotropolone (stable aromatic bicyclic ring) is synthesized. The main components of black tea include amino acids, alkaloids, catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins, polyphenols, and benzotropolone and its derivatives (3).
Why is black tea good for you?
Black tea has a plethora of health benefits and in some respects is more effective than green tea. Drinking black tea regularly might help you prevent atherosclerosis, as the beverage slows down cholesterol liver synthesis. Additionally, the serum levels in black tea are higher than in the green one. Some evidence also suggests that black tea could reduce the risk of cancers. Broadly speaking, tea has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, similarly to the green type. That is why some researchers speculate that the drink ingestion might be helpful in dealing with such age-related diseases as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. In fact, black tea could mitigate the degeneration of dopamine neurons (21).
Another weighty argument for both black and green teas is that these are helpful in slimming down. If you have set a goal to lose some weight, black tea might just be one of the best beverage choices (21). New studies have pointed out the interconnection between flavonoids in black tea and weight loss. Unlike green tea, the black one contains the flavonoids that appear during tea processing. They boost metabolism and accelerate weight loss. Compared with green tea, the caffeine level in the black one is higher, which facilitates the lipolysis process. What makes black tea even more favorable for those eager to lose weight is that it prevents them from regaining it (22).
Is black tea good for those who fast?
Black tea is a perfect beverage for people who fast, as it has a low calorie content . Thus, substituting sweetened, high-calorie beverages with it will reduce your calorie intake and should help you lose weight (22). In comparison, 12 oz. of the Pepsi soda contains 150 mg of calories, which is about twice more than in a cup of black tea (6). Accordingly, in no way does black tea break a fast or make you gain weight. On the contrary, it is an integral part of the weight loss process.
How can herbal tea contribute to your health during a fast?
Herbal tea is a unique drink, which is different from the above-mentioned green and black teas. It is a mixture of roots and leaves of various plants, along with flowers, seeds, grasses, nuts, etc. So, technically, herbal tea is not a tea at all, as it does not come from Camellia sinensis. The reason why it is called so consists in it being brewed the way green or black teas are (18).
The benefits of herbal teas depend on their components, as different flowers, roots, and other ingredients have their own properties and effects on a person. Nevertheless, it is possible to distinguish the following universal benefits of all herbal teas. The latter help people to (18):
- Calm down and maintain a peaceful state of mind
- Improve the heart health
- Deal with digestive problems
- Detox their body
- Strengthen their immune system
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Prevent cold
- Avoid insomnia
Apart from that, herbal tea is caffeine-free, which makes it considerably less damaging for some people’s well-being than other beverages. At the same time, even without caffeine, herbal tea can boost your energy and revitalize your body. If you want, you can drink this tea at night, as it will not interfere with your sleeping (18, 13).
Just as green and black teas, the herbal one is very low in calories, thus being effective for weight loss. As well as other teas, herbal tea is very unlikely to break a fast. Conversely, adding it to your fasting meal plan could help you on your weight loss journey.
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What To Include To Your Menu During The Eating Windows?
Although knowing what you can consume when fasting is very important, since almost everything can break a fast, it is also extremely important to know what to eat during your eating windows. The correct choice of food can boost your weight loss and health improvement results. As you already know, there are various types of intermittent fasting. Some restrict your caloric intake, some don’t. Therefore, there is no universal intermittent fasting meal plan. You need to plan your diet according to your personal goals, needs, and preference. However, there are universal healthy dieting recommendations that you can apply when planning your meals. Here is what you should include in your menu, and what should better be avoided if you want to successfully reach your goals in a healthy way:
Fruits, berries, and vegetables
Fruits, berries, and vegetables are packed to the brim with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and water. They are super nutritious while being relatively low in calories. If prepared in the right way, any vegetable can be beneficial for weight loss. You can bake, roast, grill, boil, steam, or simply eat raw various vegetables to get the most benefits. The best types of vegetables to include in your menu are leafy greens (including spinach, kale, cabbage, microgreens, collard greens, watercress, Romain lettuce, swiss chard, and others) and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage). You should also eat up on fermented vegetables since they are rich in probiotics, which add to the healthy gut bacteria and promote better digestion and overall wellness.
