There’s no debating that intermittent fasting (IF) has some serious benefits. This dietary approach, which simply refers to going without food for a certain period of time, naturally restricts calories to help you lose weight, promotes ketosis and thereby increases fat burn, boosts cognitive functioning, reduces inflammation, and may even boost longevity.
“Even short-term fastingâ€”say, 16 to 18 hours a dayâ€”can profoundly reduce inflammation,” says Vincent Pedre, M.D., an integrative physician and gut health expert who frequently recommends intermittent fasting diets to his patients (this 16:8 fasting plan gives you the rundown). “You’re also giving your hardworking gut a break when you fast, which, over time, may help reverse gut dysbiosis (gut imbalances) and problems like leaky gut.”
Fasting may even help prevent coronary artery disease and diabetes if done over the long term, says Benjamin Horne, Ph.D., a genetic epidemiologist who has published research on the effects of intermittent fasting. One of the key underlying mechanisms behind several of intermittent fasting’s perks is something called autophagyâ€”a process of cellular renewal that essentially removes dysfunctional cellular parts and improves the functioning of cells throughout the body, which promotes longevity and all-around optimal bodily functioning.
But while all of these perks are awesome, there’s still one thing we’re a little confused about: What actually breaks a fast? While some articles say you must stick to straight water (and nothing else) during your fasting period to yield the benefits above, others say that coffee, tea, MCT oil, or even bone broth are all just fineâ€”so what’s the actual deal?
Here, we consulted a number of experts who personally follow an intermittent fasting plan (or prescribe IF to patients) for their take on what foods and beverages don’t break a fast, what technically breaks a fast but still preserves some of fasting’s benefits, and what you should never consume during a fast.