Will Coffee, MCT Oil or Collagen Break my Intermittent Fast?

Will Coffee, MCT Oil or Collagen Break my Intermittent Fast?

What hot drinks can I have when fasting? or will taking supplements break my fast?

These are some great questions we are hearing more and more frequently and we are here to help bust some of these myths around whether or not collagen peptides, MCT oil or Bulletproof coffees can disrupt your fasting. 
 

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

 

To be reading this post, we assume you are already thinking of introducing an intermittent fasting plan (or shall we call it Intermittent Eating?) into your life, or you may even already have a fasting protocol in place… 
You may have even stumbled across the many benefits of intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating.[1]
 
 The benefits of intermittent fasting and daily fasts include:
    • Help you to lose weight and body fat [2] [3] [4]
    • Improve focus and mental clarity (switch from glucose-based to ketone-based energy)
    • Improve insulin sensitivity and reverse type 2 diabetes[5]
    • Increased stress resistance
    • Reduced risk of disease (including obesity and cancer)
    • Fat loss (particularly trunk fat) and lower inflammation[6]

 

Why Fast

 

But what you really want to know is if your morning bulletproof inspired Evolve coffee is disrupting your efforts right? 
 
Before considering if any type of food, drink or supplement is breaking your fast, we need to understand why you're fasting in the first place.
 

 

The 3 Most Common Reasons for Fasting

 

Fasting for metabolic flexibility/fat loss

 

There is nothing new about the use of intermittent fasting (or intermittent eating as we like to call it) in the pursuit of optimal health. 
Arguably it is probably humanity's worst kept secrets to good metabolic health[7] and humans have evolved to do it without any detriment to health[8] - quite the opposite in fact.
The very foundation of fasting is to simply allow the body to mobilise and use its stored energy such as body fat and make use of ketones. Fasting regulates the hormone insulin[9] which is the key hormone involved in the storage and combustion of food and stored energy (aka body fat).
 
'Conventional' wisdom (we're looking at you fitness industry) has labelled body fat as something to be vilified – an enemy that we must burn.
 
It is essential to realise that body fat is simply energy that has been stored away, ready for when it is called upon - such as in times of famine and food scarcity. Think of it as an in-built long-term fuel tank that should be readily accessible when required.
 
But in the vast majority of us, it isn't.
We're metabolically inflexible rather than metabolically flexible.
 
In simple terms, if you don't eat, your body should be able to mobilise stored fats for fuel and get you to your next meal – which could be hours or even days away.
 
As the cliché goes… 'it is all about balance'.
 
Well, restoring the balance between our fed (insulin high) state and fasted (insulin low) state is likely one of the most critical levers when it comes to good metabolic health and a healthy amount of body fat.[10]
 
Cue Intermittent Fasting.

Fasting for improved gut health

 

To improve your gut health, sometimes you need to give your gut a rest.[11]
 
Gut rest is simple. It means zero digestion. 
 
This means no secretion of hormones or enzymes related to digestion and no nutrient absorption.
 
When we eat food or consume calories, digestive enzymes are mobilised. They work to break things down with the small components being absorbed into your bloodstream through your small intestine walls (that are covered in villi).
 
Some people need to give these villi a rest. 
 
Typically, people with issues such as SIBO, systemic inflammation, food allergies, indigestion or GERD, diverticulitis or IBD (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s) flare-ups. 
By giving your gut a rest from fasting, you can in fact aide in gut health and allowing it time to repair - simple!

 

Fasting for longevity

 

 Fasting for autophagy (a cellular cleanup) is being touted as a key to longevity (the increase in life and importantly health span) and staving off the degenerative effects of ageing.
 
It has been known since the early 1930s that significant calorie restriction in rodent studies leads to an increased lifespan and slowed ageing, albeit at the expense of restricted body size and development.[12]
 
But is this any way to live a fulfilled life? Sounds to me like those mice were going hungry…
While the science and theories are heavily influenced by animal model studies, many argue that fasting for long term health span and healthy ageing is highly effective in humans too.
 
