Intermittent fasting, which involves abstaining from food for an extended period, is a diet trend for weight loss and overall health enhancement. However, since you are consuming less food and drinks while fasting, there is a good chance that you are not getting enough nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.
Intermittent fasting means abstaining from food for a prescribed period.
Whether you can take supplements while fasting depends on several factors, including the calorie count of the supplement.
That you are fasting doesn’t necessarily mean you need a supplement. Discuss with your doctor or dietician to know if supplementation is a good option for you and what your best options are.
The good news is that there are certain supplements you can take without breaking your fast and others that will break your fast, but you can save for your eating window. These supplements, like MCT oil and probiotics, can provide key nutrients and fuel you during your fasting window.
What is intermittent fasting to begin with? Is it a good idea to take supplements while fasting? What fasting supplements are best for you? Read on to get a deeper insight into these questions.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting is the absence of food during a prescribed period of time. It also includes staying away from drinks or beverages with calories. Black coffee and tea without artificial sweeteners are exempted because they contain few calories.
As a human being, you exist in either one of two states; fasted or fed. When you eat, insulin is secreted by the pancreas to move sugar (glucose) into your cells. Sugar is our body’s primary energy source and is mostly stored in the liver and skeletal muscles. When these organs' storage limits are exceeded, our body stores the remaining sugar as fat and glycogen.
During fasting, our insulin levels are low, and our bodies can tap into fat stores for energy. This eventually leads to a state called ketosis, where your body uses fat as its primary energy source.
One of the popular intermittent fasting methods is the 16/8 method which means fasting for 16 hours a day with an 8-hour eating window. Intermittent fasting can fuel fat loss, especially around major organs like the lungs. Other benefits are autophagy induction (cellular cleaning and repair) and metabolic health benefits like reduced risk of developing obesity.
Intermittent fasting might not be a good option for people with:
- Chronic heart conditions
- Kidney or renal issues
- Food disorders like anorexia
- Diabetes that is difficult to control
- Seniors above 70
- Pregnant and lactating women
- Or people recently discharged from the hospital
Discuss with your healthcare provider to see if intermittent fasting is a good option for you if you have a chronic condition.
Can you take supplements while fasting?
Yes, you can. Some supplements, like magnesium, can be taken on an empty stomach and won’t break your fast. Some won’t break your fast but should be taken with food because they are better absorbed with food, such as some probiotics, and others that will break your fast and should be incorporated into your feeding window, for example, curcumin.
Best intermittent fasting supplements
It is important to note that intermittent fasting doesn’t necessarily mean that you will become deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. If you consume healthy and nutritious foods during your eating window, you should be fine because fasting doesn’t limit how many calories you eat each day-only the eating hours.
But, if you are worried your current dietary intake isn’t meeting your nutritional goals or you want to be more energized and improve the effectiveness of your fast, supplements can be a great way to fill nutrient voids.
Consult your doctor or a registered dietician before you fast or buy supplements to make sure you make the right decisions.
Here is a list of the best intermittent fasting supplements you can add to your diet plan.
Probiotic supplements consist of bacteria that line the gut and aid digestion. They are produced by different strains of good bacteria naturally found in the gastrointestinal system and aid in relieving gastrointestinal issues.
You can take certain probiotics on an empty stomach because they contain little to no calories. In contrast, others are best taken with food and should be saved for your eating window. Check your probiotic supplement for the manufacturer's recommendation. Probiotics can help to improve your overall gut health during intermittent fasting.
Electrolyte supplements are minerals that serve essential functions in the body. They regulate nerve and muscle function, balance blood pressure, hydrate the body, and help rebuild damaged tissues. Electrolytes are obtained mainly from food, and not eating during fasting may make you electrolyte deficient. You may feel fatigued, confused, or have a headache when this happens. Recovering your electrolytes will make your fasting easier and more efficient.
Examples of some of the most important electrolytes are calcium, magnesium, sodium, and phosphorus. You can take electrolytes (without added calories and sweeteners) during your fasting window because they contain little to no calories.
A good option for amino acid supplementation is L-tyrosine. L-tyrosine is a precursor to dopamine, adrenaline, and norepinephrine, all of which affect cognitive functions. During a fast, stress and fatigue may impact cognitive functions like problem-solving and memory. L-tyrosine may improve cognitive functions and reduce stress.
Researchers conducted a study to assess whether supplementation with a tyrosine-containing drink during a very demanding combat training course would decrease the negative effects of fatigue and stress on cognitive performance and emotional well-being. Their findings supported the notion that tyrosine has a stress-reducing effect on cognitive performance, although they noted that more human studies are needed to support this claim.
You can take L-tyrosine while fasting as it contains few calories. However, this is not advised if autophagy is your fasting goal-it can disrupt it to some level.
MCT (Medium Chain Triglycerides) oil is a well-known supplement due to its wide range of health benefits, such as boosting energy levels. It may also aid weight loss, fight bacterial and yeast infection, serve as an efficient brain fuel, and curbs hunger relatively well.
One of the reasons why people fast is to get to a ketogenic state (ketosis). MCT oil stimulates ketone formation quickly, which can help you drive your ketone levels up and make your fast more efficient. MCT oils contain calories and should be avoided during the fasting window to avoid breaking the fast. You can take MCT oil with your last meal before starting a fast.
Magnesium is a mineral that does not contain carbohydrates or protein and can be taken during your fasting window. Magnesium helps in energy production and reduces fatigue and tiredness. If you’re magnesium deficient due to fasting, you may notice symptoms like muscle cramps and weakness.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) recommends not taking more than 350 mg of magnesium supplements daily.
Curcumin is the main active constituent in turmeric. Fasting induces autophagy which is a process of cellular cleaning and repair. Induction of autophagy has many benefits, including being a therapeutic option for cancer. To this aim, many anticancer drugs have been developed. Curcumin is also known to induce autophagy, enhancing the fasting effect and providing a double effect on autophagy.
Curcumin supplements may also support your aim if you are fasting for weight loss. Researchers conducted a study in 2019 to assess the impact of curcumin on weight loss in patients with metabolic syndrome and related disorders. Their results showed that curcumin intake significantly reduced body mass index among the patients with no effect on the hip ratio.
Creatine is an amino acid produced in the body and also obtained from foods like red meat. Creatine supplements do not break a fast because they do not contain calories and therefore do not affect your insulin levels.
Creatine supports energy production in the body. Research suggests that it supplies energy to your muscles which is why many athletes take creatine to improve strength and performance. It is recommended to take 3-5 grams of creatine supplements.
When is the best time to take supplements?
It depends. When to take your supplements depends on several factors. Does the supplement need to be taken with food? Does it contain calories? Is it better absorbed with food?
Here is a table summarizing the best time to take the supplements, as mentioned earlier in the article.
|Supplement||Fasting window||Eating window|
|Probiotics||Yes, but it is preferred to take them with food||Yes|
Choosing the right supplements to take while intermittent fasting might seem overwhelming. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. You’ve got this.
Discuss your options with your doctor or a registered dietician so they can help in the decision process.