Intermittent fasting and other more extreme types of fasting have become very popular for health, immune function, hormone regulation, longevity and weight loss purposes. The stircter you are the more benefits you are likely to get from fasting
First things first - fasting is mostly about avoiding calories especially calories from food that spike your blood glucose, and insulin release. So in theory a majority of calorie-free options are fine during a fast.
So what are some of the benefits of fasting? Below are 11 benefits when may come with fasting if done properly.
Benefits of Fasting
- Efficient weight loss without calorie counting, as you unknowingly tend to eat less.
- Resets hunger hormones
Heightens fat-burning (especially combined with fasted cardio due to lower insulin levels)
- Increases ketone production
- Boosts healthy immune function (if refueled properly as fasting too long can decrease it)
- Enhances brain health
- Improves insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance
- Raises growth hormone (GH) levels
- Extended fasting increases autophagy, simply put, getting rid of old cells for new one
- May prevent chronic diseases
- May increase longevity
Important to know!
If you are fasting with a goal of fat loss or weight maintenance a small, temporary rise in glucose or insulin from just a few calories will not end ketosis or significantly inhibit fat-burning for the duration of the fast.
But larger health benefits like immune function and longevity rely on autophagy, and research shows glucose shuts down autophagy at the cellular level. Meaning this benefit stops!
Alright so what can you get away with during your fast? All foods have calories, which by definition break your fast. But as touched upon, if your goal is fat loss or you’re a beginner to fasting, you can consume small amounts of the following foods or supplements to suppress your appetite, extend your fast, and continue burning fat for longer:
- Bone broth (optional: add sea salt or spices)
- Collagen peptides
- MCT oil
- Coconut oil
- Exogenous ketones (like beta-hydroxybutyrate)
- Celery, lettuce, or other watery, fibrous green veggies
- Psyllium husk fiber or other insoluble fiber sources (mixed with water) … think metamucil
- Guar gum or other soluble fiber sources (mixed with water)
- Mineral or carbonated water
- Lime or lemon water
- Green tea or other teas (without added honey or sugar)
Black coffee (no sugar, milk, or cream)
- Apple cider vinegar (dilute it in water if you prefer)
To achieve the full health benefits of fasting, you’ll need to avoid all calories to ensure autophagy and other healthful cellular processes occur.
But again for weight loss or weight maintenance purposes the list above is okay!
Now here are some “gray area” supplements and ingredients, which means it is better to stay away from them!
- This has nothing to do with calories but make sure to avoid Vitamins and Other Antioxidant Supplements During Fasts. This includes Multivitamins, individual vitamins like vitamins C and E, and other antioxidants may interfere with the effects of fasting or a fast-mimicking diet. The stress on the cells during fasting makes them healthier. It is like cardio, you do not like it, but it makes you healthier. All these vitamins reduce cellular stress, preventing the benefits of fasting. So just think “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
- Probiotic Supplements - Taking probiotics while fasting is probably a waste! You have no calories and an empty stomach, so your GI tract will probably absorb them! So just take them with your first meal.
- Diet Sodas, Chewing Gum, and Most Artificial Sweeteners. I know this one is hard! For SOMEONE people sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda), directly increase your insulin levels, which is what we want to avoid! If anything, try something with Stevia or Monk Fruit.
- Protein, Creatine, and BCAAs all have scientifically-proven health and performance benefits, but save it for after your fast. BCAA and protein both can temporarily cause an insulin spike, which is great for building muscle but not for fasting. Both of these include leucine which increases levels of mTOR, a growth pathway, which shuts down autophagy. Creatine does not raise insulin levels, but it does appear to boost mTOR which in turn shuts down autophagy. So just wait until after your fast to have these!