Intermittent fasting, along with other types of fasting, has not only become popular in various fitness communities but also for those who are simply looking to lose weight and improve their health. IF has also been proven to help those with certain metabolic conditions, such as obesity and type II diabetes (1).
Lastly, improvements are often seen in cholesterol, insulin, and glucose levels (2). So it appears to be a win-win for everyone, right?
Well, it’s not so simple.
While it may seem easy to apply theoretically, it is quite challenging for others. Some feel as if their hunger is curbed while following a fasting diet, while others feel as if they are ravenously hungry throughout the day; constantly thinking in a food-focused mindset.
Today, we’ll talk about 10 supplements that can help make your fasting journey much easier to stick to for the long haul!
Why Consider Supplements When Fasting?
Before we dive right into the list, let’s talk about why you’d want to consider using supplements in the first place when fasting.
Now, is it necessary to take supplements when fasting? Of course not! But, can it make your fasting journey that much easier? Yes! It most certainly can!
Not everybody reacts to fasting the same way. One person may feel completely fine; hunger satisfied, full of energy, not food-focused in their train of thought.
On the flip side, you may have another individual who cannot seem to make it through the fast without giving in to hunger and cravings, has very low energy, and is always thinking about when they’re next meal will be.
This article is primarily for the latter group; those who seem to struggle with fasting, but really desire to try it for its well-known health benefits.
The supplements that are listed in this article will help you to improve energy, enhance your cognitive abilities, suppress your hunger, and give you an overall better sense of well-being. But don’t worry, these supplements aren’t limited to those that struggle with fasting. It can also enhance the results of those who are already succeeding in their fasting protocols.
Here’s a visual sneak peek of what’s ahead.
10 Most Helpful Supplements for Fasting
With that being said, let’s get to that list!
Green Coffee Extract
This supplement has gained a lot of traction in recent years as a weight-loss supplement. Green coffee extract is created by taking the raw seeds out of a coffee plant.
There are a couple of things that make this supplement effective.
Why does this occur?
Well stimulants, caffeine is one of them, release epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are the two primary “fight-or-flight hormones.” These hormones are responsible for the wakefulness feeling that is felt after consuming caffeine.
These hormones direct blood flow away from the digestive system and towards the muscles and heart. The lack of blood in the digestive system causes suppression in appetite.
How Green Coffee Extract Helps With Fasting
Probably one of the biggest complaints that many people have when beginning a fasting regimen is the insatiable appetite they develop throughout the day. The caffeine from the green coffee bean extract will help to keep the hunger at bay, while also reducing cravings!
How Much To Take
Most of the literature out there regarding weight loss recommends at least 200 mg taken daily, with some studies even going up to as high as 400 mg although the latter is probably not as economical.
Stick with the lowest dose and work your way up.
Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s)
Now before all of the arguments start, let’s get one thing out of the way. BCAA supplements do not offer any sort of benefit to muscle protein synthesis compared to consuming any other type of protein (5).
Most people consume enough BCAA’s in their diet, so they shouldn’t supplement with this.
Alright, now that that’s out of the way, let’s go over what they’re actually useful for, particularly during a fasting period.
Because these supplements are most often flavored, they can help to stave off hunger during a fasting period by having you drink more water. Now, this would technically be considered breaking a fast, since BCAA’s are essentially just protein. However, this would enter you into a modified form of fasting that has become quite popular in the fitness industry.
This form of fasting essentially has you consuming protein at regular intervals in order to satisfy the needs of a high-protein diet without any sort of gastrointestinal discomfort that comes with eating extremely high amounts of protein in only 2-3 feedings.
Fats and carbs are cut out during this time just like with any other fast.
How BCAAs Help With Fasting
As to what BCAA’s do for fasting, they can help to stave off hunger by having you drink more water as previously mentioned, but also it helps to delay any sort of muscle protein breakdown that is often associated with long abstinence from dietary protein (6).
This is especially important if you’re into resistance training, as muscle breaks down during workouts. The repair process must be started as soon as possible in order for optimal muscle-building results.
How Much To Take
This is highly dependent on your protein requirements. Also, it depends on if you currently exercise and if this exercise occurs during times of fasting or not.
