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Diet & Nutrition

8 Surprising Ways You Could Accidentally Break Your Fast While Intermittent Fasting

6 Mins read

Intermittent fasting is all the rage these days within fitness circles and wellness communities, because many attest that it works, as your body burns more fat in a fasted state. Intermittent fasting is also quite simple to do, because you just have to remember to only eat or drink calories within a specific window of time. The goal of intermittent fasting is to use up the body’s fat stores for energy, which is opposed to the normal energy process that burns glucose or simple sugar. Certain research says that intermittent fasting could result in weight loss, better health, improved focus, boosted metabolism, and even better gut health. 

As the name suggests, intermittent fasting is an eating plan that involves consuming food during a specific window only. The most common fasts are 12 or 16 hours, but it can extend beyond 16 hours depending on the individual’s preferences, capabilities, and goals. Notably, twelve hours is the minimum time for fat stores to be accessed and burned by the human body. The 12-hour fast leaves a 12-hour eating window. The 16-hour fast leaves an 8-hour eating window, and this is the most popular version of intermittent fasting. 

What does this mean? Simply, it means that you are only allowed to consume calories within the eating window, and you must stop by the time your fast resumes. 

You are not allowed to consume any calories during your fast – not even a piece of gum. Doing so will break the fast, and your body will revert to burning sugar for energy instead of your fat stores. While obvious items like big meals, pizza, bread, meat, junk food, and other calorie-dense items, are easy to identify and, therefore, cast aside during your fast, there are also other consumable substances that you need to be wary of. This includes certain zero calorie drinks and seemingly “zero-calorie” foods. 

The following fasting habits are those that may, surprisingly and unwittingly, be breaking your fast; thus, shortening the amount of time your body morphs into a fat burning machine. 

1. Taking certain supplements, gummy vitamins, or medication  

Perhaps you don’t think much of your daily hair vitamin gummy, which might be a tiny flavored gummy containing hair vitamins. However, make sure you don’t take this during your fasting window.

Taking certain supplements may break your fast when consumed during the fasting period. Gummy vitamins are a common culprit, as these often contain sugar, flavoring, protein, and sometimes fat. Supplements with branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) also break fasts as they trigger an insulin result which counters the autophagy that occurs during fasting. Autophagy is a process induced by fasting which cleans out damaged cells and aids in the regeneration of new ones.

Additionally, watch out for items containing maltodextrin, cane sugar, pectin, or fruit juice and concentrate as they contain sugars and alcohols that could remove you from a fasting state. Moreover, note that certain medications may also contain sugar, like dragees or chewable tablets, which are often sweetened to be more palatable. Throat lozenges like Strepsils can also break fasts, as they contain sugar and flavoring. 

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2. Putting ‘just a splash’ of creamer in your coffee or tea 

Coffee or tea is said to amplify the effects of fasting and is complementary to fasting for weight loss, as it reduces blood sugar and heart disease risk. However, this only holds true if you drink plain coffee or tea, with no artificial sugar, no creamer – nothing. 

Black coffee and plain tea will not break your fast, but having it with creamer or milk slows down your body’s fat-burning process. Having these add-ons will break your fast, at which point there’s not much point fasting. It’s not just creamer you have to be wary of. Adding splenda, stevia, ghee, or butter, to your coffee will also lead to the same outcomes.

3. Consuming blended low-calorie fruits and vegetables

Beginners or IF newbies unknowingly think that eating or morphing fruits and vegetables into shakes is permitted because these food items are very low in calories. However, doing so can break your fast. This is particularly true for fruits as they contain natural sugars. Although it’s true that they are very low in caloric content, your body will revert to burning these natural sugars. 

Additionally, eating vegetables, even low calorie items like iceberg lettuce and cucumber, will still break your fast as these contain sugars, especially when taken in the form of salads containing dressings, nuts, and other food items. Remember that for intermittent fasting to work, you must eliminate all possible items that may be metabolized by the body. Your goal with IF is for the body to burn its own fat stores.