When we fast for longer than twelve hours, an important metabolic switch is flipped. This signals the body to burn ketones instead of glucose as fuel (aka metabolic flexibility discussed above).
 
Several areas of the brain love ketones.
 
Ketones lead to the release of another crucial molecule called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF is thought to help build and strengthen neural connections within areas of the brain that are responsible for learning and memory – crucial areas that are believed to decline as we age!
 
While the research around longevity and fasting is undoubtedly in its infancy (and primarily in animal models), the touted benefits of fasting such as preventing methylation drift[13] and slowing the ageing process, increasing the health of mitochondria[14] and the extended lifespan within animals' models[15] might be reasons to consider adopting a voluntary intermittent fasting plan.
 
This seems a sensible option as opposed to the aggressive and very restrictive calorie restrictions touted by some.
  

Does Black Coffee Break My Fast?

 


black coffeeThis question "Does coffee break my fast" is one we hear time and time again – and quite right too!
 
So many of us love our morning brew (we're huge fans of a V60 pour-over or Aeropress brew here at HQ) to kick start our day. Still, many of us also want to know if it's undermining our fasting efforts.
  
Before we get into it, I think it's important to highlight that you're in rarefied company by even asking this question.
 
You're likely well on the way to optimal health by eliminating snacks every hour or the six small meals throughout the day and listening to your hunger/satiety hormones such as ghrelin and leptin.
 
Condensing your eating window into an 8 to 12-hour window means you're ahead of the curve and doing something that the majority of our population are not.
 
Did you know 63% of the UK population is overweight [16] - This is scary stuff!
 
So, does coffee break a fast?
As with most questions, the answer is "It depends".
 
It depends on the benefits you're seeking from a fast and what you put in your coffee.
 

Fasting for Metabolic Flexibility/Fat Loss 

 
The short answer is that coffee likely does not impact this type of fast and in fact, it might help enhance it.
 
Here's why:

  

Coffee & Ketosis/Fat Burning

 
A recent study[17] in humans demonstrated that caffeine acutely upregulates ketones in the blood. Great news for those seeking the benefits of ketosis and metabolic flexibility. Coffee will not inhibit your ketogenic state, and you will still burn those fat stores.
 
Most things that help you burn fat (rather than store it) and increase metabolic flexibility such as fasting, keto and low carb diets, exercise and weight loss lead to an increase in insulin sensitivity.
 
Insulin sensitivity can be reduced by things such as fasting and coffee, but this appears to be a short-term physiological response[18] by our body to preserve glucose for the parts of the brain that needs it.
 
All other tissues become slightly insulin resistance to preserve the glucose required for the brain and allow the rest of the body to function on ketones and other fuel substrates – an exquisite in-built mechanism.
 
Important point: Do not consume coffee with sugar or starch!
 
The good news is that over the long term, coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes[19] and a whole host of positive health outcomes.
 

 

Fasting for Gut Health/Gut Rest 

 
Even though black coffee has little to no calories, it stimulates digestive responses.
 
Coffee stimulates gastrin, gastric acid, gallbladder contraction and has effects on the colon seen similar to those of a 1000 calorie meal![20]
 
Whoa…
 
Some people also experience a reflux sensation with coffee a which is not ideal for those looking to alleviate GI issues.
 
Anyone rely on coffee for their, ermmm…morning bowel movements?
 

Fasting for Longevity

 

The good news for those pursuing all things longevity is that coffee does not seem to prevent autophagy or inhibit AMPK (Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase).
 
At least in mice, caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee appears to stimulate autophagy markers[21] with the authors attributing this to the polyphenols inhibiting mTOR and other cellular processes.
 
This study has not been replicated in humans yet, so we suggest taking this with a big pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt for now.
 
AMPK, an enzyme that inhibits fat storage, promotes fat burning and mitochondrial biogenesis and activates antioxidant networks and autophagy.
 
AMPK is often praised as another benefit to fasting along with exercise and basic calorie restriction.
 
Studies have shown the positive effects of coffee on endothelial repair and uptake of glucose to skeletal muscle via AMPK activation.
  

