Will a protein shake break my fast?
Q) Hey, I’ve heard you recommend having a protein shake before my morning workout. Doesn’t that break my fast?
A) I’ve been skipping breakfast for the past 10 years. Many of my online coaching clients opt to do that as well.
This is a style of intermittent fasting. And because I’ve written about it, people often ask me variations on the question, “Hey, won’t this break my fast?”
The answer is yes. After ANY calorie consumption, you will no longer be fasting. But the question is, does that matter?
I’d argue not.
Think about why you are fasting in the morning first place. For the majority of people, it’s to help you lose fat.
When you skip breakfast, this creates a morning “fasting” period that extends the time you haven’t eaten from the night before up until your lunch…
Something happens, and… fat loss! 🪄
So what is that something?
You may have heard that fasting lowers insulin levels, which helps you burn more fat.
But unfortunately, this is not the case.
And yes, I know there are a few so-called experts, Jason Fung, Gary Taubes, and their bazillion acolytes, who will try to convince you otherwise. (The same kinds of people will sell you on the idea that cardio when fasting will speed up fat loss.)
But they’re just making up a plausible-sounding mechanism to explain a result, so they can sell you books, pushing their low-carb conspiracy theories.
The only thing that helps with fat loss is sustaining a calorie deficit over time. Sustain is the key part of that.
Instead of having smaller meals, you can try skipping breakfast.
Many people who do this find that they no longer feel hungry in the mornings after around a week. And this allows them to have two, bigger, more satisfying meals while still having the same calorie intake as if they had three, smaller meals.
So, the purpose of the morning “fast” is to reduce meal frequency, which helps with appetite control, which helps you sustain a calorie deficit, which you need for fat loss.
Now, if having a splash of milk or a spoon of sugar in your morning coffee makes life better and your diet easier to sustain, please feel free to do that!
It adds little to your total calorie consumption, and that is what matters.
And yes, technically, this means you are no longer fasting.
But fat loss is not about fasting; it’s just a tool that may help you sustain a calorie deficit.
So, this is why I don’t hesitate to recommend to clients who train in the morning without eating anything prior to having a protein shake before their workout.
It doesn’t matter that they are no longer technically fasting anymore, it’s more important for them to have amino acids in their bloodstream to minimize muscle breakdown. (Protein is made up of amino acids.)
And yes, this is some additional calorie intake. But far fewer than a conventional meal, so you still get a calorie buffer to eat two bigger meals later on.
So to summarize, morning fasting CAN be a useful tool to help you sustain the calorie deficit you need for fat loss.
But it has nothing to do with insulin. You don’t have to fear “breaking” your fast. And if you don’t find that it helps, you’re not missing out.
Lastly, if you’re fasting for the claimed health benefits, I’d point out that the most impactful thing you can do for your health is to un-fatten yourself.
So, make sure you don’t put the proverbial cart before that hypothetical horse.
Thank you for reading. 🙏🏻😊
WILL COFFEE BREAK MY FAST?
Black coffee has around 5 calories per cup. So this isn’t going to change any meaningful outcome.
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