Dosages are usually set anywhere from 5-10 mg for most BCAA supplements, so stick with those in accordance with your protein needs.
Okay, so this isn’t just one supplement technically. Most pre-workout supplements contain various ingredients; ranging from stimulants to nitric oxide boosters.
Some common pre-workout ingredients include:
These ingredients help to boost your energy while also enhancing blood flow to the working muscles during exercise. The best part about these supplements is that most of them are either artificially sweetened or they are sweetened with Stevia leaf extract.
This means that they are calorie-free and that they are safe to take during your fast! Some of them contain multiple stimulants, such as caffeine and yohimbine. As discussed earlier, this can drastically reduce appetite.
How Pre-Workout Supplements Help With Fasting
Because of the stimulants in them, they can help to reduce cravings and hunger during your workouts. Also, it’s a bonus that there are nitric oxide and other performance-enhancing ingredients in there; all without any added calories! The sweet taste from most of these supplements may also help to reduce cravings for sugary beverages and sweets throughout the day.
How Much To Take
This varies from product to product. Follow the recommended guidelines on the label and taper upward or downward in order to assess tolerance.
This is more for people who follow fasting protocols that last the entire day, such as the alternate-day fast. This is when you fast for one day and then resume your normal eating patterns the next day, and repeat.
Something to note here is that some vitamins in a multivitamin supplement are fat-soluble, such as Vitamin D. This means that the nutrient absorbs best when taken with a source of fat, or simply eaten with food in general since most foods contain at least trace amounts of fat.
Because of this, it would be best to take a multivitamin during your feeding window if you are intermittent fasting.
How Multivitamins Help With Fasting
What a multivitamin will do for you is to help you to resolve any potential vitamin and mineral deficiencies that result from fasting for an entire day.
If possible, opt for a liquid or sublingual multivitamin during times of fasting in order to ensure rapid absorption, as the body does not have to work as hard in order to extract the nutrients from a liquid as opposed to tablets and capsules.
How Much To Take
Most multivitamins are only required to be taken once per day, but make sure to check the label before purchasing. Some are required to be taken 2-3 times daily. Try to stick with once-daily multivitamins if possible for ease of use.
Tyrosine is an amino acid that is notable for its ability to produce catecholamines in the body. Catecholamines include hormones and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and epinephrine. These are responsible for mood enhancement and increased energy levels, respectively.
Why would L-Tyrosine be effective to take while fasting? Well, quite a few reasons actually.
How L-Tyrosine Helps With Fasting
Studies have illustrated that L-Tyrosine has been able to decrease perceptions of acute stress (7). A perfect example of acute stress is fasting. Ironic, isn’t it?
When people are first getting adjusted to a fasting routine, sometimes they feel as if they are in a “fog” of sorts. When people take L-Tyrosine, it appears to improve both cognition and working memory (9), even during times of sleep deprivation.
That isn’t recommended of course, but it just goes to show how effective this supplement can be.
Some people report a poorer mood when fasting (10). Taking L-Tyrosine also has the potential to mitigate this low mood state. Along with this, some people experience a low mood due to stress, so this may help in that regard as well.
How Much To Take
Most of the scientific literature uses a range of 100-150 mg/kg of body weight. A cause for concern for some people is potential digestive upsets.
If this occurs, drop the dosage accordingly and reevaluate.
Do you know that spice that’s commonly found in curry? Yeah, this is it.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to dive into your spice cabinet in order to reap the benefits of this ingredient. Turmeric extract is most commonly available in capsule form. So you don’t have to deal with the smell of it either if you tend to not be the biggest fan of it.
Many people think of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory compound. And they’d be right! Why this is significant when it comes to fasting is because of its anti-inflammatory effects in the gut.
Most people don’t realize that most digestive disorders such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and colon polyps are a result of inflammation in the gut and digestive system (11). What turmeric has the ability to do is reduce this inflammation; both acting as a preventive measure for those who don’t have gut issues and acting as a recovery agent for those who are suffering from gut issues.
How Turmeric Helps With Fasting
As stated earlier, the primary reason for taking turmeric during a fast is for gut health purposes. With most fasting protocols, the individual will be eating more food in less feeding opportunities.
