What Can You Drink During Fasting? What To Eat + Drink During A Fast

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If you are in a position where you find yourself needing to lose weight, deciding what diet to follow can be one of the most difficult decisions. It seems simple enough: eat fewer calories, and you will lose weight. 

However, with the overwhelming plethora of popular diets to choose from, many people get “paralysis by analysis,” meaning that there are just so many options that they end up not being able to choose any diet and move forward with their weight loss plans.

Intermittent fasting is one of the more popular approaches to weight loss, and unlike many popular diets, with intermittent fasting, you don’t have to worry so much about what you can and cannot eat, but rather just when you can or cannot eat.

This can make intermittent fasting appealing to people who don’t want to give up certain foods or food groups altogether. When it’s time to eat, you can enjoy the foods you like in moderation.

However, what can you drink during fasting itself? What foods can you have while intermittent fasting to get through the fast? This article will give suggestions for what to eat during intermittent fasting and what to drink during intermittent fasting. 

We will cover: 

  • What Is Intermittent Fasting?
  • What Can You Eat During Fasting?
  • What Can You Drink During Fasting?

Let’s get started!

A person holding out a glass of water.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a broad term to describe a type of diet that is defined not by what you can and cannot eat but by when you can and cannot eat.

There are many different approaches to intermittent fasting schedules, some of which involve restricting the window of time that you can eat in a day (time-restricted eating intermittent fasting), whereas others involve fasting or severely restricting caloric intake every other day (alternate day intermittent fasting).

With any intermittent fasting schedule, only water, black coffee, tea, and other calorie-free beverages are permitted during the fasting period. You cannot consume any food or caloric beverages.

As mentioned, there are no rules about what you can eat when it is actually time for you to eat, but as with any diet, the goal should be to try to consume nourishing foods in a well-balanced, healthy diet.

Intermittent fasting is a popular dietary approach for weight loss, but there can be other potential health benefits —such as decreased inflammation, improved cellular health by way of increased autophagy, and improvements in cardiovascular health—which spur some people to take this approach to their dietary habits.

A cup of tea being poured.

What Can You Eat During Fasting?

It may sound like an odd question—what can you eat during fasting? After all, by definition, fasting technically involves abstaining from consuming all caloric food or beverages. With that said, depending on how strict you want to be with your fasting, you can drink a few things during intermittent fasting. 

Technically, you can eat nothing during intermittent fasting, as any caloric foods will likely take you out of the fasted state.

However, it is important to note that whenever you take on any diet or a dietary approach, including intermittent fasting or water fasting—whether a time-restricted intermittent fasting diet like 16/8 intermittent fasting or multi-day water fast—you need to make the diet work for you.

There are no laws against adjusting or modifying diet rules to make the diet more feasible or healthier for you.

So, for example, even though you aren’t technically supposed to eat or drink anything that contains calories while fasting, if you need to have a small number of calories spaced out during the fast to help you get through, that is fine.

A cup of black coffee.

There is very little research pointing to the specifics about how many calories you can eat to keep your body in a sustained fasting state such that the amount of energy coming in is not enough to induce metabolic effects that make the body switch “off” the benefits of fasting and start trying to use the calories you have consumed for energy.

Some intermittent fasting “experts” say that your body will remain in a fasted state as long as you stay under 50 calories. 

However, there isn’t much scientific evidence to necessarily substantiate this seemingly arbitrary number, nor is it particularly clear about the timeframe within which these 50 calories can be consumed. Is it 50 calories per hour? 50 calories per day? 

As can be seen, there is still a lot that we have yet to learn about intermittent fasting, the metabolic benefits of fasting, and the effects of eating a few calories while fasting.

Therefore, if you do feel a strong urge to drink or eat during intermittent fasting and you’re willing to give yourself some latitude on having a few calories, here are some ideas of what to eat during intermittent fasting. 

Again, keep in mind that eating during intermittent fasting isn’t technically permitted if you want to be strict with your fasting.

Basil leaves.

#1: Basil Leaves

Adding basil to your water or club soda can add flavor, or you can chew on the leaves if you feel like you really want to eat during intermittent fasting. A quarter cup of basil (about 10 leaves or 6 grams) contains only 1-2 calories, while a full cup contains about 6 calories

#2: Parsley

Like basil, parsley is very low in calories. There are about 4 calories in 10 sprigs. You can chew on parsley or add it to water. 

