Intermittent fasting has become an increasingly popular way to improve health and lose weight. By cycling between periods of fasting and eating, intermittent fasting may offer benefits like weight loss, improved blood sugar control, heart health, and brain function.
However, when following an intermittent fasting plan, it's important to pay attention to what you consume during your fasting periods. Even small amounts of calories from cream, milk or sugar in your morning coffee could negatively impact the benefits of fasting.
What is Intermittent Fasting?
Intermittent fasting (IF) involves alternating cycles between periods of fasting and eating. Rather than restricting what foods you eat, it focuses on when you eat them.
Some popular intermittent fasting schedules include:
- 16/8 method: Fast for 16 hours per day and restrict food intake to an 8-hour window. This is one of the most popular IF schedules.
- Alternate day fasting: Fast every other day, limiting calories to around 500 on fasting days.
- 5:2 diet: Eat normally 5 days per week and fast for 2 days, consuming 500-600 calories on fasting days.
- One meal a day (OMAD): Eat just one meal per day within a 1-hour window.
No matter which method you choose, the goal of IF is to spend a significant portion of time in the fasted state. This activates processes related to fat burning, cellular repair, and more.
Does Heavy Whipping Cream Break a Fast?
Heavy whipping cream is high in calories and fat.
One tablespoon of heavy cream contains:
- 51 calories
- 5.4 grams of fat
- 0.4 grams of carbs
- 0.4 grams of protein.
So does heavy whipping cream break a fast? Yes, heavy cream does break a fast since it contains calories.
Technically, consuming anything with calories breaks your fasted state. Most experts recommend sticking to zero-calorie beverages like water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee during your fasting periods.
Even small amounts of cream or milk in your morning coffee can turn off the fat-burning processes activated by fasting.
How Cream Impacts Fasting
There are a few reasons why heavy cream or other calorie-containing additives may reduce the benefits of intermittent fasting:
1. Spikes Blood Sugar and Insulin
One of the main benefits of fasting is lowering insulin levels. This allows cells to become more sensitive to insulin and enhances fat burning.
Even small amounts of carbs, sugar, and protein from cream can cause a slight spike in blood sugar and insulin secretion. This takes your body out of the fasted state.
Over time, the small insulin spikes from additives like cream could reduce your insulin sensitivity and fat burning capability.
2. Provides Calories
Fasting forces your body to rely on stored fat for energy when no food is coming in. This metabolic switch is key for dropping body fat.
The calories from heavy cream or other additives give your body an energy source, reducing the need to tap into stored fat. So it can hamper fat burning during your fast.
3. May Disrupt Ketosis
Fasting can induce a state of ketosis, where your body burns fat for fuel. Remaining in ketosis enhances fat burning.
The carbs and protein in heavy cream could potentially disrupt ketosis by providing your body with glucose for energy rather than fat.
However, the effect is likely small since heavy cream is very low in carbs. But it's something to keep in mind if you're fasting for ketosis.
Coffee Additives That Won't Break Your Fast
If you enjoy coffee but want the full benefits of fasting, stick to additives that are very low in calories or carb-free.
Some options that likely won't break your fast include:
- Butter or ghee: These contain minimal carbs and may help with satiety. Limit to 1 tablespoon (102 calories).
- Coconut oil: pure MCT oil may also work. 1 teaspoon provides 45 calories.
- Unsweetened nut milk: Limit to 2 tablespoons to avoid excess calories.
- Cinnamon: Has a negligible amount of carbs per serving.
- Cocoa powder: Look for unsweetened; limit to 1 tsp.
- Stevia or monk fruit: These natural sweeteners have zero net carbs.
The key is keeping servings small and limiting yourself to ingredients that are very low in sugar and carbs. Even "safe" additions should be kept to a minimum.
Key Takeaway: Stick to small amounts of high-fat, low-carb additives like ghee, MCT oil, unsweetened nut milk, cinnamon, or zero-carb sweeteners. Avoid cream, milk, and sugar.
How Much Cream Can You Have Without Breaking Your Fast?
Most experts recommend sticking to zero-calorie beverages only during your fasting periods.
However, some modified intermittent fasting approaches allow a small amount of calories, usually around 50 or less, without impacting results.
If you really want to add a splash of cream to your morning coffee, here are some guidelines:
- Limit heavy cream to 1 teaspoon (17 calories)
- Use 1 tablespoon half and half (20 calories)
- Stick to light cream if using 2 tablespoons (25 calories)
Track your calories carefully and aim to keep your cream serving under 25 calories. Even better, save your coffee cream for your eating window.
Top Tips for Fasting Success
Here are some additional tips to get the most out of your intermittent fasting plan:
- Drink plenty of water and unsweetened teas. Proper hydration is key when fasting.
- Try black coffee or coffee alternatives. Herbal teas, bone broth, and electrolyte drinks can curb hunger.
- Move your body. Light activity can help suppress appetite without breaking your fast.
- Plan your meals. Focus on nutrient-dense, low-carb foods within your eating window.
- Listen to your body. Modify your fasting schedule as needed to avoid excessive hunger or fatigue.
- Supplement if needed. Consider electrolytes, B vitamins, and antioxidants to support fasting.
Key Takeaway: Drink water, limit cream to under 25 calories, move your body, and eat nourishing whole foods when not fasting. Fine-tune your plan based on how you feel.
Can I put butter in my coffee while fasting?
Yes, adding a small amount of butter or MCT oil to coffee likely won't break your fast. Limit butter to 1 tablespoon (102 calories) and MCT oil to 1 teaspoon (45 calories).
What about heavy whipping cream in tea?
Heavy cream contains calories so it will technically break your fast, even in tea. Stick to a splash of nut milk or cream under 25 calories.
Is coffee with coconut milk ok for fasting?
Unsweetened coconut milk is relatively low in carbs, so a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) in your coffee may not disrupt ketosis or fasting. But it does contain calories.
Can I use sweeteners like stevia and erythritol during a fast?
Yes, zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia and erythritol do not raise blood sugar or insulin so they will not break your fast. But use them sparingly.
Heavy whipping cream does contain enough calories and fat to break your fast. Even small amounts may reduce your insulin sensitivity and fat burning capability over time.
For the best results, stick to low-calorie or calorie-free beverages only like water, black coffee, and unsweetened tea during fasting periods. If you do use cream, limit to 1 teaspoon of heavy cream or 1 tablespoon half and half to minimize its impact.
Focus on clean fasting and nourishing, whole food meals during your eating window. Be patient and consistent, modifying your intermittent fasting schedule based on your body's response. This will help you lose weight, burn fat, and reap the many other excellent health benefits of fasting.