4. Consuming fiber-rich drinks  

You may be taking fiber supplements thrice daily to regulate your bowels, improve cholesterol levels, and regulate blood pressure. Since it’s a drink, you may think that it won’t have an impact just like acceptable IF beverages like coffee or tea. However, these fiber drinks are often fortified with other compounds or flavored with sugars and artificial flavors that will break your fast. 

To illustrate, original Metamucil, a fiber supplement, contains maltodextrin, orange flavor, and sugars. Even the sugar-free version could end up breaking your fast since it also contains maltodextrin, which spikes up your insulin telling the body to start burning sugar instead of fat.  

5. Consuming bone broth 

It may come as a surprise but bone broth and chicken broth will break fast. The same goes for protein powders and shakes. Although these are liquids that are very easy to swallow and digest, they are not great for intermittent fasting. Though these items are healthy and good for muscle growth and development, the high protein levels of these items kick your body out of fat burning mode. 

This is because proteins are made of amino acids, which the body metabolizes into ketones to be used for energy when the body does not get enough calories from other nutrients and sources (which is the case when fasting). Once the body ingests these items, your body starts using the amino acids in protein as fuel instead of your own fat stores. As a result, you could end up unknowingly breaking your fast.  

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6. Chewing gum or eating mints

Getting the hang of fasting can be tricky, and some try to find ways to curb hunger during fasting hours. A popular way to do so is by chewing gum throughout the fasting period or sucking on mints. 

Gums and mints contain sugar which your body will revert to for energy, which will break your fast. Even items that are supposedly sugar-free gums contain erythritol and xylitol, which stimulate the digestive system despite not getting fully metabolized.

7. Using certain toothpastes and mouthwash products

Some oral care items, like toothpaste and mouthwash, may break your fast if they contain erythritol or xylitol. These sugar alcohols, which are used as sweeteners, create an insulin response when consumed, and may slow the ability to burn fat during your fast. Make sure to read the labels of all your products so your hard work won’t go to waste.    

8. Drinking “diet, ”“zero-calorie,” and “sugar-free” flavored drinks

For your fasting to be effective, you might mistakenly focus on thinking that you must avoid all forms of calories during the fasting period. Thus, you may think a diet drink that contains zero calories will be alright, right? No. This is one of the big fasting myths. 

Diet soda and its other equivalent forms can still break your fast by causing hormonal reactions and tricking your body into thinking it’s no longer fasting. Note that fasting involves different bodily systems, primarily your digestive and hormone-regulating systems, which work hand in hand to metabolize fat stores for you to achieve fat loss results. 

Most diet sodas and zero-calories drinks rely on artificial sweeteners, which may affect your metabolic processes and gut health by provoking certain insulin and other hormonal responses. Though you may not technically be consuming calories, these flavorings may trick your brain into believing it is out of the fasting state, which can be detrimental to your metabolism since it is reliant on hormone regulation. Even flavored items, like flavored water, may cause this same reaction.

For Best Results, Be Wary of Anything That Could Break Your Fast

Intermittent fasting sounds simple, right? Avoid calories. However, it doesn’t end there. You must also be wary of items that trigger hormonal responses that will affect the metabolic process involved in intermittent fasting. While obvious items are easy to avoid, the aforementioned fast-breakers in this article can be easily overlooked. Thus it is important to read nutritional labels. 

While you’re fasting, try to stick to only consuming water, plain herbal tea, or black coffee with nothing in it.

Moreover, if it is within your capacity, seek professional advice when it comes to crafting your fasting plans to get the best results. It would also help to take a CircleDNA test to assess how this kind of eating plan might work best with your unique genetic makeup. Perhaps with your DNA, it’s best to combine intermittent fasting with the keto diet.

Intermittent fasting is a big change for most people, and you are allowed to make mistakes along the way. Just remember to pick yourself back up and try again, learning from your mistakes and aiming to master the proper way to fast.

Hannah Wabe
116 posts

About author
Hannah Victoria Wabe has an MA in Development Communication, which shows how just much she loves and believes in the power of words. She works part-time as a writer and educator but works full-time as a mother of three kids, ranging from 8 to 18. Though she’s not a big fan of math, she believes in counting blessings and imbibes an attitude of gratitude.
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