The world of supplements can be extremely overwhelming. As a Nutritionist, there aren't many supplements that I broadly recommend (because everyone's needs are quite different). However, when it comes to Intermittent Fasting, there are three supplements that can be useful for most people.
Let's dive into it.
*Certain supplements can interfere with certain medications. Always check with your doctor first before adding supplements into your routine to make sure you don't have any nutrient-drug interactions.
It isn't uncommon to hear about headaches or lethargy during the first few days of incorporating Intermittent Fasting. This is typically due to an electrolyte imbalance as a result of a dip in insulin levels during the fast.
Insulin receptors are found within the kidneys (as well as many other parts of the body). The kidneys are the main filtration organ that will dictate how much sodium, water and other electrolytes will be lost (via urine) or remain in the blood. Higher levels of insulin have historically been found to cause the kidneys to hold on to water and sodium -- which can in turn increase the pressure within the blood vessels and lead to feelings of water retention. On the flip side, lower levels of insulin signals the kidneys to release water and sodium via urine.(1) Because insulin is released when we eat, while Intermittent Fasting, insulin levels are naturally low. This can result in the release of water and sodium from the body while fasting.
Sodium (one of the main components of salt) is one of the most important electrolytes. It helps send signals from the brain, maintain fluid balance, aid in muscle contraction and create energy for the body. By rapidly losing quite a bit of water and sodium from the body while fasting, this can result in a state of hyponatremia (low sodium levels).(2) Cue headaches, brain fog or low energy levels.
Thankfully, by ensuring that you're getting enough electrolytes throughout the day, most of these Intermittent Fasting effects can be avoided.
How to use electrolytes with Intermittent Fasting:
The two main ways electrolytes can be incorporated into an Intermittent Fast is by using either a high quality salt or an electrolyte supplement.
When using salt as an electrolyte replacement, I personally opt for between 1/8-1/4 tsp. salt diluted in about 16-20 ounces of water. I like the brands Redmonds Real Salt and Celtic Sea Salt.
Each person's electrolyte needs are wildly different and can even vary from day to day. For example, a sweaty workout, a hot day, poor sleep or traveling can all increase sodium needs. It's important to find the right electrolyte level that works for you and your body on any given specific day. Monitoring how you feel (tired, low energy, muscle achey, etc.) can be a good indicator of current electrolyte state.
If you already have high blood pressure, you might not need more sodium because the body is already retaining excess water and sodium. However, it's good to monitor this daily with an at-home blood pressure cuff, because Intermittent Fasting has been found to lower blood pressure levels.(15)
The other method is to use a high quality electrolyte supplement. I personally only use LMNT as it was created for Intermittent Fasting and lower carb eating. It also doesn't contain any sugar or artificial ingredients. I will use between 1-2 packets per day, depending on my electrolyte needs.
You can find LMNT electrolytes HERE.*
Psssst... curious how long YOUR Intermittent Fast should be? Take my FREE Intermittent Fasting Schedule Quiz by clicking the button below!
High Quality Whey Protein Powder
When Intermittent Fasting, it's quite easy to under-eat on protein due to the smaller eating window and protein's highly satiating nature. But protein is required for achieving a body recomposition goal, maintaining bone health, creating healthy hair/skin/nails and preventing muscle loss.
Not getting enough protein can result in:
Skin, hair and nail problems (3)
Muscle loss (4)
Increased hunger (5)
Impaired immune system (6)
Stunted growth (7)
Many people struggle with hitting their protein needs while fasting and find it easier to incorporate a high quality protein supplement in addition to their meals to help them hit their daily needs.
Whey protein powder is one of the most studied supplements. It has been found to help prevent age-related muscle loss, increase strength, possibly decrease blood pressure, balance blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation. (8, 9, 10, 11)
This is why I created my pasture-raised, ZERO SUGAR whey isolate protein powder to easily reap the benefits of adding more high quality protein into the diet. You can add my zero sugar protein powder to smoothies, chia pudding, greek yogurt or even just some almond milk to significantly increase the day's protein level (without having to try and fit in another chicken breast into your lunch).
Plus, each bag of my protein powder comes with a digital download with 10 DELICIOUS recipes.
When looking to maximize the results of Intermittent Fasting, it's crucial to also prioritize sleep. Poor sleep is directly tied to obesity and weight gain around the belly.(12) So if your goal with Intermittent Fasting is weight loss, you'll want to keep your sleep quality in mind as well. Low levels of magnesium has been found to impair sleep quality and possibly even lead to insomnia.(13) Studies have found that older adults taking 500mg of magnesium per day experienced improved sleep quality and higher levels of the sleep hormone melatonin.(14)
I personally take about 500mg of magnesium per night about 30-60 minutes before bed. However, it's important to find the brand and amount of magnesium that works best for you and your health history. Some supplements can interfere with certain medications, so it's crucial to ask your doctor about which magnesium (or other supplements) will work best for you.
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Autumn Elle Nutrition