#3: Iceberg Lettuce

Nibbling on a little bit of iceberg lettuce may work if you’re willing to give yourself some latitude to consume a few calories while intermittent fasting and really want to eat.

One cup (57 grams) of iceberg lettuce provides only 8 calories, along with some vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate.

#4: Watercress

Watercress is a super nutritious green leafy vegetable that contains only 4 calories per cup (34 grams). One cup also provides 120% of the DV for vitamin A, 71% of the DV for vitamin K, and 16% of the DV for vitamin C.

Swiss chard leaves.

#5: Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is another nutrition dark, leafy green that is quite low in calories yet high in vitamins and minerals.

It is particularly high in vitamins A, C, and K, containing 249% of the DV of vitamin K per cup. Plus, one cup of chard (36 grams) provides only 7 calories

Therefore, a few leaves of Swiss chard can be a reasonable thing to eat during intermittent fasting if your stomach is growling and you feel like you have to eat something.

#6: Radishes

Radishes are slightly higher in calories than lettuce, watercress, or herbs, but they contain only 19 calories per cup

Therefore, if you have just one or two every few hours, you will probably not take yourself out of the fasted state, and the crunch can be more satisfying and help you feel like you are eating during intermittent fasting more so than having a few leaves of lettuce. 

You will also get potassium, folate, and vitamin C.

A stalk of celery, a bowl of celery and celery juice.

#7: Celery

Celery can be a good food to eat during intermittent fasting if you are permissive with yourself in terms of eating a few calories because it’s crunchy, contains fiber, and takes some time to eat, helping you feel like you were able to eat something.

One full cup of celery (120 grams) has only 19 calories, so if you have just a stalk or two periodically during a prolonged fast, you should not induce many metabolic changes that take you out of a fasted state.

#8: Cucumbers

Cucumbers are primarily water, so they are very low in calories. If you’re looking for something to drink during intermittent fasting, you can add cucumber slices to your water to add a bit of flavor and then suck on or eat the cucumbers afterward.

One half-cup serving of cucumbers (52 grams) has only 8 calories.

#9: Broth

Clear soup stocks and broths can provide the sodium and electrolytes you need without many calories, making these liquids good foods to eat while fasting.

One bouillon cube contains about 11 calories. Broth is lower in carbohydrates and calories than stock, so it tends to be a better option for what to eat during fasting. Additionally, although bone broth is packed with nutrients, it is also higher in calories and will take you out of the fasted state.

With that said, bone broth is one of the best foods to eat to break a fast since it contains highly-digestible collagen protein and tons of vitamins and minerals.

A bowl of red jello.

#10: Sugar-Free Jello

Although certainly not nutritious and not recommended as part of a “healthy diet,” sugar-free jello can be an option for something to eat during fasting if you’re really needing the sensation of eating something.

One serving (117 grams) provides about 23 calories. However, keep in mind that you’ll get no nutritional value, and artificial colors and sweeteners are unhealthy. 

Therefore, if you are fasting to improve your health, it is not a good idea to indulge in sugar-free gelatin desserts while fasting.

What Can You Drink During Fasting?

Now let’s get into a bit more detail about what to drink during intermittent fasting.

While fasting, you can drink non-caloric beverages like unsweetened tea, water, club soda, or seltzer.

Unsweetened electrolyte tablets or powders are also recommended. The sodium can help you feel fuller and will prevent electrolyte imbalances.

A glass of water with a spoonful of electrolyte powder next to it.

Black coffee is also technically permitted during an intermittent fasting diet because the caloric content is so small that it is not thought to induce metabolic changes that take you out of the fasting state

One cup (240 ml) of black coffee only contains about 3 calories, along with just trace amounts of protein, fat, and minerals.

Overall, although you shouldn’t technically eat anything while fasting, having some very low-calorie foods during prolonged fasts can be a tenable option, especially for those new to fasting. 

Additionally, you can drink non-caloric beverages during fasting.

Remember, you need to make your diet work for you. Having a few calories while intermittent fasting shouldn’t sabotage your results and may help you get through the fast.

If you would like to get into the nitty gritty of intermittent fasting schedules, check out our article: The Complete Guide To Intermittent Fasting Schedules.

A person drinking a glass of water.
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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