Does Coconut Oil “Break” a Fast?
In short, yes. Consuming anything other than water, black coffee or tea technically “breaks” the fast. There is nothing magic about coconut oil to avoid this fact. However, this question is best answered not with a literal definition but with another question, why are you fasting? The answer to that question will do more to determine which type of fast one chooses.
Coconut oil has a number of benefits that aid a fitness focused fast.
Fasting has been around as long as humans have existed, but is having a resurgence of late. Most people I encounter considering fasting are doing so to improve their health, specifically to lose weight. Assuming that one is undertaking fasting for the purpose of weight loss, is it helpful to add coconut oil to coffee? There’s two general schools of thought here…lets walk through the assumptions of each before making a final decision.
The Case Against Coconut Oil
The case against adding coconut oil to coffee for fat-loss hinges on the calories in vs. calories out approach. While acknowledging that coconut oil does not disrupt the beneficial metabolic processes of fasting, people following this approach want to minimize their total caloric intake. Thus the 120 calories in 1 tablespoon of coconut oil must be counted and cut later in the day to achieve a caloric deficit.
The Case For Coconut Oil
Those adding coconut oil to coffee for fat loss do not ascribe to calories in vs. calories out. They are counting on the beneficial metabolic changes of fasting and properties of medium chain triglycerides (fat in coconut oil) to accelerate fat loss. Among those, MCT encourages utilization of ketones and spares protein. Athletes looking to spare muscle mass may be interested in these properties. MCT can also increase energy expenditure, increase metabolic rate, and suppress appetite. Are these properties worth an extra 120 calories?
Should You Add Coconut Oil to Your Coffee?
One thing I was struck with in researching this topic is how polarized each tribe is. I understand the method behind each approach and I can honestly say this does not make me nearly as emotional or upset as many other fitness writers.
I add coconut oil to my coffee every morning and have directed countless others to do the same. Calories in vs. Calories out has proven to me to be an ineffective way to maintain body composition. Many studies have demonstrated that the endocrine system and our hormones are more responsible for how and why we gain fat than energy balance. These studies confirm my own personal experiences with counting calories vs intuitive approaches. The hormonal and metabolic changes catalyzed by coconut oil have made it an essential amendment to my coffee.
One thing absent from all the pieces I read on this topic is an fitness cliche I’m disappointed no one turned to…every body is different. When I decided to start adding coconut oil to my coffee I was following the Paleo Diet counting calories and training for a triathlon. After 2 weeks of caloric restriction my training numbers began to regress. The priority for me was on performing well in the race. At that point I ignored my feelings and what I believed to be true and I tried something seeking results. When I got them, even though it was incredibly small sample size, I did not ignore my own results. I did however start to ignore many of those same opinionated & emotional fitness writers and learned to test my assumptions instead of trying to confirm them.
The truth is if you set out to answer this question you can find scientific studies and anecdotes for and against. I don’t know if adding coconut oil to your coffee will work as well for you as it did for me, but I do know how to find out.
The final question I would ask is are you happy with the results you’re getting from your current regiment? If the answer is yes then don’t change anything. If the answer is no I hope that you find the courage to test your own assumptions and find what works for you. I can only hope my experience can help expedite the process.