By Rachael Link, MS, RD
Although it has only recently emerged as a new trend throughout health and wellness circles, fasting is a practice that has been around for centuries and has been linked to some serious health benefits. While there are many different types of fasting, the premise remains pretty much the same: avoid eating for a specific number of hours each day and stick to calorie-free beverages like water, tea and coffee instead.
But while the idea of abstaining from food for a specific window of time may sound simple enough, there are several other factors to consider as well. In fact, certain foods, drinks and supplements that may be staples in your routine could be pulling you out of your fast and slowing your progress.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at a few unexpected things that may be breaking your fast and preventing you from reaching your goals.
Intermittent Fasting vs. Regular Fast
Intermittent fasting is a popular eating pattern that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting. It has been associated with a variety of health benefits and is often used by dieters looking to manage weight and support their overall health. It’s also a good fit for those seeking a bit more flexibility than other diet plans, as it sets restrictions on when you can eat rather than which foods are permitted.
Regular fasting, on the other hand, involves abstaining from food for a specific period of time. These fasts can last anywhere from several hours to several days and are often done for religious, spiritual or health reasons.
Depending on the type and reason for your fast, these two forms of fasting may have very different rules or guidelines. Religious fasts, for example, often require you to abstain from other behaviors like smoking and may not even allow drinks like water during your fasting window. Meanwhile, intermittent fasting is focused more on the health benefits of fasting and requires dieters to restrict most foods that contain calories or those that can kick you out of your fast.
With intermittent fasting especially, it’s important to pay close attention to what you’re eating and drinking. While some foods, drinks and supplements can be consumed during a fast, even small amounts of others can break your fast unexpectedly.
Unexpected Things That Stop Your Fast
1. Gummy Supplements
While gummy supplements may be a more enjoyable way to boost your intake of certain vitamins and minerals, they may not be the best choice when you’re fasting. This is because these products usually contain a small amount of calories and sugar, along with some protein and fat as well.
For this reason, it’s best to skip the gummies and opt for multivitamins in capsule or tablet form during your fast.
2. Protein Powder
Adding a scoop of protein powder to drinks and smoothies is a quick and convenient way to squeeze more protein into your daily diet. However, it’s important to enjoy your protein powder during your eating window to avoid breaking your fast.
Not only do protein powders contain calories, but consuming protein can signal to your body that the fast has ended.
3. Coffee or Tea
Although black coffee and unsweetened tea are permitted during your fast, it’s crucial to play close attention to any added ingredients that may be in your morning drink. Coffee that contains cream or sugar, for example, can break a fast, along with tea that has been sweetened with honey or sugar.
For best results, always stick to unsweetened varieties of these beverages during your fast.
4. Flavored Water
Switching out regular water for flavored water is a great way to stay hydrated during a fast. However, it’s important to pay close attention to the ingredients in your flavored water to avoid breaking your fast.
Look for a variety that is naturally flavored and contains zero calories. Be sure to also steer clear of types that contain added sugar or are sweetened with juice, sugar or fruit.
5. MCT Oil
MCT oil is a type of performance fat made up of medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs. It’s often used as a dietary supplement, especially by athletes looking to boost their performance. It’s also sometimes added to coffee, smoothies, and salad dressings to ramp up the fat content.
However, MCT oil does contain calories, which can quickly pull you out of your fast. Therefore, it’s crucial to time your use of MCT oil carefully and consume only during your eating window to avoid breaking your fast.
Branched chain amino acids, also known as BCAAs, are a type of amino acid supplement that many gym goers regularly incorporate into their workout routine. That being said, consuming BCAAs can effectively break your fast.
For this reason, it’s best to take BCAAs at the end of your fasting window instead of using supplements during the day.
Rachael Link, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian based in New York City. She completed her undergraduate degree in Dietetics at the University of Central Missouri and later received her Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Rachael is passionate about plant-based nutrition and enjoys providing easy-to-understand information to readers looking to support their health.