Our body produces an insulin response when we ingest caloric energy, which takes us from a fasted state to a fed-state.

When fasting, it’s important to know what supplements you can take which can help improve athletic performance while remaining in a fasted state.

Though, it’s important to note that you can take supplements when fasting. Getting adequate nutrients in while fasting is actually key to your performance and recovery, so definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.

More specifically, supplementing to power each aspect of your training, i.e. endurance, strength, and recovery, is vital.

This article discusses the need for supplements while fasting, and why they should be a paramount part of your training and nutrition plan.

Why Are Supplements Important During Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting, otherwise known as intermittent energy restriction, is an umbrella term for various meal timing schedules that cycle between fasting and non-fasting over a certain period. Some methods of intermittent fasting include periodic fasting, alternate-day fasting, and daily time-restricted feeding.

Intermittent fasting is best known as a fat loss method and has likely been on everyone’s radar at one point or another. It has been shown to potentially provide a number of health benefits, from utilizing fat for fuel to reducing oxidative stress.

While this method is not suitable for everyone due to the restrictive nature and specific meal-timing scheduling, it can work well for those who live a lifestyle that caters for this method of eating.

Introducing supplements into an intermittent fasting diet plan is essential for fuelling performance and optimizing your results.

Simply put, when your body is in a fasted-state, you begin breaking down muscle for energy, putting you in a catabolic state. Additionally, your body would also maintain low insulin levels, which switches up the energy utilisation from glycogen to ketones.

This means that to avoid performance and recovery mishaps, as well as avoiding muscle protein breakdown, proper supplementation is key!

What Supplements Should I Take While Intermittent Fasting?

The primary reason for intermittent fasting is so the body can maintain in a fasted-state, encouraging the body to utilize fat for fuel as opposed to using glycogen (stored carbohydrates) for energy.

Taking supplements during a fast can help optimize performance, particularly since the body is in a nutrient deficit.

Though, there are a couple of key points to consider before we get into the exact supplements to take while in a fasted state:

  • Use unflavored supplements

Unflavoured supplements ensure that there is no added sugar or caloric energy for flavouring. Supplements with these added flavors can create an insulin response, which then takes you out of a fasted state.

Ensure you carefully read the label on the product to ensure there is no added sugar or flavorings.

  • Use clinically dosed supplements

Many supplement companies under-dose the proven ingredients you need to perform at your best, so ensure your supplement is providing the full recommended dose according to clinical trials and research.

The Best Supplements for Intermittent Fasting

  • Creatine

Creatine helps increase your energy supply by generating the production of adenosine tri phosphate (ATP), our bodies energy currency.

Our body uses creatine phosphate stores during intense bouts of exercise, such as jumping, lifting, and sprinting. Providing additional creatine will therefore support the ATP regeneration, supporting maximal physical efforts.

This is even more beneficial for those who are fasting, as the body cannot typically use glucose for energy, so would depend more on ATP.

To put it simply, having more creatine phosphate in your muscle cells would mean more ATP can be produced, leading to greater strength, power, speed, and muscle growth.

  • Beta-Alanine

Beta-alanine helps delay muscle fatigue, increase endurance, and improve training volume. It is a non-essential amino acid which is proven to help improve performance by counteracting the development of lactic acid.

Lactic acid builds up during high-intensity training (the burning sensation you feel in muscles), which causes increased fatigue and loss of power.

Beta-alanine essentially helps buffer lactic acid buildup, therefore delaying fatigue and enabling us to increase our time to exhaustion. More training volume equals improved athletic performance, increased strength, and boosted endurance.

  • L-Glutamine

L-glutamine is the most abundant essential amino acid in the human body. This means that synthesis of glutamine in certain situations can be limited. For example, during intense training sessions, your body will deplete all of its glutamine, resulting in decreased strength and stamina.

Supplementing with L-glutamine would mean that you’re ensuring your body has enough supply of glutamine stores, thus maintaining a positive protein balance to reduce muscle soreness and breakdown.

  • Collagen

Collagen can improve strength, optimize recovery, help build lean muscle, and support healthy joints, skin, and hair. This is one of the best proteins powders to take while fasting.

Collagen makes up 30% of the total protein found in our body, mostly known for its role in the body’s structure - joints, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues.

The amino acids found in collagen - glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine - help promote muscle protein synthesis, joint health, wound healing, and bone health.

You’re probably now wondering why collagen is the best type of protein to supplement with when fasting.

Well, collagen protein does not contain other macronutrients, such as carbs and fat, that most other protein powders have. Therefore, you remain in a fasted state by taking unflavoured, hydrolyzed collagen before your fasted workouts.

  • L-Citrulline

L-citrulline is one of the most effective supplements to take, particularly when fasting.

Some of the benefits of L-citrulline include:

  • Improving strength
  • Increasing endurance
  • Delaying muscle fatigue
  • Improving recovery

L-citrulline can help fight muscle fatigue by increasing ATP production, which helps us to generate more useable energy in a fasted state.

Supplementing with L-citrulline can also help promote the production of nitric oxide, a vasodilator which widens blood vessels and improves blood flow.

This helps nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscles, meaning our body can recover faster, and improve strength and endurance.

Does L-Citrulline Break A Fast?

No, L-citrulline does not break a fast provided the supplement in question has no added sugar or flavorings, which can result in an insulin response!

What Supplements Should I Avoid When Fasting?

Avoid supplements with proprietary blends - a method which allows a brand to list ingredients without the exact amounts of each ingredient. Therefore, you may find that proprietary blends break your fast due to hidden ingredient amounts.

Supplements that may have proprietary blends include:

  • Protein powders
  • Carbohydrate supplements
  • Some pre-workouts

How to Avoiding Breaking a Fast Around Training

While you could simply avoid any supplements that could potentially break a fast, there are other ways around it.

As mentioned, fasting is not for everyone, nor is it advised for anyone who wants to take training very seriously.

Intermittent fasting may not work for those who want to take their training to the next level, therefore require adequate fuel and nourishment from food.

Depending on your chosen fasting schedule (there is no right or wrong!), you could simply ensure that you are not in a fasted state for training. For example, choosing to fast on rest days (or training days), or during times in the day where you are inactive.

Though, the beauty of intermittent fasting is that you can choose your own mealtimes - a schedule that works for you personally!

Take-Home Message

Intermittent fasting is one of the more popular weight loss diets to exist today. While there are many different methods of fasting, one thing to be aware of is the potential of breaking a fast by taking certain supplements.

Supplements with proprietary blends, and added sugar and flavors may elicit an insulin response, which will take you from a fasted state to a fed-state.

Though there are many supplements which would be worth taking while fasting to help optimize performance and recovery, such as L-citrulline, creatine, collagen, L-glutamine, and beta-alanine.

These supplements would help those who are fasted remain in a fasted state while improving their athletic performance through providing much needed energy, and decreasing time to exhaustion.

However, fasting is not for everyone and is not the optimal diet for athletes or those who wish to enhance their performance and recovery. To achieve this, fuel and nourishment needs to come from food and should ideally be consumed around training sessions!

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