Combining intermittent fasting and artificial sweeteners is a controversial topic. It seems every fasting expert has a different answer on whether it’s OK to use a zero-calorie sweetener while fasting.
So when you ask does stevia break a fast – be prepared for an answer that’s more complicated then yes or no.
After losing more than 100 pounds with a keto and intermittent fasting combo, not only have I walked the walk – but now I’m here to talk the talk … AKA, give it to you straight.
Keep reading to learn the truth about stevia and intermittent fasting so you finally get the results you’re working so hard to achieve.
Why Are You Fasting?
Before I can answer whether stevia during fasting is a good idea, you have to understand your reason for fasting in the first place.
Intermittent fasting, or going long periods without food followed by a timed eating window, is added into a routine for 2 main reasons: the health benefits and weight loss.
Surely it’s no surprise that weight loss is the number one reason most people fast. However, some people are really in it to improve health.
Some of the health benefits of fasting include:
- Cell repair through autophagy
- An increase in longevity – aka, a longer lifespan
- Hormone regulation – especially insulin, the hormone that regulates appetite
- An increase in human growth hormone
- Reduced risks of metabolic diseases, like Type 2 Diabetes
- Reduced LDL and triglycerides – the bad cholesterol
- Improved gut health
- Increased fat burning, including hard to reach belly fat
Remaining in a fasted state longer also provides your digestive system a break. This gives your body the chance to use energy for other processes, such as fat burning.
In order to answer the question, will stevia break a fast – it’s important to distinguish whether you’re in it for the fat loss or the health benefits. While both reasons can have a positive effect on overall metabolic health, the final answer to the question at hand varies based on the potential benefits you’re looking to achieve.
What Is Stevia?
So what is stevia anyway? Learning a few quick stevia facts can help you determine if it’s a good thing to add into your fasting period.
Stevia is a sugar alternative that’s made from the leaves of the stevia plant, which is native to South America. Many who follow a ketogenic diet believe this sweetener is the best option for sweetening keto recipes, including morning coffee.
Other notable points about stevia include:
- It’s on the list of non nutritive sweeteners since it contains zero calories.
- Stevia is considered a natural sweetener since it’s derived from a plant, rather than created in a lab.
- Steviol glycosides provide the sweetness in this sweetener.
- This sugar substitute is 100 – 400 times sweeter than table sugar.
- It’s not digested or absorbed in the GI tract, but instead stevia is passed through the gut and broken down by bacteria in the colon.
While some studies suggest stevia has a positive impact on insulin, others show long term negative effects of stevia. Ingesting too much stevia may come with side effects like bloating, nausea, dizziness, and numbness in some people.
It’s also important to note we are talking about pure stevia. Many stevia brands add fillers, such as dextrose, maltodextrin, and sugar alcohols. Always look at what’s added to stevia products by glancing at the ingredient list on the product label. Choose a brand without added fillers since even small quantities of junk additives can wreak havoc on your results.
Also, mixing and matching low-calorie sweeteners with stevia won’t result in the same answer when asking can you have stevia while fasting. Keep that in mind as we dive into the explanations that follow.
Fasting For Autophagy
Autophagy is the body’s process of cleaning out damaged cells, while regenerating healthier cells. There are other ways to trigger autophagy, however, intermittent fasting is the most effective way.
The process of autophagy kicks in when nutrients are scarce. When insulin levels are lowered through fasting, glucagon rises. The rise of glucagon is what helps your body dig into its stored energy, aka – your fat stores. As a result, glucagon activates autophagy.
Then a process called mTOR regulates autophagy, while AMPK helps recycle old proteins to produce energy.
As long as none of these nutrient sensors are activated for at least 14 hours, the process of autophagy occurs.
What Breaks Autophagy?
Autophagy stops when you eat. Since autophagy is most sensitive to the amino acids in protein, any foods or supplements containing protein should be avoided during the fasting window. This includes bone broth and protein powder supplements.
Consuming glucose is another way to break autophagy. Thus, it’s important to avoid any foods that make blood glucose levels rise, such as added sugars or any foods that are turned into sugar in the body.
It should be noted recent studies show participants of a fasting mimicking diet eat small amounts of food while fasting and still receive some benefits of autophagy. However, the participants of this plan follow very strict guidelines in order to receive similar effects to a water fast.
Whether you’re on a fasting mimicking diet, or following a different fasting plan, the good news is the use of stevia isn’t shown to break autophagy since it contains zero calories and has no protein. Therefore if you’re fasting for longevity, you could likely get away with stevia fasting.
Fasting for Weight Loss
When it comes to fasting for weight loss, there are a few things to consider before determining if stevia intermittent fasting is appropriate.
First of all, there are two main camps when it comes to intermittent fasting for weight loss: those who follow a clean fast and those who believe dirty fasting is the way to go. Typically new fasters fall into the dirty fasting camp, while experienced intermittent fasters understand the beneficial effects of keeping it clean.
