Should I take nutritional supplements while intermittent fasting?
Yes, I recommend that you take a nutritional supplement.
You might wonder why I say that if you have followed my story and the Fresh Bites Daily website for any period of time because I really rely on whole foods for my nutrition. In fact, during the first three months of my fasting and intermittent fasting (the initial 16 day water fast plus an additional 10 weeks of intermittent fasting), I did not take a nutritional supplement at all. I actually began a 10-day water fast at about the three month point and found it to be very difficult to stay on. I was just drained of energy. It felt a lot different from the initial long fast and I just sensed that it was probably a bad idea. I broke the fast and reflected.
What I am about to write is obvious once someone tells you and I didn’t even need someone to tell me because I already knew it, I just hadn’t applied the knowledge to my specific situation. It is what I call (inside my own brain) the “new blood cell” problem/opportunity. Here it is:
In a three-month period of time, your blood cells completely rebuild themselves. Every day (every minute, every second), your body is forming new blood cells and old ones are dying. Every single day, you have an opportunity to pack your blood cells with the nutrients they need. If your cells have been anemic, you have anemic cells that are dying and you can pack the new cells with the iron or B vitamins that they need. You might start feeling some relief from anemia in a week or two because of all of these new and healthy cells you are creating. You will feel so much better after three months because you’ll have a whole new set of blood cells. It is a great opportunity!
Of course, the blood cell turnover is also a problem you need to manage if you are fasting. What if you aren’t giving your body any B vitamins at all for, say, 16 days? Sure, your body is burning fat in that time and you are not dying but there are no B vitamins in that fat to help build your new cells. Simply, your body WILL be missing out on some nutrients.
Depending on your own specific situation, this deficiency problem could be reason enough to avoid a water fast completely, even though there are health programs that point to health benefits of water fasting. In my case, I broke my planned fast and began a six-week regimen of supplementation with a liquid vitamin, liquid mineral, and fish oil before I attempted another fast. My meals in that six weeks were very nutritious as well. Ideally, you would supplement for a whole three months before trying to fast again in a case like mine but you won’t be a case like mine because you’ll start on the vitamins sooner.
What vitamins do I take? I take two different liquid vitamins in rotation, figuring their slight differences in formulation is a good long-term strategy. Here is a link to Amazon where you can find them and be forewarned that I make a commission off these links if you purchase the products: I take this green vitamin off a spoon and I take this too-sweet vitamin mixed with water.
To clarify, I don’t take the supplements during the water fasts which is part of the problem I have had. I did not even take them in the first three months during my one meal a day. That was my biggest mistake.
Amanda Rose, Ph.D. lives in the Giant Sequoia National Monument with her husband and two sons. She founded the Eat Like A Bear website to support the awesomely inspiring community on Facebook, Eat Like A Bear!