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November 22, 2022 10 min read
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Fasting, by definition, is a period of time set aside to abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink. While there are plenty of fasting purists who avoid even a single calorie, today’s intermittent fasting schedules allow a bit more flexibility. Consuming calories during your fasting window can indeed break a fast, but you do have some room to play with certain vitamins and supplements while generally keeping your total intake under 200 kcals. Since our bodies do not respond identically to caloric intake during a fasting window, it’s possible to consume minimal calories and remain in a fasted state. Public figures like Halle Berry and Tim Ferriss are able to reap the fat loss and health benefits with this type of modified fasting approach.
One of the key medical professionals promoting IF, the amazing Toronto kidney doctor Jason Fung, states that on the fast days of a 5:2 fasting schedule, you can still eat up to 500 calories. Many of the benefits that come from a fast of 12 hours or more won’t be interrupted by a minimal amount of calories to help you get through the day. In fact, “breaking” a fast with collagen may have even more benefits than going without it. More on that below!
Before we dig into the benefits of intermittent fasting and why I recommend it to nearly everyone I meet, let's step back a second for those who aren’t familiar: What is intermittent fasting exactly? Intermittent fasting splits your day into fasting windows and eating windows. It's the argument, in short, that the human body was designed to go long periods without eating. In fact, there are many proven health benefits from skipping your morning meal or stretching the period between your meals. We'll get into those a bit later.
Intermittent fasting generally takes one of two forms: either you practice it every day, or you fast certain days in the week. When fasting daily, you have a set feeding window that is labeled by the number of hours you don'teat and then the number of hours during which you do eat. For example, the most common form of IF is called "16:8" in which you have a 16 hour fasting period followed by an 8 hour eating period. In fact, this is the fasting strategy I recommend to all newbies because, if you do the simple math, eating during an 8-hour window basically means just skipping breakfast. It's long enough to get certain minimal benefits of fasting and short enough to be easy (you sleep through half of the fast anyway). A more extreme form is called "20:4", where all your eating for that day takes place during a four hour window.
There's another type of intermittent fasting often called "eat stop eat". That's when you eat normally for a few days, but then go for a few days without eating. This is referred to by the number of days eating, followed by the number of days you go without eating. So a "5:2" fasting regime means you eat normally for 5 days, then fast 2 days.
One of the most obvious benefits of intermittent fasting is weight loss. When you spend the majority of your day in a fasted state, it's no wonder weight gain is prevented! Though this is often the main selling point for intermittent fasting, it's certainly not the only one. Intermittent fasting has been found to:
The style of IF that is better for you can depend on many factors such as your age, gender, physical exertion, and hormones. However, the bottom line is: not eating for more than 12 hours per day, or for more than 1 day in a row, can bring enormous health benefits once you've fully adopted the Religion of Fasting. After joining the body of fasting believers, it's often a minor optimization or tweak as you decide which IF creed is yours. One big question that will help to identify your creed is: what -- if anything -- can you eat while you fast?
One family of IF faith has a creed of eating or drinking absolutely nothing at all during a fast, except water. By this approach they hope to maximize the health benefits. Another sect allows for water, coffee, and tea without sugar, milk, or additives. Because coffee and tea all have zero calories, and, well, we're human.
Last but not least is the faction with a looser creed, but not necessarily to the detriment of the end goal. This group allows for some vitamins and supplements, and possibly even low carb foods to be included in their fasting window. There is a range of thought as to how many calories can be ingested during a fasting period in order to retain the benefits of the fast, generally that number ranges from 50-500 calories.
There will always be the dissenters who say: "If you are taking in calories during your fasting window, then by definition you're not fasting!” Consider the family who chooses to attend services online via livestream, rather than show up in person. Do they still experience the benefits? Is there more than one way to approach fasting? Yes! And the benefits do not have to be sacrificed!
To know which creed to adopt, there are essentially three parts to deciding. First is simply your own health, which of course you should consult your doctor about before jumping on the fasting train. If you have low blood sugar, you’re a diabetic, or maybe you’ve struggled with an eating disorder, your options may be more limited. Safety first of course!
The second factor is your personal willpower. If you're a Nietzschean superhero, longer periods of fasting might work well for you. If you're a mortal, find the ratio (16:8 or 20:4) that works for you.
But the third factor in deciding your fasting approach is directly related to what you can get out of it. Why does fasting work so well for the human body? What will it help you achieve from a health standpoint? Recognizing and understanding the benefits of fasting, paired with your own personality and particular goals, all play a role in choosing the plan that works best for you.
About half of the benefits of fasting come from a process called "autophagy" which is, to put it in simple human terms, your body cleaning itself. Think about it this way: your body spends lots of energy processing the food you eat. So does collagen intake during a fasting period prevent autophagy? If you eat even a tiny bit of something, your body is working for hours to process it. But it's only when your body is NOT processing food (that is, when you're fasting) that those same cells can relax and chill. They can use that energy to repair themselves. This self-repair, auto-phagy, is a self-eating process that lets the cells heal minor wounds so they don't turn into bigger [insert name of big scary diseases we don't want to name here, because we don't want to scare anyone] issues. They say autophagy really only begins after not eating for 12 hours, which is why if you refrain from food for less than 12 hours, it's not considered a fast.
But the second half of the benefit of fasting comes from a completely different source: the tendency to simply eat a lot less food. Evidence suggests, such as in this powerful 2015 study, that our modern-day overeating is responsible for a chunk of the "diseases of civilization" that affect us today. When I watched my grandparents and how they managed food and meals on any given day, I noticed a trend that I don’t see as often in this day and age. Mealtime happened three times a day at the family table. With them, there was no snacking or midnight treats. A benefit of that way of thinking is simply that if you were to only eat at appointed times and nothing - literally nothing - in-between, your body can not only recover via autophagy, but you are likely eating less as well.