If you have a sweet tooth, then fruits and berries should be an inseparable part of your menu. They are naturally sweet and can be consumed in many different ways. Of course, the best way is to eat them raw, but you can also bake some of them, make fruit and berry juice and add them to smoothies. In general, you can consume fruits and berries as a snack, add them to various salads, top your oatmeal and yogurt with them, add them to your tea or baked goods.
Lean meats, poultry, eggs, and dairy
These are the best sources of animal protein. Proteins are building blocks of your body and can be found in every tissue of your body. They are also very beneficial for weight loss since they prolong your feeling of fullness and promote muscle growth. But how can increased muscle mass help me slim down? – you may ask. You see, the more muscles you have, the more calories you burn even when you rest. Since meats often tend to be rich in fats, make sure that you choose lean meats. The best way to prepare your lean meats and poultry is to boil them, make a bouillon, roast, grill, or bake. To avoid adding extra fats, it is better to eat boiled eggs rather than fried. And when choosing which dairy to eat, opt for the probiotic-rich yogurt and kefir.
Fatty fish and seafood
Fatty fish is one of the best sources of healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. It is also packed to the brim with protein and various essential vitamins and minerals. The best fatty fish choices include salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. You should also wat up on various seafood, unless you have an allergy. Seafood is also packed with nutrients and can make a great addition to your menu.
Whole grains along with fruits and vegetables are among the main sources of fiber in your diet. Fiber helps you stay full for longer, which is extremely beneficial if you stick to intermittent fasting. Besides fiber, whole grains can also offer you a great plethora of various micronutrients.
Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes are the main source of protein in vegetarian and vegan diets. They are also filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The best choices include chickpeas, green peas, black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, soybeans, and others.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats, fiber, proteins, and other nutrients. Nuts make for a great snack because they are ready-to-eat and highly nutritious. You can also use nuts and seeds to top your salad, yogurt, oatmeal, or smoothie. They can also be used in baking.
Herbs and spices
Herbs and spices can add more flavor and variety to your dishes. They can also provide you with some nutrients, but they are mostly used for their taste properties. If you have high blood pressure, then reducing your salt intake and substituting it with various herbs and spices can be a great idea.
What Foods to Avoid When Sticking to an Intermittent Fasting
Refined carbs and added sugars
Refined carbs should be avoided at any time if you want to slim down and improve your health. They are the antagonists of any healthy diet. You should also ban added sugars, that can be found in many ready products and various drinks. Avoid liquid calories and empty calories, since they only add to your overall energy intake, without providing you with any essential nutrients.
Unhealthy fats are always a no-no. Saturated and trans fats add to the risk of such serious health issues as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Reduce your consumption of saturated fats to less than 10% of your daily caloric intake, and, if possible, substitute them with healthy fats.
Despite the concerns of people who fast, tea does not break fast. In fact, it is advised to drink it during both fasting and eating periods. Green, black, and herbal teas have substantial benefits for your health.
- Curbs your appetite
- Provides your body with antioxidants
- Prevents serious diseases
- Reduces cholesterol levels
- Rejuvenates your skin
- Effectively deals with viruses and fungi
- Helps you lose weight and keeps you from regaining it
- Prevents atherosclerosis
- Slows down cholesterol liver synthesis
- Has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects
- Might reduce the risk of having Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
- Has an anti-stress effect
- Improves your heart health
- Improves your digestion
- Strengthens your immune system
- Prevents cold
- Deals with insomnia
Therefore, there are very few reasons to avoid teas, especially during a fast, since you usually need energy and nutrients while consuming a decreased number of calories.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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