Because of this, digestive issues such as indigestion, gas, and bloating may become an issue, along with the digestive disorders previously mentioned.
In one study, those who supplemented with turmeric compared to placebo were able to increase the “good bacteria” in their gut by 7%, which is enough to positively impact digestion (12).
The “good bacteria” in the gut are responsible for breaking down the food you eat alongside your digestive system. It works in the same way as a probiotic supplement; increasing the number of bacteria in the microbiota in order to enhance digestive health.
How Much To Take
Unfortunately, there has not been a clearly established value for turmeric supplementation. However, most people seem to have success both in the literature and anecdotally with 500 mg.
Start with this amount and work your way up if necessary.
However, this should be more than enough for most people, particularly due to the fact that this supplement is quite expensive from most manufacturers.
There are multiple types of electrolytes. These include
Depending on your diet, sex, weight, and many other variables that are beyond the scope of this article, the amount of each electrolyte that you need will vary.
That’s why it’s best to take an electrolyte supplement during times of fasting in order to ensure that all deficiencies have been resolved.
These supplements often include all of the necessary electrolytes you need to replenish, along with the correct dosages.
How Electrolytes Help With Fasting
But why are electrolytes so important? Well during times of fasting, your body is constantly depleting these valuable resources from your body.
These electrolytes are responsible for a plethora of functions in the body. These include things like muscle contractions, metabolism, water regulation, among other very important functions.
When somebody is deficient in electrolytes then these bodily processes could be negatively affected.
Effects of being deficient in electrolytes include:
- “Brain Fog”
Another plus when it comes to electrolyte supplementation, just like with BCAA supplements, is that they are usually flavored with calorie-free sweeteners. These won’t break your fast, despite what you may have heard. In fact, it has been proven numerous times in the scientific literature (13) that it does not raise insulin levels, If it in fact did, you would become hypoglycemic (state of low blood sugar), due to the fact that the insulin has no nutrients to store.
How Much To Take
As mentioned earlier, due to how many electrolytes there are, it is beyond the scope of this article to review the dosages for each and every electrolyte. Also, due to the vast amount of differences in electrolyte requirements from person to person, it is very difficult to decipher the correct dosage.
What can be said here is that you can look to your dietary intake of electrolytes as a guide.
For example, if you are aware that your diet is high in sodium, then supplementing it is not necessary. One serving of a standard electrolyte supplement is enough to fit the needs of most individuals.
However, if you are performing any sort of exercise, then the dosage should be increased accordingly, due to fluid and electrolyte loss in sweat.
Due to Vitamin B being a water-soluble vitamin, they are often excreted at a more rapid rate than fat-soluble vitamins such as Vitamin D. Because of this, they need to be replenished more often.
And because they are water-soluble, it is not required that you take them with food, so it won’t break your fast.
As you may be aware, there are various types of B-vitamins out there, such as:
People more commonly know this as B1. This is primarily responsible for the uptake and regulation of glucose metabolism (14).
This also affects things such as insulin sensitivity/resistance, which is important for those looking to manage their body weight.
Also known as B2, it is involved with the regulation and utilization of amino acids (the broken down components of protein). This aids in processes such as cellular repair and muscle growth (hypertrophy) (15).
Known as Vitamin B3, this is for general cellular processes and can even be used to aid in the lowering of cholesterol in conjunction with medication and lifestyle interventions (16).
Also called B9, the most important function of this B-vitamin is to regulate the production of red blood cells (17). This is especially important when fasting, as things such as dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can wreak havoc on blood pressure and heart health if folate is not present in high enough amounts.
There are a couple more types of B-vitamins, but these are the most significant ones as it pertains to fasting. Many of the other ones share the same functions as these ones do.
While you could take all of these variants of B-vitamins in isolation, that wouldn’t really be that economical. Also, you’d most likely be getting more of these B-vitamins than you actually need, which would simply be wasted away and excreted from your body.
Your best bet is to take something called a B-complex. This combines both all of the aforementioned B-vitamin variants into one tablet or capsule.
