Artificial Sweeteners and Intermittent Fasting

Artificial Sweeteners and Intermittent Fasting

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, losing weight and sticking to a diet can prove challenging. Most calorie-restrictive diets suggest sugars of any description should be avoided. But there is a little wiggle room regarding artificial sweeteners and intermittent fasting.

Here’s a look at how you can add sweetness to your fasting times without feeling guilty.

Do Artificial Sweeteners Break Fast?

This is a common question, but to fully understand the answer, it’s vital to grasp the basics of intermittent fasting (IF) and know a little about the available sweeteners.  

Intermittent fasting is a structured eating plan whereby you refrain from consuming calories for an extended period. The fasting times vary according to your circumstances, but for example, if you are on a 16:8 plan, you would fast for 16 hours (known as the fasting window) and consume food for 8 hours. During the 8 hours you eat, a regular balanced diet with some sugar and carbohydrate content can be enjoyed. However, during the 16-hour fasting window, you consume only zero-calorie drinks and water.  

Most will agree that it is best to avoid artificial sweeteners where possible. However, some artificial sweeteners have more calories than others, and a few have minimal or zero caloric content, making it possible to consume these in diet drinks during your fast. Whether you decide to use them or not, you can use the Fasting Kompanion to track your fasting progress. It will also help you time your fasting cycles and stay motivated!

Types of Artificial Sweeteners

Let’s now look at intermittent fasting and artificial sweeteners and consider the types of sugars and sweeteners available and how they can affect your fasting diet.

Nutritive Sweeteners (Caloric Sweeteners) and Non-Nutritive Sweeteners

Sweeteners tend to fall into two groups, nutritive and non-nutritive:

1.  Nutritive sweeteners are sugars and sweet substitutes that contain calories and boost energy when consumed. Most conventional sweeteners fall into this group, like table sugar (sucrose), honey, agave, fructose syrup, and sugar alcohols like sorbitol, maltitol and xylitol. You can take a look at some of the best sugar alternatives that you can use in your recipes and eat when you crave sugar.

The calorie content between the nutritive sweeteners differs; for example, sugar alcohols (usually ending in -ol) contain roughly half the calories of regular sugar. Only erythritol contains 0.2 per gram, around 95% less than table sugar, making it the least caloric in this group and more akin to a non-nutritive sweetener. Generally, due to the caloric content, nutritive sweeteners are best avoided during your fasting period.

2.  Non-nutritive sweeteners, in contrast, contain little or no calorie content. This group typically tastes far sweeter than regular sugar and is sometimes referred to as “high-intensity sweeteners”, as a little goes a long way. The most common non-nutritive sweeteners include Sucralose (Splenda), Steviol Glycoside (Stevia), Saccharin (Sweet’N Low), Aspartame (Equal), Acesulfame (Sunett) and Luo Han Guo Fruit Extract (e.g. Monk Fruit).

In addition, in a similar manner to erythritol, there’s a new FDA-approved sweetener called Allulose that falls between the two categories. This has a slight natural content and is around 70% as sweet as table sugar. Although it is best to avoid sugars and artificial sweeteners altogether during a fast, due to their zero-calorie content, you can technically drink beverages with a non-nutritive sweetener if desired.

What Artificial Sweeteners Will Not Break Fast?

We have established that non-nutritive sweeteners are allowed in moderation. But which artificial sweetener is the best? Here’s a look at three of the most popular sweeteners in the US and Europe and how their use impacts your body and fasting regime.

Steviol Glycoside (Stevia)

Stevia contains no calories or protein and is not absorbed or digested in the GI tract, meaning it isn’t known to stimulate the gut. Studies have shown that it may even help to regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. It’s an effective sweetener that doesn’t break your fast or inhibit the ability to burn fat or ketosis. The same study also showed that Stevia is unlikely to impact autophagy, so it is perhaps the best option if you are fasting for weight loss or longevity.

Sucralose (Splenda)

Splenda is not a protein and is derived from sucralose. It is calorie-free, so it doesn’t break your fast. However, like erythritol and maltitol, its chemical structure is different, causing a different response in the body. Although sucralose in small doses has been shown to have no insulin or blood sugar response, a recent study indicates it does affect the gut. Splenda could potentially negatively impact glucose metabolism. Although Splenda is unlikely to inhibit autophagy and research is ongoing, you can assume that there may be better artificial sweeteners on the market.

Aspartame (Equal)

Aspartame, aka ‘Equal’, can be found in many zero-calorie soda drinks and beverages, but it is made up of amino acids. Like Splenda, it technically doesn’t break your fast, but regular consumption could stimulate your gut and decrease insulin resistance.  

The Bottom Line: Can Artificial Sweeteners Be Used During Fasting?

The bottom line is that some artificial sweeteners can be used during your fast, but not all. Stevia, Splenda, Equal, and other zero-calorie sweeteners that don’t trigger an insulin response or change in your blood sugars are ok to use if you need that sweet kick in your coffee or a can of diet soda. But you should remember that most artificial sweeteners are made in a lab, so you may wish to forgo them for other health reasons.

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