Last Updated on October 3, 2023Listen to this article:
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.
- 1 Can you have artificial sweeteners while fasting?
- 2 Types of sweeteners
- 3 What artificial sweeteners will not break fast?
- 4 Stevia vs. Splenda
- 5 Does stevia break a fast?
- 6 Does sucralose break a fast?
- 7 Does aspartame break a fast?
- 8 To sum up
- 9 Lose weight with fasting
Can you have artificial sweeteners while fasting?
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.
When questioning if a sweetener or any other substance breaks a fast or not, we take 3 criteria into consideration:
- Does it fluctuate your glucose/insulin levels in the body?
- Does it start any digestive process?
- Does it negatively interfere with the autophagy process of fasting?
If any of your answers to these questions is “yes”, then you’re most probably throwing away your efforts of fasting.
Whether you decide to use artificial sweeteners or not in your fasting-friendly beverages, you can use Fasting Kompanion to track your fasting progress. It will also help you time your fasting cycles and stay motivated!
Types of 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),
- Fructose syrup,
- 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 as they can break your fast.
Plus, if you’re fasting to improve your gut health, sugar alcohols like sorbitol, maltitol, and xylitol feed the bad bacteria in your gut.
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),
- 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.
Stevia vs. Splenda
Both stevia and Splenda are popular sugar substitutes that are used as sweeteners in various food and beverage products.
However, before getting to know if they break a fast or not, let’s dive deeper into their features in detail and compare stevia and Splenda:
- Stevia: Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. The sweet compounds in stevia, called steviol glycosides, are extracted and purified to create a concentrated sweetener.
- Splenda: Splenda, on the other hand, is a brand name for the artificial sweetener sucralose. Sucralose is made by modifying sugar molecules to replace certain hydrogen-oxygen groups with chlorine atoms.
- Stevia: Stevia is intensely sweet, with some people describing it as having a slightly bitter or licorice-like aftertaste. However, the taste can vary depending on the product and brand.
- Splenda: Splenda is often marketed as having a taste similar to sugar, without the bitterness associated with some other sweeteners. It is considered to have a more sucrose-like taste compared to stevia.
- Stevia: Stevia is estimated to be 200-400 times sweeter than sugar, so only a small amount is needed to achieve the desired sweetness.
- Splenda: Splenda is approximately 600 times sweeter than sugar, so even smaller amounts are required for sweetness.
Caloric content and blood sugar impact:
- Stevia: Stevia is virtually calorie-free and does not raise blood sugar levels, making it a popular choice for people on low-calorie diets or with diabetes.
- Splenda: Splenda is also very low in calories, as the body does not fully digest and metabolize it. It has a negligible impact on blood sugar levels, making it suitable for people managing their sugar intake.
Stability in cooking:
- Stevia: Stevia is heat-stable to a certain extent but can have a slightly bitter aftertaste when exposed to high temperatures for prolonged periods. It may work well in some baked goods but might not be ideal for all recipes.
- Splenda: Splenda is heat-stable and maintains its sweetness when used in cooking and baking. It can be substituted for sugar in many recipes without significantly altering the texture or taste.
Potential health effects:
- Stevia: Stevia is generally considered safe for consumption by regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). It has a long history of use in some countries like Japan and has been extensively studied.
- Splenda: Splenda has also been deemed safe by regulatory agencies, including the FDA and EFSA. However, some studies suggest that sucralose may have mild gastrointestinal side effects for some individuals.
Does stevia break a fast?
Steviol glycoside (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.
Does sucralose break a fast?
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.
Does aspartame break a fast?
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.
To sum up
The bottom line is that some artificial (non-nutritive) 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.
Nutritive sweeteners on the other hand are a big no during the fasted state, and you should consume them in moderation during your eating window, too.
Visit our website or download the best intermittent fasting app today to start your weight loss journey with Fasting Kompanion!