The Verdict On Coffee:

  • Fasting for metabolic flexibility and fat loss: Does not break your fast and likely enhances it

  • Fasting for Improved Gut Health: Coffee breaks a fast focussed on gut rest/health

  • Fasting for longevity: Likely does not break a fast and possibly enhances it.

 

does coffee break a fat infographic

 

  

Does MCT Oil Break My Fast?

 
MCT Oil (medium-chain triglycerides) is sourced from 100% organic coconuts (Hunter & Gather MCT Oil is anyway!) and is renowned as a true quality fat source. 
 
A premium quality MCT Oil will be made up primarily of caprylic and capric acid (C8 & C10) with a minimal amount of the longer chain lauric acid (C12). 
 
There are many benefits to Premium MCT Oil, and it is a very popular addition to Bulletproof style coffees such as Evolve coffee.
  

Fasting for Metabolic Flexibility/Fat Loss 

 

In short, MCT Oil will likely enhance your fasting efforts if the aim is metabolic flexibility and fat loss. 
 
Even though MCT Oil is calorie-dense oil, it doesn't provoke an insulin response in isolation (or with coffee) [22] and positively alters fasting insulin levels. 
 
 MCT Oil is also easily converted ketones and enhances ketogenic environment[23] and has been shown to increase energy expenditure. 
 
 This state of ketosis is also associated with suppressing our appetite[24] (prolong satiety), which could be useful for individuals new to fasting. 
 
 It's worth noting that when seeking metabolic flexibility and fat-burning mode, we want our body to access its own body fat. 
 
With this in mind, a moderate amount of MCT Oil, say a couple of tablespoons (15g) will likely be enough for those looking to reduce their body fat to normal levels. 
 

Fasting for Gut Health/Gut Rest 

 

Here's where things get interesting. 
 
MCT Oil by itself does not turn on the gut digestion process.
 
This is because MCTs are directly absorbed through the portal vein[25] and taken immediately to the liver to be metabolised and help with ketone (BHB) production. 
 
MCTs have been demonstrated as a good source of energy for those with gastrointestinal disorders due to their ability to bypass the lymphatic system[26].
 
This unique characteristic does not translate to longer chain fatty acids such as Butter or even Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. 
 
So will MCT Oil in moderate amounts negatively impact your fast for a gut reset? 
 
Likely not. 
 
But if you team up MCT Oil and coffee (as mentioned above), your gut rest efforts will probably come to an end. 
 

Fasting for Longevity

 
This is a simple one to answer: Due to their caloric density, MCTs will likely hinder your fasting efforts for longevity. 
 
It is thought that energy restriction and protein restriction (more on this below) is a crucial contributor to autophagy and those practising fasting for longevity. 
 
Let's keep in mind that the evidence around fasting and longevity is still in its infancy and fasting for these reasons is usually of interest to 'biohackers and self-quantifiers'. 
 
It's also worth noting that 'longevity focussed fasts' are usually more complex 'multiple-day fasts' and not the intermittent/time-restricted eating patterns we're discussing in this article.  
 
We're certainly interested in this area, but it feels a little less tangible and definitive when comparing it to the big wins achievable through metabolic flexibility and intermittent eating practices. 
  
The vast majority of us will benefit hugely from increased metabolic flexibility and normalisation of our body fat and resulting in increased healthspan and, you guessed it, longevity…
 

The Verdict on MCT Oil:

 
  • Fasting for metabolic flexibility and fat loss: Likely does not break fast (in moderate amounts)
  • Fasting for Improved Gut Health: MCT Oil alone is thought to have minimal impact on digestion, however coffee breaks a fast focussed on gut rest/health.
  • Fasting for longevity: Likely breaks a fast due to energy density

 

MCT will it break a fast infographic

 

 

Does Collagen break my fast?

We're huge fans of collagen peptides if you didn't already know.
 
The benefits of adding collagen peptides to your daily routine are vast, especially the benefits of collagen for optimal gut health.
 
