Fasting has become so commonplace these days that it’s likely you know somebody personally who regularly does a prolonged fast. Intermittent fasting is now part of our everyday vocabulary; your workplace is probably full of people who have breakfast at 2 pm (and who make a big deal of telling everyone they’re fasting).
As so many people are fasting – or at least intermittent fasting – there has been an explosion in the amount of advice available online to help people get through periods of not eating.
Some of this advice is very helpful, much of it less so.
However, very little attention is given to supplements that can help you get through a fast. Of course, supplements for fasting sounds counter-intuitive, but there are actually a number of supplements that can make intermittent fasting – and even prolonged fasting – much easier and much more productive.
Let’s take a look at the most useful supplements to use while fasting.
1. MCT Oil
Using the best MCT oil supplements can dramatically improve your experience during a fast. According to the experts at Open Health Tools, MCT oil is one of the most over-looked supplements among people who follow intermittent fasting protocols.
MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. These fatty acids have some unique properties, one of which is the fact that they are quickly converted into ketones by the liver. Consuming MCTs, therefore, means you can supply your brain with fuel, very quickly, without having to ingest any glucose, and without causing an insulin spike. This makes MCTs ideal to use before training or first thing in the morning before work if you plan on fasting for 6 hours or more.
One added benefit of MCTs is that you can easily incorporate them into your meals for the day. A high-quality MCT oil will double as a great salad dressing base. Just swap out your olive oil for MCT oil and you’ll get all of the cognitive and physical benefits while you eat.
If you’re fasting, even intermittently, then it is highly likely that you are going to be eating far fewer calories per day than usual. This is why fasting is so effective for fat loss; you just can’t eat 3000 calories in one or two meals without serious effort!
As you’re eating fewer calories, you will almost definitely be eating less fiber. Most people tend to focus on getting in enough protein and fat when they do break their fast, as these are nutritionally and calorically dense foods (the calories in a gram of fat far outweighing the calories in a gram of carbs). Eating less fiber will negatively impact your gut microbiome. The beneficial bacteria in your gut will have less food to eat, allowing harmful strains of bacteria to thrive.
Probiotics and prebiotics can help keep your gut microbiome in tip-top condition during times when you are eating less water-soluble fiber.
This supplement follows the same logic as prebiotics and probiotics in terms of its usefulness to people doing intermittent fasting.
When we fast for any notable length of time, we eat less food. In practice, most people who fast intermittently turn to a high fat, high protein foods when they break their fast. It’s what they are craving after 18 hours of not eating anything, and it helps them hit their macronutrient goals with as little bloat as possible.
But eating fewer calories, and eating a lot less fibrous, leafy greens in the process, means you will be consuming far fewer vitamins and minerals than your body needs to be optimally healthy and functional.
That’s where multivitamins come in. Multivitamins offer a very simple, easy, cost-effective way to hit all of your daily micronutrient needs without having to eat significantly more food (causing bloating and stomach cramps if you’re trying to do it all in one meal). Many people overlook vitamins and minerals while fasting, instead of focusing on protein intake. But this is utterly foolish; vitamins and minerals have a far greater effect on your health than protein intake. While it is almost impossible to be protein deficient, it is very easy to become deficient in minerals and vitamins.
People who follow intermittent fasting protocols need to focus on getting through their fasting period without consuming any calories. That is obviously the priority. To make it easier, people have come up with all sorts of ingenious tactics to reduce hunger, make time pass faster, and increase willpower.
In all of this, supplements generally get overlooked. But supplements can actually make intermittent fasting significantly easier.
This may sound counter-intuitive, or even confusing to many of you. After all, fasting is about not consuming anything. How can supplements possibly help?
The answer is simple. Fasting is all about simply getting through your eating window without consuming any calories. To get optimal results from your fasting, you also need to concentrate on what you eat during your allotted eating window. Failing to give the body everything it needs to function optimally during your eating window can cause your health and your performance – both cognitive and physical – to suffer.
This is where supplements come in very useful.
Using supplements to “supercharge” your food intake during your eating window can make hitting your macro and micronutrient intake targets extremely easy. Beyond that, supplements you use during your eating window can make your experience of fasting exponentially easier. Some supplements can even be used to “cheat” your fast; MCT oil, for example, provides a lot of energy for the brain without causing an insulin spike (as it is 100% fat).
However, you choose to use supplements to help with your fasting, be sure to only use high-quality supplements that actually help you reach your goals. For most people, protein powders are completely unnecessary, whereas other supplements could help a great deal.