Does coconut break intermittent fasting?


Intermittent fasting has become an incredibly popular diet and lifestyle trend in recent years. It involves cycling between periods of fasting and eating, rather than continuously eating throughout the day. There are several different intermittent fasting protocols, with the most common being 16:8 – fasting for 16 hours per day and restricting feedings to an 8 hour window. Many people find intermittent fasting to be an effective, sustainable and easy to follow approach for weight loss, blood sugar regulation and other health benefits. However, questions remain about what foods and beverages are acceptable to consume during the fasting periods. One food that often comes up is coconut and coconut products. In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at whether or not coconut breaks an intermittent fast.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting (IF) is an eating pattern that involves regular fasting periods. Rather than eating constantly throughout the day, you restrict your food and calorie intake to certain time windows. Then for the remaining hours of the day, you “fast” by consuming only water, coffee, tea and other non- or very low-calorie beverages. The most popular intermittent fasting approaches include:

  • 16:8 method: Fast for 16 hours per day, restrict eating to an 8 hour window.
  • 5:2 diet: Fast or restrict calories to 500-600 for 2 non-consecutive days per week.
  • Alternate day fasting: Fast every other day.
  • One meal a day (OMAD): Eat one main meal per day.
  • Periodic fasting: Fast for 24+ hours periodically throughout the week.

The main theorized benefit of intermittent fasting is that it allows your body to more effectively burn its stored energy reserves (body fat) between meals. It can enhance fat burning hormones while reducing fat storage hormones. IF may also help regulate appetite, blood sugar and other markers of health. Now let’s look at whether coconut can fit into an intermittent fasting eating plan.

Nutrients in Coconut

Coconut meat, milk, oil and water are highly nutritious products derived from the coconut palm tree. Here is the nutritional profile of coconut, according to the USDA:

Nutrient Per 100g of raw coconut meat
Calories 354
Fat 33 g
Carbs 15 g
Protein 3.3 g
Manganese 2.3 mg (115% DV)
Copper 543 mcg (60% DV)
Iron 2.4 mg (13% DV)

As you can see, coconut is very high in healthy fats, providing over 30g per 100g serving. It also contains minerals like manganese, copper, iron and various vitamins.

The predominant type of fat found in coconut is medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs have unique properties – they are metabolized differently than most other fats. Instead of being broken down and stored as body fat, MCTs are transported directly to the liver where they are preferentially used for energy production.

Coconut milk and oil also provide mostly MCT fats. The water component is low in calories and carbs. Now let’s see whether these coconut products will break a fast.

Does Coconut Break a Fast?

Whether or not coconut will break your intermittent fast depends on a few factors:

1. Calories and macronutrient content

To remain in the fasted state, you need to avoid consuming calories and high amounts of carbs or protein. Beverages should be very low or zero calorie. Even small amounts of macronutrients can trigger metabolic processes that essentially “break” the fast.

* Coconut meat is high in calories and fats, so it will almost certainly break your fast.

* Coconut milk and oil are also relatively high in calories, so they shouldn’t be consumed either.

* Coconut water is low in calories and carbs, containing only around 50 calories per cup. This small amount is unlikely to affect your fasted state.

2. Impact on ketosis

Many people follow intermittent fasting protocols like keto for the purpose of reaching and maintaining ketosis. This is a metabolic state where you body switches from burning glucose to burning fats and ketones. Consuming carbs and too much protein can kick you out of ketosis.

* The MCTs in coconut are unlikely to disrupt ketosis because they are directly metabolized into ketones. Coconut oil may even help boost ketone levels. However, coconut meat and milk provide carbohydrates as well, so they may affect ketosis due to their higher carb content.

* Coconut water contains natural sugars so it could technically inhibit ketosis if you consumed large amounts. But at only around 2.5g net carbs per cup, it’s unlikely to make a significant impact.

3. Insulin response

Eating protein and carbs stimulates the release of insulin, the hormone responsible for driving glucose and amino acids into cells. A major goal of fasting is improving insulin sensitivity and reducing insulin resistance by giving your pancreas a break from constantly producing insulin.

Even though coconut fat does not directly stimulate insulin release, coconut products that also provide carbs can trigger insulin secretion. The meat and milk are most likely to spike insulin levels due to their high overall calorie and carb content. The water is less likely to elicit an insulin response.

So in summary:

  • Coconut meat and milk will almost certainly break your fast due to high calories, carbs, and insulin spike.
  • Coconut oil is borderline since it’s pure fat yet high in calories.
  • Coconut water is probably ok for fasts due to very low calorie and carb count.

If your primary goal is fat burning, ketosis and insulin regulation, it’s best to avoid all coconut products during your fasting periods until more research confirms their effects. Pure coconut water appears to be an exception. Now let’s look at some specific intermittent fasting protocols.

Coconut With 16:8 Fasting

The 16:8 method is currently the most popular intermittent fasting plan. You fast for 16 hours, then eat 2-3 meals within your 8 hour feeding window.

During the fast, you can only have beverages like water, unsweetened tea and black coffee. No solid foods or sweetened drinks are allowed because they provide calories. Some people allow small amounts of milk or cream in coffee to reduce bitterness, but sugar should be avoided.

* Coconut water – Yes, in small amounts. 1 cup contains very few calories so it won’t break your fast.

* Coconut milk/cream – No. Too high in calories and fat that could stimulate insulin.

* Coconut meat, flakes or butter – No, you cannot have any solid foods.