They are also great for your skin, hair, nails and joints because collagen is the most abundant protein in our body but is often overlooked in our modern food choices (the popularity of lean muscle cuts of meat and even the avoidance of meat altogether!).
 
This oversight in our modern food choices along with the natural decline of collagen production within our own bodies gives an excellent case for supplementation regularly.
 
The popularity of including collagen peptides in our morning brew is growing by the day – we love it here at Hunter & Gather HQ!
 
So with this in mind, does it hinder our fasting efforts?

 

Fasting for metabolic flexibility/fat loss

 
Collagen in your coffee is probably fine for fat-burning and may even suppress appetite and prolong and enhance your fast – in moderate amounts of course.
 
A scoop of collagen will have a minimal impact on ketone production, will help with protein sparing, muscle strength and fat-free mass[27] - a priority for anyone over 30 years old!
 

Fasting for Gut Health/Gut Rest 

 
 While collagen has incredible benefits for gut health [28], the protein content will stimulate the digestive processes meaning gut rest is not achieved.
 
Full gut rest is likely a priority in exceptional circumstances such as in a clinical setting to treat SIBO, IBD or another gut related disorder.
 
For the majority of us, the benefits of collagen likely outweigh the return from prolonged gut rest every day.
 
If you're having coffee or anything other than water, your gut is turned on anyway.
 
But don't forget, if you're having dinner at 7pm and then a morning coffee at 7am, that's a full 12 hours of gut rest… and you're very much in the minority already.
 

Fasting for Longevity

 
There seems to be some conflicting evidence around this topic.
Do collagen peptides prevent autophagy and longevity focused fasts? 
A complex animal study treating brain injuries has shown a super high dose of glycine can suppress AMPK and promote mTOR signalling[29] and therefore stopping autophagy (by the way, this was seen as a success in the treatment outcome!).
On the flip side, the likes of Dr Mercola prescribe collagen powder in their fasting protocols due to it being lower in the specific BCAAs that stimulate mTOR.
I think it's fair to say we do not fully know and until then we will enjoy the benefits of collagen protein powder in our morning coffee.
 

The Verdict on Collagen:

 

  • Fasting for metabolic flexibility and fat loss: Likely does not break fast (in moderate amounts)

  • Fasting for Improved Gut Health: Collagen will disrupt gut rest, but collagen has unique benefits for gut health

  • Fasting for longevity: Likely breaks a fast based on current evidence

 

collagen infographic

 

We hope you have enjoyed reading all about Intermittent fasting and how you can utilise fasting in your lifestyle. If you are interested in MCT or Collagen - check out collagen peptides and MCT coconut oil pages for more information. 

 

References: 

[1] https://www.dietdoctor.com/intermittent-fasting

[2] https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l42.long

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5064803/

[4] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00873.x

[5] https://casereports.bmj.com/content/casereports/2018/bcr-2017-221854.full.pdf

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1550413119304292?via%3Dihub

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4516560/

[8] https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/102/2/464/4564588

[9] https://www.dietdoctor.com/new-paradigm-insulin-resistance

[10] https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l42.long

[11] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413114005051

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2520283

[13] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-00607-3#Sec8

[14] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413117306125

[15] https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/73/1/1/4733393

[16] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/health-professional/cancer-statistics/risk/overweight-and-obesity

[17] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28177691

[18] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28031026

[19] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29590460

[20] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10499460

[21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4111762/

[22] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1568535

[23] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01830.x

[24] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/obr.12230

[25] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/medium-chain-fatty-acids

[26] https://med.virginia.edu/ginutrition/wp-content/uploads/sites/199/2014/06/Parrish-February-17.pdf

[27] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26353786

[28] https://hunterandgatherfoods.com/blogs/real-food-lifestyle/the-benefits-of-collagen-peptides-for-optimal-gut-health?_pos=1&_sid=b08f4825e&_ss=r

[29] https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/19/7/1980

 

 


1 comment


  • Tamala Lindsay

    Thank you so much for this information, I have been wanting informative answers to these questions for some time. I enjoy fasting and now can incorporate my new found knowledge 😊 (insta: tamketo8)


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