A fast is a set period of time where you refrain from consuming anything. This could be food, or food and drink too.
They are often done for religious or spiritual reasons.
They are also done for weight loss. Several sources support this, both scientific and spiritual. Yet a health-based fast has very different rules to a spiritual one.
In this article, we will cover one of the trickiest questions surrounding fasting: does coffee break a fast?
It All Depends! Why Are You Fasting?
Spiritual-based fasting, typically done to obtain closeness with one’s spirit or with God, has well-determined rules.
Depending on the religion, coffee could definitely break a fast.
Yes, coffee breaks the fast in Judaism.
Observant Jews fast six days of the year, abstaining from both food and drink.
Excepting Yom Kippur, fasting is never permitted during Shabbat or the Sabbath. This is the biblically ordained day of rest.
One of the most important days in the Jewish year is ‘Yom Kippur’ (which also means the ‘Day of Atonement). Fasting represents a way of obtaining repentance. Pious followers take the fast’s rules to heart.
All those above the age of bar mitzvah should participate in this fast unless they are ill or frail and fasting would represent a danger to their health.
Yet even if one fast while doing exerting minimal effort at home, their fast is valid. It’s about the connection to the divine and one’s purity.
Jews also observe the days of:
- Tisha B’Av: the annual fast day. On this day Jews remember a multitude of disasters that afflicted them in history–most notably the destruction of Solomon’s Temple.
- The Fast of Esther commemorates the three days in which Queen Esther and the Jews of Shushan fasted before they were relieved of the menace, Haman the evil.
- The Fast of Gedaliah commemorates the death of Gedaliah, who was a Babylonian-appointed governor that led the Jews after the destruction of Solomon’s temple.
- Tenth of Tevet remembers the day when Nebuchadnezzar began his siege of Jerusalem, which ultimately led to the burning of Solomon’s temple and the Babylonian exile.
- Seventeenth of Tammuz remembers the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached following several months of siege warfare. It relates to the destruction of Herod’s temple rather than Solomon’s temple.
Yom Kippur and Tisha B’av are called “Major Fasts.” They last from sundown the day before to sundown of the day itself.
The other four are “Minor Fasts.” They last from sunrise to sundown.
Yet each day is vital and is remembered with much affection. Not a time for coffee, but quiet remembrance.
No, coffee generally does not break a fast in Christianity.
Fasting in Christianity centers around Lent, the season in which Christians remember Christ’s temptations and suffering.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes the day before Easter.
The focus is on abstaining from food and certain types of food. There is some mention of abstaining from drinking, but it is less pronounced than in Judaism or Islam.
There is leeway for the individual Christian to decide if he or she would prefer to abstain from food and drink or just food.
The emphasis on spiritual growth of course remains.
Yes, coffee breaks the fast in Islam.
Muslims must abstain from all food and drink from the sunrise’s first light (known as Fajr) to sundown.
They must also abstain from poor speech and all types of untoward behavior. They believe that even if they abstain from consuming anything, their actions could invalidate their fasting.
During the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, fasting is compulsory for all able Muslims for the entire month. They must be past puberty.
It commemorates the month when the Qur’an (the sacred scripture of Islam) was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
All three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) emphasize contemplation, reflection, and individual growth–while the faithful should come together again in the evening.
Coffee is permissible for Christians only up to the degree of their personal preference.
Yes, coffee breaks the fast in Buddhism.
Buddhism is culturally and practically diverse. Different types of Buddhists have different approaches to consuming food and drink.
Many Buddhists are strict vegetarians, emphasizing compassion towards all living beings. They also tend to abstain from all alcohol and tobacco.
So when they do fast, only water, if anything, is allowed.
This fits with the mantra that Buddhists fast to achieve spiritual purity and mental clarity.
Does Coffee Breaks Fast when Fasting for Fitness
Now we touch on a whole different type of fasting. Let’s call it fitness fasting.
The emphasis is not on one’s spiritual or religious obligations, but on improving their health, mind, and body through secular means. Now it comes down to the science.
This is fascinating for us to learn. Because now we will see the scientific evidence supporting traditions going back further than two millennia.
We already know it is proven that fasting reduces blood pressure and could help with type 2 diabetes.
Whether or not your morning joe ritual is going to break your fast depends on the joe. The coffee, that is.
There are next to no calories in your traditional black coffee. It is simply water plus caffeine. This makes it ideal for fasting.
There are several benefits to regularly drinking black coffee. Of these, we have a lowered risk of prostate cancer, inflammation reduction, and reduced weight gain.
So it’s only natural a fitness-first person wonders how fasting and drinking black coffee can be combined for the ultimate combo.
Coffee enhances autophagy or the body’s own waste removal process. It is critical to your well-being. You need it. Because without it, your body might turn “toxic.”
Do you know what also prompts autophagy? Fasting. This doesn’t feel like a coincidence.
Autophagy naturally occurs when we haven’t eaten a meal in a while. In other words, autophagy occurs when insulin is low. Eating raises insulin in our bodies. Not eating dwindles it down.
Fasting tells the body to clean things up inside. Coffee helps the process. Think of it like this: the biological messenger had a strong coffee right after he woke up.
It works primarily through the metabolic switch. This is also known as the glucose to ketone switch, where the body starts to use its fat stores for energy as opposed to sugar.
This is an essential component of weight loss. By using these ketones, or energy molecules produced from burning fat stores, people lose weight.
So as long as your morning joe has less than 10-25 calories, you’ll be burning a few extra calories today.
The issue with coffee and fasting then is right there. How many calories are we consuming? If you have too many, the coffee in effect breaks your fast.
This is because your body now receives a signal that it will take in calories and energy now. So stop the autophagy and focus on receiving the nutrition on its way. For fasting, is not good!
Coffee With Cream
The results are mixed on this one. If we follow the body’s response to black coffee and fasting, then cream, milk, or other dairy products (even oat) must be used sparingly.
If you’re not yet used to fasting and just want that something to help you start, then a touch of dairy can help. More important is the consistency of your fasting routine than how much milk.
But as long as there are carbohydrates, protein, or fat in the mix, we risk the digestive response. A teaspoon or two is potentially doable, but more?
It’s safer to say, coffee-and-cream breaks a fast.
Should You Have Coffee When Fasting?
This is up to you. Fasting is an intensely personal choice. What is your reason?
Many spiritual practices and most of the religious faiths emphasize the need for intermittent reflection.
Our daily lives, especially in the wake of coronavirus, often feel jam-packed and hectic.
So how can we detach and recenter?
The spiritual element purports: caffeine inhibits our ability for meditation and quiet study. This makes sense. We drink coffee before work, not usually before church or yoga.
The physical element purports a different story altogether. The body thinks about the body. Are we eating? No. Okay, let’s use up the energy we’ve got.
This is the foundation of intermittent fasting, the popular practice of eating normally most days of the week with one or two fasting days.
Benefits of this include longevity, less fat, and an agile mind–in addition to protection against some chronic diseases.
Black coffee kickstarts two essential components of fitness fasting: autophagy and ketosis. Get rid of the toxins and start using fat for food.
So if the focus is not quiet contemplation, then coffee does not break a fast. Rather, coffee enhances it.
But before we go, please remember to always consult a medical professional prior to starting a new fast. Fasting is personal. If you’re new to it, try water first until you upgrade to coffee.
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