Collagen is a great supplement. It's a form of animal protein usually found in connective tissues, but also located throughout your body, including your organs and your skin. For that reason, it's often taken as a supplement to help with a variety of functions.
Collagen has a ton of benefits, including:
- Improving the elasticity and appearance of your skin.
- Improving your ability to heal from wounds.
- Improving the lubrication in your joints to help with joint pain.
- Improving your ability to build muscle mass when working out.
This brings us to a common question: is collagen ok to use while fasting?
Fasting is a common technique used to aid in weight loss. It's also common as part of various religious observances and traditions. There are many reasons why you might want to fast, for physical and spiritual wellness.
The Simple Answer
As with most things in health, there's a simple answer and a complex answer.
The simple answer is no: collagen is not safe for fasting. It's a protein powder, and thus it breaks your fast. This is in contrast to, say, coffee or tea, which are commonly understood to be safe for fasting. They are, after all, primarily water.
Nothing in life is ever quite that simple, though, and the real answer involves asking one major question. What type of fast are you on?
Different Types of Fasting
Whether or not collagen breaks your fast depends a lot on the kind of fast you're observing.
- A Full Fast: This is a fast where you're allowed nothing at all, not even water. It's insanely restrictive and is usually observed only by the most devout as a religious practice. It also typically lasts a relatively short time and is not performed very often. After all, your body needs water to survive. Collagen, obviously, breaks this fast.
- A Religious Fast: These fasts include observances such as Lent, Ramadan, and Yom Kippur. They all have their own traditions and are observed more or less according to individual doctrine, so whether or not collagen breaks the fast depends on your personal desires.
- An Intermittent Fast: Intermittent Fasting is a type of diet program where you choose specific hours of the day to fast, and comes in many forms. Consuming any calories outside of the dedicated meal zone breaks the fast, but taking collagen during the mealtime is fine.
- A Water Fast: This is a form of fast where you spend your fasting period with nothing but some water. Drinking water is fine, but eating anything or drinking anything that has calories in it breaks the fast. Collagen will definitely break this kind of fast.
- A Liquid Fast: This is similar to water fasting, except it lasts longer and it allows you to drink calories. You can have broth, soup, and even smoothies. This is also often used as a cleanse. Collagen would be allowed in this kind of fast.
All of that is a complex way to say "it varies" and "it depends on what you think." If you're observing a fast and you decide that collagen doesn't violate that fast, then it doesn't. At least, in terms of religious fasting and certain kinds of intermittent fasting. There's just one other issue.
The Science of Fasting
If you're using fasting as a weight-loss technique, or you're fasting as a way to manage your blood sugar, then there's a more scientific definition in play. Fasting becomes not just about personal preference, but about science.
Specifically, it's all about your blood sugar levels. When you eat, your body processes food and breaks it down into sugars, which are then spread throughout your body via your blood. Some of those sugars are broken down into energy, some are broken down into components to be used for other purposes, and some are stored as fat like a battery of energy for later.
A normal, healthy person will have a blood sugar level of around 170-200 Mg/DL immediately after eating. 2-3 hours after eating, it will be around 120-140. In a state of fasting – such as when you first wake up in the morning – it will be closer to 80-100.
So, what it actually comes down to is how much collagen affects your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar level is within the fasting range when you're fasting, and you take collagen supplements, and it's still within the fasting range afterward, then great! Collagen doesn't break your fast, at least not in the amounts you take with a supplement. That might be a different story if you drink a cup of bone broth instead of taking a collagen pill, but that's all up to you to measure.
On the other hand, if your blood sugar level kicks up above the fasting level when you take collagen, then collagen breaks your fast. That's not THAT bad of a problem – you can just take your collagen later, with a meal – but it can mean an adjustment of habits for those people who are used to taking collagen with their morning coffee.
The Point of Fasting
So, here we come to the crux of the issue. What is the point of fasting?
As far as we can tell, there are generally two main reasons why you might be fasting. The first is for a spiritual observance. If you're fasting because your religion says you should, then you should follow the doctrine laid out by your religious leaders.
Different religious leaders have different interpretations of the doctrine. Some of them prefer the "letter of the law" and interpret a fast as nothing but water during the fasting hours, and refuse to budget for any violation of that doctrine. That's difficult for people with dietary issues, health issues, or other problems where they may need to manage their blood sugar levels or otherwise violate the letter of the law.
Others believe that it's the spirit of the law that regulates the importance of a fast. If fasting puts your health in jeopardy, well, that's not beneficial to your deity or religion, is it? Take care of yourself first, then practice what you can.