Think of it this way: when you adopt a fasting lifestyle (it’s not just a diet choice, folks!) an incredible benefit is you get less hungry. Just ask anyone who has fasted for more than 48 hours (your hunger usually increases until that point) or watch an informative YouTube video such as this one. So, during my four-hour window of eating, I don't take in the equivalent of 3 meals per day in one sitting, rather I eat about 1.5 meals. I usually have really big dinners and my body is satisfied. Many academic studies have shown that you will naturally eat a lot less when you’re eating within smaller windows of time each day (go re-watch the videomentioned above). This would be referred to as "caloric restriction" or "reduced caloric intake" by academics, which is one of the main drivers of long-term health.
Consider this important and surprisingly complex point: if you want to be super healthy and maintain good health as you age, eating a lot less can help. But in our modern world, just eating less is really, really hard. And you know what a great way to eat less might be? Adopt a rule-set, a religion -- like, say, "Intermittent Fasting" -- which empowers you to eat less!
So, with all of that as background, this useful question arises: does collagen break a fast?
If you were paying attention above -- and I know you were hanging on every word, then you already have the answer.
The fasting creed you adopt can affect whether or not you think that collagen breaks a fast. Those who consume nothing but water during the fasting window are choosing to play it safe, and there’s nothing wrong with that! Sometimes taking a black and white approach keeps things nice and simple. However, adding a scoop of collagen to your coffee or tea during a fast, especially an unflavored & unsweetened variety like marine collagen, will not interfere with the benefits of fasting. At an average of 35 calories per 10g serving, collagen helps you to feel full and energized. Knowing that a minimal number of calories can be consumed during your fasting window without knocking you out of your fasted state makes collagen an optimal choice.
If you are struggling with the idea that you can take in 200 or more calories during your intermittent fasting window and still reap the benefits of fasting, keep these points in mind:
An all-natural collagen supplement only has a smidgen of calories, so if you're going to subscribe to the 50 calories or less camp, it's just about the smallest (and one of the healthiest) amounts and ways to have it. So, to get into the nitty-gritty, as long as you're opting for an unflavored, all-natural collagen source with no artificial sweeteners or additives, then you can expect to consume about 20 to 35 calories per 10g scoop or serving of collagen protein powder. It shouldn’t significantly affect ketosis or fat burning during a fast, so it’s a pretty safe bet.
Some of us have high ideals but not necessarily a high level of success. What I’m saying is, don’t set yourself up for failure if you know your track record of going cold turkey during a fast has ended in nothing but thwarted attempts. If allowing yourself a minimal number of calories during your fast enables you to see it to completion, then you are much better off than the fast that fell apart quickly due to a white knuckle approach.
These points all lead to the conclusion: what's your goal in fasting?
If your goal in IF is to simply add it to the list of the things you do perfectly in life, then only consume collagen during your window of eating whether that be 6, 8, or 4 hours.
But if you're aiming for health & beauty benefits and not just trying to be perfect then you can still grab a large quantity of the benefits of IF by adding a scoop of sustainably sourced collagen powder to your morning coffee, tea, or water for example. Go for it and see how you feel.
After all, adding a scoop of easy-to-mix collagen to your daily nutrition supports a whole roster of health & beauty goals including maintaining strong bones, healthy tendons & cartilage, a healthy gut, shiny thick hair, strong nails, lean muscle, better flexibility, and last but not least, smooth, hydrated, youthful skin. Hmm, that seems like a multitude of very good reasons.
The question is more what works for you personally and what you can sustainably commit to in the long term. Some people approach everything with an all-or-nothing attitude and can’t live with themselves if they haven’t adopted the strictest, strongest, and most rigorous of fasting techniques. Others are moderates and will find that adopting even a 16:8 IF regime that includes collagen coffee in the morning will be perfectly acceptable for their lifestyle and goals.
Basically, if you are going to embrace a religion, don’t you search out the tenets of the faith and align yourself accordingly? It’s the same with fasting. Do your research, decide what’s important to you and adopt the plan and approach that fits with your goals. And while you’re at it, go ahead and add a scoop of Amandean marine collagen to your coffee, you will benefit both during your eating window and during your fasting window!
Intermittent Fasting (IF) is a popular diet regime consisting of two phases: the fasting period and the eating window.
There are different forms depending on the length of the two mentioned phases: 16/8 (16h of fasting, 8h of eating window), 20/4, and a more extreme version where you eat for 5 days and fast 2 days.
IF has been linked to numerous health benefits, including prevention of dementia, detox, and rejuvenation of stem cells.
While collagen does technically break a fast, it is still allowed under many IF regimes due to its low-calorie profile.
Collagen is a great choice during fasting as it keeps you full, gives you the much needed energy, and it also has countless health and beauty benefits.
Mangan, P., & Mangan, P. (2019). More benefits of intermittent fasting - Rogue Health and Fitness. Retrieved from https://roguehealthandfitness.com/more-benefits-of-intermittent-fasting/
Dr. Jason Fung, M., & Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt, M. (2019). Intermittent Fasting for Beginners – The Complete Guide – Diet Doctor. Retrieved from https://www.dietdoctor.com/intermittent-fasting
Nuttall, F., Almokayyad, R., & Gannon, M. (2015). Comparison of a carbohydrate-free diet vs. fasting on plasma glucose, insulin and glucagon in type 2 diabetes. Metabolism, 64(2), 253-262. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2014.10.004
What I've Learned. (2019). Intermittent Fasting & Hunger - What the Science says [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFT2IKmwyfg
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