How B-Vitamins Help With Fasting
As was spoken about earlier, it’s very important to reduce stress in times of fasting. Well, B-complex vitamins have been shown to improve both cognition and overall mood and well-being in healthy individuals, not just those who are deficient (18).
When you can reduce stress, you can concentrate on other facets of your life and reduce the chance of attempting to resolve that stress with food; a very unhealthy habit.
Also, this will help you to absorb all of the nutrients from food once you begin eating again. As stated earlier, the influx of a large amount of food in just a few sittings may cause some unpleasant effects, one of them being malabsorption.
This is when a significant amount of the food you eat does not get absorbed properly, thus some of the essential nutrients are wastefully excreted.
The metabolic benefits from B-vitamins will help to assimilate the nutrients and you’ll essentially get “more from your food”.
How Much To Take
For most adults, the recommended dosage is as follows, according to the FDA who establishes the RDI, which is the Reference
|B1 (Thiamine)||1.1 mg||1.2 mg|
|B2 (Riboflavin)||1.1mg||1.3 mg|
|B3 (Niacin)||14 mg||16 mg|
|B5 (Pantothenic acid)||5 mg||5 mg|
|B6 (Pyridoxine)||1.3 mg||1.3 mg|
|B7 (Biotin)||30 mcg (AI)||30 mcg|
|B9 (Folate)||400 mcg||400 mcg|
|B12 (Cobalamin)||2.4 mcg||2.4 mcg|
Although this is sometimes found in pre-workout supplements, a large majority of manufacturers don’t use it.
It’s even beneficial for those who have an active job, such as construction or other forms of hard labor.
Beta-alanine works by increasing the amount of carnosine in the body (19). Carnosine helps to reduce the level of acidity in the blood, allowing less accumulation of something called lactate.
This lactate is often the stinging, burning sensation that you feel after a vigorous bout of exercise. Thus, with the lactate now reduced, in turn, our endurance will increase.
How Beta-Alanine Helps With Fasting
This is very beneficial to utilize during a fast since it is non-caloric and will not break your fast. This will particularly help in the beginning stages of a fast; where most people lack the most in energy on their fasting journeys.
While also providing energy, it simultaneously helps to reduce fatigue in a wide variety of activities, improving a marker called “time to exhaustion” (20).
How Much To Take
The range lies anywhere from 2-5 g. Some people feel a tingling sensation called paresthesia if they take too much. Even though this is a harmless side effect, it still makes many people uncomfortable. If this is the case, reduce the dosage accordingly.
Last but certainly not least, we have the well-respected supplement creatine on our list. Perhaps one of the most well-researched and well-proven supplements out there, this non-caloric enzyme commonly found in red meat provides both cognitive benefits as well as physiological benefits.
Going back to the concept of energy, creatine helps to create something in the body called ATP, which stands for Adenosine Triphosphate.
Think of this as the “unit” of energy in the body. It is constantly being used up in the body, particularly during high-intensity activities. Fatigue sets in when ATP stores run low.
Research has suggested a plethora of benefits, most notably in the realm of power output (21), This is valuable for those who like to exercise in a fasted state, as energy levels can often run low during this time.
In fact, creatine is so potent that one meta-analysis suggests that it provides an average strength improvement of 8% and an average power improvement of 14% (22). That’s very significant for a supplementation protocol alone!
Although further evidence is required, creatine has been shown in some of the scientific literature to improve cognition (23). Although it was noted to a small degree, this is still significant pretty significant evidence.
How Creatine Helps With Fasting
Creatine is especially important for those who like to exercise in a fasted state. Fasting is known to cause low energy and feelings of fatigue, correlating to things such as low strength and power output.
Taking creatine can help to mitigate these effects in people who feel this particular way while fasting, thus potentially being able to perform as if they were in a postprandial, or fed, state.
In those that feel fine while fasting, creatine can help to significantly boost performance overall!
Well, there you have it! Ten of the best supplements that you can take in order to make your fast a much more pleasant experience.
Whether you’re intermittent fasting, alternate-day fasting, or performing some other fasting protocol, including some of these supplements into your lifestyle will allow you reap the metabolic, appetite suppressant, and body composition benefits that fasting has to offer.
Keep Reading: 9 Best Supplements for Keto
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