One of the greatest things about the fitness industry is how it constantly adapts throughout the years, never afraid to change its standards based on new information or techniques that are discovered.
While in years past you’d have heard bodybuilding great Arnold Schwarzenegger touting the use of supplements such as creatine, you’d likely have associated concepts along the lines of fasting more with holy men, like the Dalai Lama.
In the modern fitness world, though, they go side by side, considered some of the most effective supplements and dieting techniques, respectively.
The question is, though, while they are both effective individually, what happens when you combine the two?
To answer that, we’ll first have to look at what both of those things are.
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What Is Fasting?
Fasting is a period of time where the participant goes without eating any food, and sometimes even goes as far as avoiding water as well.
This has long been a practice observed in different religions around the world, as well as before medical procedures, to ensure the patient has an empty stomach before a test or surgery.
However, in recent years, it has developed a following within the fitness community too.
The belief is that fasting enables the body to burn fat more effectively, allowing you to drop weight faster than with traditional dieting alone.
The most common style of fasting you’ll find used in this manner is intermittent fasting. This is where a person will still consume their regular daily calorie intake but will do so over a substantially smaller period of time.
The most common approach to this has participants consuming all of their daily calories in an 8-hour window, followed by 16 continuous hours without.
This allows their body to concentrate on breaking down the food in one constant stream before switching back to breaking down the body’s fat stores.
What Is Creatine?
Creatine is a substance naturally found in our bodies that enables the ATP-PC (adenosine triphosphate-Phosphocreatine) system to operate.
This is the primary energy system that our body uses during short, high-intensity activities.
Energy is produced when the ATP molecule breaks down into ADP (adenosine diphosphate) by detaching from one of its three phosphates. In order for this process to carry on, the ADP needs to be repeatedly restored to ATP so that it can continue breaking down.
It does this by acquiring a new phosphate from phosphocreatine.
While this is the most effective energy system we have, it’s limited to shorter durations, as once our body runs out of phosphocreatine, it is unable to continue the process until stores have been replenished.
That’s why creatine powders are one of the most popular supplements on the market.
The idea is that providing your body with additional creatine will allow it to remain in this energy system for longer, allowing you to exercise at a higher intensity for an extended period of time.
Creatine can also play a role in building muscle mass.
These positive effects of creatine make grinding through tough workouts and seeing noticeable results quickly a reality, especially with grueling programs like the Kinobody Warrior Shredding Program.
Will Creatine Break Your Fast?
So back to our original question.
The answer to this does depend slightly on why you are fasting, as often religious or medical fasts will require nothing to be consumed, even water. In those instances, yes, creatine will break your fast.
However, for the purposes of this article, I am going to focus on those who are fasting for fitness-based reasons.
There are two main factors to consider when looking at whether or not something will take you out of a fasted state:
- Does it contain calories?
- Does it provoke an insulin response?
If your body receives any calories (although you may be able to get away with a minuscule amount) or a substance that provokes an insulin response in your blood, it will change how it’s functioning to deal with this new stimulus, pushing you out of your fasted state and taking any benefits that may have provided with it.
Now, with that in mind, if you’re taking pure creatine, then the answer is no, it won’t break your fast, as it has no calories and doesn’t affect your blood insulin levels.
The problem you may find is that many creatine supplements come in flavored and sweetened varieties and how they achieve this can change how your body reacts.
The two main additives used to achieve this are sugar and artificial sweeteners, so to fully answer the question,we will need to look at both of those.
Unfortunately, if your creatine supplement of choice does contain sugar, then I’m afraid the answer is yes, it does break your fast.
Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate and provides an immediate insulin spike in your blood.
While this is useful for providing energy, it will kick start your body’s metabolism and push you out of your fasted state almost instantly.
So if sugar is definitely out, that leaves artificial sweeteners as your only hope if you prefer a flavored creatine supplement.
Unfortunately, it’s an area I’m unable to give you a definitive answer on.
There have been numerous studies on this topic, and you’ll find an almost identical number of results supporting either side of the debate.
The best conclusion we can draw is that, if it does have an effect, it shouldn’t be enough of one to throw you out of your fasted state.
Does Creatine Break a Fast? Does It Matter?
So, provided your creatine supplement of choice doesn’t contain sugar, it won’t push your body out of its fasted state. However, it may still count as breaking your fast for religious or medical purposes.
As for the “does it matter” part of our question? Well, that revolves solely around the flavored versions.
Supplements containing sugar absolutely will break your fast, and ones containing artificial sweeteners shouldn’t but might.
Considering neither of these additives provide any additional benefits, and there are so many brands selling unflavored creatine, I would say it isn’t worth the potential drawbacks of using a flavored variety while fasting.
While unflavored versions are almost tasteless when mixed into something such as your morning coffee, if you absolutely cannot stomach it, then I would recommend looking at creatine capsules instead.
These are also widely available and have none of the potential drawbacks you’d get from reverting to your creatine drink.