How important is nutritional supplementation whilst fasting?
We previously published an article in our Art of Growing Young® publication which explains the many potential health benefits of fasting and how to go about it. While fasting can be very beneficial it’s important to do it safely and in a healthy way. Fasting, put simply, is when you do not consume food for a given period of time. But for optimal health it’s important to ensure that, when you’re fasting, you’re still getting the nutrients and vitamins your body needs to function.
What is the role of vitamins in the body?
The UK’s NHS guide to vitamins(1) provides a detailed breakdown of the role and function of each vitamin and mineral that your body requires and how much of each you need to stay healthy to enable your body to keep working properly. Most of the time these vitamins can be obtained, in the required amounts, simply by eating a healthy and balanced diet. But if you are fasting then obviously you will not be able to get them this way. This is where supplementation comes in.
Is consuming supplements cheating? Do they count as food?
Absolutely not! While natural food is generally the best place to obtain your vitamins and minerals, vitamins can come from supplements and these are by no means food. The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of food is “material consisting essentially of protein, carbohydrate and fat used in the body of an organism to sustain growth, repair, vital processes and to furnish energy.”(2). Essentially, ‘food’ is made of macronutrients. Vitamins and minerals are micronutrients so, while they are important for our health, in their pure form they are not actually food. Taking a supplement is, therefore, not going to break your food fast.
Are there any supplementation guidelines you should be aware of?
Fasting or not, there are some vitamins that may have contraindications with certain prescription medications, or for people with particular medical conditions.(3) Vitamin K, for example, might reduce the effectiveness of medication to slow blood clotting. St. John’s Wort can speed the breakdown of birth control pills and some other medications. If you’re in any doubt it’s best to check with a health professional as to which supplements you might want to avoid.
Generally speaking though, a good-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement is a great option for most people about to embark on a food fast and will help keep you in top condition while your fast is underway.
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