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Intermittent fasting is a great way to lose weight and improve many health markers. But for many people it’s difficult to skip their daily dose of caffeine in the form of espresso, especially while fasting.
People who are fasting for weight loss can drink espresso without interrupting the fat burning process; the caffeine can even enhance it. People who are fasting for the health benefits are better off leaving espresso alone and drinking water.
It’s a bit complicated so you might want to get some more information below.
Does Espresso break a fast?
For many people their daily espresso or other cup of coffee feels like their breakfast. It certainly does for me. I drink some form of black coffee every morning and usually don’t eat until lunchtime. But does that shot of espresso break your fast and might you as well have had a bagel?
A double shot of espresso only has about 1 calorie. Technically, any amount of calories and anything that your digestive system has to process is going to break a fast. So, in the strictest sense of the word fasting a shot of espresso is going to break a fast but so is drinking water.
There are different experts with different opinions out there. Some argue that 10, 20 or even 50 calories is not enough to break a fast in a meaningful way. I personally think that 50 calories is too much and will break a fast. However, we’re talking about 1 calorie here. Does that make a difference?
Besides that, there are compounds like caffeine in coffee that do have an impact on what your body does. The stomach and liver has to process these compounds so your digestive system has to do some work. For a single espresso it’s not much but it’s not nothing either.
It depends on what your goal for fasting is. There are a few different reasons people like to intermittent fast:
- Weight loss
- Before medical procedure
If you’re fasting for a medical procedure be it a blood test or something else, black coffee is usually OK but consult your healthcare professional for more information.
If you’re fasting for the autophagy effects, it’s better to not drink espresso or other coffee. Since the digestive system has to do some work, the autophagy process will be interrupted to some degree. That doesn’t necessarily have all that much to do with the single calorie but more with all the other compounds in coffee that have to be processed. However, most people do intermittent fasting for the weight loss effects.
For weight loss, the single calorie in a cup of espresso is not going to matter. The two main ways you can lose weight with intermittent fasting is by restricting calories and by increased fat metabolism during the fast. The single calorie in a double espresso is not enough to get a meaningful amount of calories in and it’s not enough to interrupt the fat metabolism process.
One thing to look out for is additives. Most people drink their espresso as they come from the machine. However, some people tend to add extra things in it. The most popular is sugar but cream and milk are also options although uncommon with espresso.
Sugar has carbs and calories and will break a fast. One cube of sugar weighs about 4 grams which means 4 grams of carbs and 16 calories. That’s not a lot but it will break a fast.
If you feel like you need sugar in your espresso but don’t want to break your fast, there are a few things you can try:
- Find a coffee shop that makes better espresso.
- Drink another type of coffee. Different brewing methods produce greatly different tasting coffee. Experiment a little. Black coffee without any additives won’t break a fast.
- Use a sugar substitute. You might have to experiment with different sweeteners a little bit since they all have their own taste.
Espresso based drinks and fasting
Things change when you look at other drinks that use espresso in them. Drinks like cappuccino, latte and whatever fancy name your coffee shop of choice gives to espresso based drinks.
While espresso by itself is fine, most of these espresso based drinks are not. That’s because they usually have milk, cream or even syrups in them. Any of these things is going to break a fast. And don’t think that nut milks and other alternative dairy products are OK. They might be good for certain things but they still have calories in them so they will be too much while fasting.
One exception is Americano. An Americano is an espresso based drink but the only thing that’s added is hot water. Hot water obviously doesn’t have any calories or anything else in it so it has no effect on fasting.
How Espresso can improve fasting
In some ways, Espresso can actually improve your fast. Especially if you’re intermittent fasting. If you are fasting for medical purposes, follow the instructions of your healthcare professional.
Espresso has quite a bit of caffeine. Caffeine can actually do a few cool things while fasting:
- Appetite suppression: The biggest people like to take in some caffeine during fasting are the appetite suppression effects. Drinking some espresso gives a decent kick of caffeine and therefore makes you feel less hungry and therefore making your fast easier.
- Potential for increased fat burning: Check out the video below for an exact explanation. Caffeine can increase the potential for fat burning. Combined with exercise this is going to have the best results.
- Boost energy: Caffeine is well known for boosting energy levels. When you’re fasting, energy levels can sometimes be low and some caffeine is a good way to get that little boost.
- Increased exercise potential: Black coffee is the original pre-workout. It gives you more energy but can also increase the power output and focus in the gym. Combine this with the potential for increased fat burning and having an espresso before your fasted workout is looking pretty good.
Recommended Espresso Equipment
Besides an espresso machine, there are a few other tools that can make your espresso better. Here are my favorites:
- Espresso Machine: The Breville Barista Express (Amazon) is the sweet spot in price and quality for most casual home baristas. It comes with a built in grinder and most tools you need to brew espresso.
- Tamper: A nice tamper helps you tamp your grounds in the filter for the best result. Any correctly sized tamper can do the job but a nice heavy one just feels so much better in your hand than a plastic model. This Luxhaus one (Amazon) has a nice trick up it’s sleeve to make tamping very consistent.
- Beans: Good espresso starts with good beans. Using fresh beans is a big improvement over pre-ground coffee.
- Scales: Getting consistently good espresso means you have to know how much grounds is going into the machine and how much is coming out and how long this takes. A coffee scale is going to make your espresso much more consistent and also makes adjustments a lot easier. The Apexstone coffee scale (Amazon) is cheap and doesn’t look too sleek but is just as accurate as more expensive scales. The TimeMore scales (Amazon) look and feel a lot nicer but cost a bit more.
- Grinder: To make the best of your fresh beans, a good grinder is necessary. Espresso requires a good grinder to get the best results. The Baratza Sette 30 (Amazon) is a good espresso grinder that can also be used for other brewing methods and while not cheap, is good value for money. If you prefer hand grinders, the 1ZPresso JX-PRO is one of the best options (Amazon)
- Distribution tool: After grinding you can get some clumps in the coffee grounds. Those clumps should be broken up so the water can extract all the coffee grounds equally. Distribution tools are very simple things but this one (Amazon) is beautifully made and will look good in your kitchen.