What Can You Drink During Fasting (Clean vs Dirty Fasting)?

One question that comes up time and time again from both beginning and advanced intermittent fasters is “what can you drink during the fasted state?” There are mixed opinions on this answer, even from the experts, which makes this particularly confusing to the average person. For example, Dr. Jason Fung, a leading expert on intermittent fasting and low-carbohydrate diets, claims that drinks such as homemade bone broth and sugar-free pickle juice are fine to drink during the fasted state [1]. He claims that these drinks will help curb hunger pains while still allowing individuals to lose weight.

Alternatively, Dr. Gin Stephens, another expert in intermittent fasting and author of Fast, Feast, Repeat, recommends only a “clean fast” where no calories are consumed [2,3]. She claims that this is the most effective strategy to implement while intermittent fasting in order to better overall health.

Ultimately, there is no clear-cut answer because it depends on an individual’s personal goals. Here we summarize between the approach of clean fast vs dirty fast, and you could make an informed decision on this matter:

Clean Fast:

  • Use this strategy if you would like to receive all health benefits such as inducing autophagy, decreasing blood sugar levels, and decreasing risk markers related to cardiovascular disease like blood pressure and cholesterol levels [4,5,6,7]
  • Some fasters find they need to practice a clean fast in order to lose more weight.
  • Advocators: Dr. Gin Stephens
  • What you can drink [8] :
    1. Water (unflavored or adding minerals/electrolytes/salt/sodium salt).
    2. Black coffee (no sugar, no milk/cream, no added flavor).
    3. Any plain tea from actual dried tea leaves (black tea, green tea).
    4. Mineral water, sparkling water, seltzer water, and club soda (no additives, no flavor).

Dirty Fast:

  • Use this strategy if you are only concerned about weight loss or if you are new to fasting.
  • You can have very small amounts of calories during the fasting window. This approach will still enable you to “teach” your body to burn more fat for energy, which will result in a loss of body fat [4]
  • Some individuals who are new to fasting find they use the dirty fast strategy to help their bodies adapt to not eating for a longer period of time and hunger pains subside. 
  • Besides the “What you can drink” list in Clean Fast, you can also intake [9]:
    1. Water with minerals/electro with limes, lemons, or slices of other fruits (do not eat the fruit itself or drink fruit juice). However, don’t add sweeteners even if they are sugar-free.
    2. Coffee with coconut oil, MCT oil, butter, ghee, heavy whipping cream (35% fat), half and half, whole milk, or ground cinnamon.
    3. Black/Green tea with additives mentioned for coffee.
    4. Homemade broth. You can add any vegetable that grows above the ground, leafy greens, carrots, onions or shallots, bitter melon, animal meat, animal bones, fish meat, fish bones, salt, any dry or fresh herbs, spices, and ground flaxseed.
    5. Vinegars.
    6. Chia and ground flaxseed (1 tablespoon in 1 cup of water)
    7. Any herbal tea that can help lower blood sugar or suppress appetite. For example, cinnamon chai tea (lower blood sugar and suppress cravings), peppermint tea (suppress appetite and release GI discomfort such as gas and bloating), and bitter melon tea (lower blood sugar), etc.

No matter which intermittent strategy you are incorporating, whether it is  “dirty fasting” or “clean fasting”, pay attention to how you feel and the end result after you have been practicing it for a while. If you have concerns, please make an appointment with your primary care physician before starting on your intermittent fasting journey. 

  1. The Fasting Method. (n.d.). About Us. Link
  2. Stephens, G. (2017, August 3). Does a “Clean Fast” Really Matter? Link 
  3. Stephens, G. (2020). Fast Feat Repeat: The Comprehensive Guide to Delay, Don’t Deny, Intermittent Fasting
  4. Anton SD, Moehl K, Donahoo WT, Marosi K, Lee SA, Mainous AG, Leeuwenburgh C, Mattson MP. Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity. Blackwell Publishing Inc.; 2018. p. 254–68. 
  5. Mattson MP, Longo VD, Harvie M. Impact of intermittent fasting on health and disease processes. Aging Research Reviews. Elsevier Ireland Ltd; 2017. p. 46–58. 
  6. Paoli A, Tinsley G, Bianco A, Moro T. The influence of meal frequency and timing on health in humans: The role of fasting. Nutrients. MDPI AG; 2019. 
  7. Wan R, Camandola S, Mattson MP. Intermittent food deprivation improves cardiovascular and neuroendocrine responses to stress in rats. J Nutr [Internet]. American Institute of Nutrition; 2003 [cited 2021 May 24];133:1921–9. Link
  8. Stephens, G. (2017, August 3). Does a “Clean Fast” Really Matter? Link
  9. Fung, J., & Moore, J. (2016). The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal your body through intermittent fasting, alternate-day, and extended fasting. Victory Belt Publishing.