The Dirty Fast
While you can read everything you need to know about dirty fasting, there are a few basic foods allowed in a dirty fast. Some of these include:
- Small amounts of low calorie foods, such as cream in a cup of coffee
- Sugar-free soft drinks, like diet soda or sweetened sparkling water
- Herbal tea, or other artificially sweetened versions of tea
- Lemon water
- Bone broth
- Healthy fats added to bulletproof coffee, like MCT oil, coconut oil, and grass-fed butter
Basically, as long as you keep calorie intake low and avoid regular sugar in favor of sugar substitutes, you’re following a dirty fast. Proponents of dirty fasting believe in making exceptions in order to keep fasters more compliant.
If you have a sweet tooth and cannot bare the thought of drinking only water during a fast, then this may be a good place to start.
Knowing what I know about how much more effective a clean fast is for both health and weight loss, I do cringe a little when I say that. Still, some people still swear by dirty fasting – so their results cannot be discounted.
When following a dirty fast, you can include natural sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit, as well as artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and Sucralose. This means you can have stevia while fasting – if you plan to keep it dirty.
A Clean Fast
A clean fast, on the other hand, only allows for plain water, black coffee, and some teas.
While there are a few more rules than that, you’re clean fasting when you avoid any food or drinks with calories, as well as anything with a sweet taste. Basically anything that causes an insulin response is out.
This even includes zero calorie foods since the simple act of chewing starts the digestion process. Once digestion begins, insulin levels rise in preparation of nutrients. An insulin spike breaks a clean fast.
Clean Fasting vs Dirty Fasting for Weight Loss
While you can read exactly why a clean fast works best for weight loss, please understand if your ultimate goal is to reduce body fat – clean fasting is the way to go. Even if you believe dirty fasting is your friend, trust my 100 pound weight loss experience when I tell you it’s not.
Not only can dirty fasting lead to weight gain for some, but it also makes the fasting window H.A.R.D. Like really hard.
Even though you think a cup of bulletproof coffee here, or a diet soda there, isn’t causing any harm – these small cheats have an effect on your insulin sensitivity. Keep in mind that insulin can spike even when blood sugar levels don’t rise. It’s the insulin release that makes you hungry since your body expects nutrients to follow.
Not only can common sweeteners make you feel ravenously hungry, but keeping sweeteners in the fasting window can also result in sugar cravings. Oftentimes this leads to ending your fast earlier than you prefer.
Even if you’re able to keep the fast going, the stress your body experiences from a lack of food when insulin is spiked is enough to keep many people out of the fat burning zone. This means you could be storing fat, even while eating less food.
If the thought of a clean fast is overwhelming, the best thing to do is to follow a clean routine for a shorter period of time, such as 12 hours. Once that gets easy, ramp up your fasting time in smaller increments. Stick with this routine and you’ll be a clean fasting pro before you know it!
Our members follow this simple routine in our Ready, Set, Keto! Method and rave about their results.
If fasting for autophagy, stevia will not break a fast. If fasting for weight loss, consuming anything with a sweet taste, including stevia, can turn off fat burning. Furthermore, even small insulin spikes can make the fast more difficult and less effective.
Yes, stevia leads to an insulin spike, according to Obesity Code author Dr. Jason Fung.
While using stevia during the fasting window can prevent weight loss for some, the same is true even when stevia is used during the eating window. Any sweeteners have the potential to stall weight loss.
It’s not a good idea to add stevia to your coffee while fasting since anything with a sweet taste can hinder fat burning.
Conclusion: Does Stevia Break A Fast?
When asking do artificial sweeteners break a fast, you first have to understand the purpose of your fast.
If your main goal is to achieve specific health benefits, like autophagy, then you can likely use stevia while fasting. Whenever your goal revolves around weight loss, it’s better to ditch stevia – at least until it’s time to eat.
In the event you’re still not convinced, attempt an N=1 experiment of your own. Test removing all sweeteners from your fasting window for two weeks. Once the two weeks are up, try adding stevia back in.
Two weeks should provide enough time to decide if keeping stevia in during your fast leads to hunger and cravings that don’t occur when you ditch the sweet stuff during the fasting window.
If stevia seems to work for you – keep it. But if you experience less hunger and cravings once you ditch stevia while fasting, then you can quit listening to the experts who never seem to agree, and instead learn how to tune into the signals your body sends.
Learn 3 Big Weight Loss Mistakes
Now that you understand the truth about artificial sweeteners and fasting, check out our free Masterclass to learn 3 BIG mistakes most dieters make that keep them stuck. These are the same mistakes I made on repeat during my 20 years of nonstop yo-yo diets.
In less than 60 minutes, you’ll learn exactly how Keto Decoded members finally lose weight with our Ready, Set, Keto! Method – even when every other weight loss plan failed.
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