All of this is beside the point. If you're concerned about religious fasting, you should be talking to your religious authority, not to a health and supplements blog.
The other purpose of fasting is to keep your body in the scientific state of fasting, which induces a bodily process called autophagy. Autophagy is a compound word made of Greek components. "Auto" means "self", and "phage" means "eat". In other words, it's the bodily process wherein your body consumes itself.
Before you get worried, don't. This is a natural process wherein your body, basically, works on cleaning itself out. During autophagy, your body breaks down damaged cells and re-uses their component parts where possible.
- Autophagy breaks down toxic proteins that contribute to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
- Autophagy breaks down lingering extraneous proteins and recycles them.
- Autophagy breaks down fat cells to use for energy to perform these and other bodily processes along the way.
In addition to this, it's possible that autophagy breaks down cells that are damaged in such a way that they can replicate uncontrolled. That? That is the definition of cancer. That's right; there's some evidence to suggest that autophagy is part of the body's natural process in fighting cancer before it starts.
Note that this doesn't mean that fasting cures cancer, or that it can prevent all forms of cancer. Autophagy isn't perfect and it's not entirely powerful enough to prevent cancer on its own. A lot more research needs to be completed before this can be put into any sort of scientific doctrine.
How Collagen Affects Fasting
So, how does collagen impact all of this? Well, let's look deeper.
Collagen is a protein molecule. That's important because it means it's not a carbohydrate. Carbohydrates are energy and sugar. They're what your body breaks down that increases your blood sugar levels, as well as your energy levels.
Collagen is more of a building block for other cells. Think of, for example, a laptop computer with a dead battery. You can put in a new battery (or plug it in) to give it some charge, but if your goal is to keep it in a low-power state, that is the opposite of helpful. You can put in some new RAM, and that won't affect the power state of the machine.
Collagen can be used by your body for things like wound repair and building replacement cells for the cells it consumes, and it won't increase your blood sugar because it's not sugar. Thus, collagen should not remove your body from a fasting state. It means you can keep the autophagy going, keep burning stored fat for energy, and keep passively losing weight.
Unfortunately, there's not a ton of study being performed into this, and so opinions are varied. The doctors primarily in charge of intermittent fasting, the founder of bulletproof coffee, and other people who have a vested interest in promoting fasting (and selling collagen) tend to say that collagen is safe to eat during a fast, so long as you keep the amounts low.
On the other hand, less potentially biased scientists say it could potentially break your fast. The general consensus, though, is that we just don't know. No real scientific studies have been performed to see if a collagen supplement breaks a fast or not, and the truth is, it might even vary from person to person. Health and wellness is, after all, a personal pursuit, and different people react differently to different stimuli.
The Implications of a Broken Fast
Now, let's say they're all wrong, and collagen DOES break your fast. Pretend for a moment that it was proven to be the case. What are the implications? What happens?
Well, if your fast is of religious origin, then you have to answer to your spiritual leaders. Maybe you'll feel guilty about violating doctrine. Maybe you could receive punishment from your church leaders. Maybe you fear punishment in the afterlife, or maybe not. All of that is beyond the scope of our discussions.
If your fast is of nutritional origin, well, it's hard to tell. A small scoop of collagen powder in your morning coffee is barely going to be more than 20-30 calories, and that's almost a rounding error as far as our bodies are concerned. Remember that it takes around 75 to 100 times that many calories to keep your body going for a single day. One single pound of body weight is around 3,500 calories.
If you're fasting to lose weight, go ahead and take your morning collagen. Here's why: protein in your diet is what satiates your hunger. Taking some protein in the morning may allow you to, for example, skip breakfast, which cuts out closer to 1,000 calories from your diet. It allows you to stay in a metabolic state where you're not consuming and using calories for a longer period each day. Thus, it helps you lose weight much faster.
If you're fasting to induce autophagy, well, who knows? Collagen might disrupt it, or it might not, and we just don't know. You could try to set up a study to see. If you do, please, keep us informed.
If you're fasting for a cleanse or another dietary reason, consult whoever developed the cleanse. Chances are, a little collagen will help with the process if for no other reason than that it helps keep your body a little bit healthier and a little bit fuller. At the end of the day, though, it's up to you.
The truth is, a little bit of collagen doesn't do a whole lot for the major overarching bodily processes, either positively or negatively. A collagen supplement is more of a long-term benefit, so feel free to take it whenever you find it most convenient.
Is taking supplements while fasting an issue for you? What are your thoughts? Be sure to let us know down in the comment section!