* Coconut oil – It won’t spike insulin directly but provides 120 calories per tablespoon, so avoid it.

Within your 8 hour feeding window, you can consume normal meals and snacks, including foods and drinks made with coconut milk, meat, oil, etc. Just don’t overdo the calories. Time your most substantial meal after your workout if you exercise during the fast.

Coconut With Alternate Day Fasting

This intermittent fasting variation involves fully fasting or restricting calories to about 500 per day every other day. On alternate days, you would eat normally.

On fast days:

* Coconut water – Yes, you can have a few cups to provide electrolytes.

* Solid coconut products – No.

On your eat days, all coconut products are fine in moderation as part of your overall calorie intake. Just don’t binge.

Coconut With 5:2 Diet

The 5:2 method requires you to eat normally 5 days per week. On the other 2 non-consecutive days, restrict your intake to 500-600 calories.

On fast days:

* Coconut water – Yes, it’s a good no-calorie beverage choice.

* Coconut milk/cream – No, even small amounts provide too many calories.

* Coconut meat and oil – No, avoid completely.

On eating days, coconut products are fine as part of balanced meals and snacks.

Coconut With One Meal a Day (OMAD)

OMAD involves eating just one main meal per day within a 1-2 hour time frame. You fast the rest of the 24 hours.

During fasting hours:

* Coconut water – Yes, it won’t break your fast.

* Other coconut products – No.

For your meal, you can include reasonable amounts of coconut meat, oil, milk, etc. Just don’t go overboard with calories.

Coconut While Fasting For Weight Loss

Research shows intermittent fasting can be an effective approach for losing weight and body fat. Limiting food intake to specific windows gives your body more time to reach a fasting state and burn its internal reserves between meals.

To maximize the fat burning effects, avoid coconut oil and milk during fasts. Even though their MCTs may provide an alternative energy source, the overall calorie content can diminish the benefits.

However, consuming coconut oil or MCT oil alongside meals and during your eating window may actually enhance fat burning. The MCTs go directly to the liver for energy and are unlikely to be stored as body fat.

Just don’t overconsume coconut oil in general. And prioritize healthy whole foods within your feeding windows, not just coconut products.

Coconut For Ketosis While Fasting

Ketogenic diets and using intermittent fasting to achieve ketosis go hand in hand. Reaching and maintaining ketosis requires strict limits on carbs while also moderating protein.

Consuming even small amounts of carbs or excess protein during fasting periods can potentially kick you out of ketosis, depending on the individual.

* Coconut oil – Since MCTs readily convert to ketones, coconut oil may help boost ketone levels and enhance ketosis. But limit it during fasts due to high calories.

* Coconut milk and meat – Their carb content makes them more likely to disrupt ketosis. Avoid during fasts.

* Coconut water – Probably ok in small amounts since carbs are low, but monitor ketone levels.

For anyone doing keto, consuming plenty of healthy fats during feeding windows can further boost ketosis. Incorporate coconut oil alongside your meals and snacks to maximize ketones.

Does Coconut Water Break a Fast?

Of all the coconut products, coconut water appears to be one of the best options for fast days. Here’s a recap:

* Very low in calories (about 50 per cup)

* Contains minimal carbs (around 2.5g net carbs per cup)

* Will not spike insulin levels

* Provides electrolytes like potassium and magnesium

* May support hydration

There is some debate as to whether even 50 calories breaks a fast. But most experts believe a small amount of coconut water is just fine and unlikely to impact your fasted state or fat burning.

However, you don’t want to overdo the coconut water because the calories and carbs can accumulate. 1-2 cups max per day should be safe for most people. Avoid coconut water with added sugars or fruit juices. And monitor your body’s response.

Is Coconut Oil Ok During Intermittent Fasting?

This is a controversial topic without a definitive answer. On one hand, coconut oil provides pure MCTs that provide an alternative energy source and may boost ketone production. MCTs also do not appear to disrupt hormones like insulin during fasting.

However, coconut oil is very high in calories, providing about 120 calories per tablespoon. Even a small amount could trigger digestive processes that technically break your fast.

Until more research confirms that coconut oil doesn’t interrupt fat burning during fasts, it’s best to be cautious and avoid it. You can still consume reasonable amounts in your meals or beverages during non-fasting periods.

Should You Drink Coconut Milk While Intermittent Fasting?

Avoid coconut milk during intermittent fasting windows. Here’s why:

  • High in calories – 230 per cup
  • High in fat – 23g per cup
  • Contains carbs – Low but still about 7g net carbs per cup
  • Will spike insulin

Even small amounts could break your fast and interrupt fat burning and ketosis. Save coconut milk for your eating window when you can incorporate it into recipes or as a beverage in moderation.

Final Thoughts

Coconut products can certainly be included as part of an overall intermittent fasting lifestyle. But most solid or high calorie coconut foods should be avoided during active fasting periods for optimal results:

* Coconut meat, milk, cream, butter, flour, flakes – Avoid completely due to high calories, fat, carbs.

* Coconut oil – Best to avoid or use very sparingly due to calorie content.

* Coconut water – Appears to be ok in small amounts of 1-2 cups. Provides hydration without calories.

Focus your fasts on only consuming water, unsweetened tea, black coffee and minimal coconut water. Then during your eating windows, incorporate modest amounts of coconut products into your meals and snacks as you see fit. This balanced approach allows you to reap the benefits of intermittent fasting while still enjoying the unique nutritional benefits of coconut.

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