Medications and Intermittent Fasting: Does Taking Medication Break a Fast? The image shows a clock and medication pills.

Medications and Intermittent Fasting: Does Taking Medication Break a Fast?

September 20. 2023

Intermittent fasting is a widespread and successful weight loss method. Before fasting fat-burning benefits were discovered, this practice was already adopted by many individuals across different cultures. Fasting is an ancient ritual people have used for different reasons for centuries, from health benefits to religious rituals or traditions. Today, we continue practicing fasting for multiple reasons, one of the main ones being to achieve weight loss. But what happens if you want to enhance your weight loss journey with the aid of medication or supplements? Does taking medication break a fast?

During fasting, you stop consuming food entirely or partially for stretches of hours. In the most classic fasting method, you are supposed to stop eating for several hours – the fasting window – to reach a fasting state. That means no food or beverages (excluding some exceptions); ideally, your calorie intake should be zero. What happens with medications? Can drugs or supplements compromise your fast?

If you are on a weight loss medication and thinking about trying intermittent fasting or vice versa, this article is for you. Today, our medical weight loss experts answer: Does taking medication break a fast?

What is intermittent fasting?

Today popularized as a weight loss method, fasting is a practice that has been around for a while. Intermittent fasting basically consists of stretches of time, or fasting periods, when you don’t consume any foods. In some ways, it resembles a lot of a diet plan, but instead of focusing on what to eat, it is all about when to eat.

There are many fasting methods, each with different rules and indications; you can find the one that better adapts to your specific needs or goals. Some of the most common ones include the 16/8 and the eat-stop-eat methods. The end goal of any fasting method is the same: to reach a fasting state. There are even fasting mimicking diet recipes you can follow to achieve a fasting state without actually fasting.

What happens when you reach a fasting state? By that point, your body starts to transition into a ketosis state. That happens when your liver is depleted, and the body breaks down fat stores to use as energy. In other words, your body begins to burn fat. You won’t go into ketosis immediately; the stages of fasting by hour are many, and each one brings new health benefits.

Health benefits of fasting

Practicing fasting can provide many benefits for your overall health, including the following ones:

  • Weight loss: Since fasting involves not consuming food for periods of time, the body starts burning fat as fuel. When sticking to a fasting method for long enough, individuals experience substantial weight loss – as long as they don’t overindulge in unhealthy foods during the eating window. For example, intermittent fasting for women over 50 can be a solution at an age where losing weight becomes more of a challenge. 
  • Reduces inflammation: Some studies suggest intermittent fasting can reduce inflammation; this method may be even more efficient than anti-inflammatory diets. 
  • Improves cardiovascular-related conditions: Fasting can reduce blood pressure levels and lower cholesterol.
  • May improve insulin resistance: Insulin resistance is a severe condition in which cells no longer respond to insulin as they should, leading to high blood sugar levels. Intermittent fasting can help lower blood sugar levels and also get rid of insulin resistance belly fat
  • May prevent type 2 diabetes: Insulin resistance typically leads to type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes mellitus can lead to many health conditions and is one of the primary medical conditions behind overweight and obesity. Since fasting can improve insulin resistance, it also lowers the risk of developing diabetes.

The list of health benefits could go on; we just wanted to name a few. Nevertheless, always talk to your healthcare provider or weight loss clinic in Chicago before including fasting or any other significant dietary habit change.

What can break a fast?

Simply put, any food you have during the fasting window can break your fast. Some fasting methods allow you to eat whatever you want during the eating window, while others come with a reduced calorie intake diet plan. But regardless of the fasting method you choose, food and beverages that contain calories aren’t allowed during the fasting period. You can only have clear water and herbal teas to reach a fasting state successfully.

Any foods or drinks containing calories would break your fast and potentially sabotage your weight loss efforts. You won’t lose all your progress by having a low-calorie treat or eating something once during the fasting window. You will see the results you expect as long as you continue to stick to the intermittent fasting plan.

Are you worried about feeling too hungry? You’re likely not to feel hungry once you pass the first fasting stage. And your body will get all the nutrients it needs from your food intake during the eating window. Some weight loss drugs, such as retatrutide, reduce appetite, making practicing fasting a more seamless road for those who find it challenging.

Can medications break intermittent fasting?

Now you know that calories break a fast; therefore, food or drinks with calorie content are prohibited during fasting. But what happens with medications? Some medicines have calories and sugars among their ingredients, sometimes even in large quantities. What to do if the best time of day to take Mounjaro or other medication falls into the fasting window?

Does taking medication break a fast? The short answer is that if they have calories, drugs can break your fast. To prevent medication from sabotaging your fasting efforts, carefully read the labels or ask your healthcare provider about the drug’s ingredients. The best option would be to take your medicine during the eating window so it won’t disrupt the non-eating period. You can discuss with your doctor about changing the dosage schedule. If you are thinking about quitting medication to practice fasting, consult your doctor beforehand.

Some medications need to be taken right before, during, or after having some food. Not following that recommendation can lead to side effects such as nausea, vomiting, or the body not absorbing the drug properly. Talk with a healthcare professional about how to develop a schedule that works for practicing fasting and properly taking your medication.

Medications that break a fast

Now you know that medications could break a fast or cause side effects if taken during the non-eating window. We encourage you to ask your doctor if your medicine is allowed while fasting. Here is a list of a few medications you shouldn’t take during the fasting window:

Corticosteroids

Steroid corticosteroids are used in a wide range of medical therapies, such as asthma treatments, in combination with cancer medications and to treat autoimmune diseases. Corticosteroids are only one example; taking steroids with no food can damage the stomach lining and cause internal bleeding.

Blood pressure pills

While some blood pressure medications can be taken with or without food, you should ask your doctor for a specific diet and guidelines on when to take blood pressure pills while fasting.

Type 2 diabetes medications

Some type 2 diabetes mellitus medications work by lowering blood glucose levels. Since fasting may also affect blood sugar levels, you would be at risk of developing hypoglycemia if it drops too much. Talk with your doctor or dietitian about creating a diet plan that works for fasting and diabetes medication.

Over-the-counter medications

Usually, it’s okay to take over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen while you fast. However, some drugs can be hard on your stomach if you take them without food. If taking over-the-counter medication during non-eating periods hurts your stomach, try to take it only during the eating window.

What about supplements?

Just like medications, some supplements can break a fast, too. Many well-known supplements, especially vitamins, contain added sugar, which leads them to break intermittent fasting if you take them during the fasting window.

Some people start taking supplements when fasting because they think they’ll need an extra boost of essential nutrients. But if you eat a healthy and balanced diet when fasting, you don’t have to worry about your body not absorbing nutrients. These are some supplements you’ll want to avoid while practicing fasting:

  • Gummy vitamins: Vitamin gummies often contain added sugar and flavor, making them high in calories. They are also made of gelatin, which contains protein and will likely break a fast.
  • Protein powder: You may think that drinking your protein shake during the fasting window won’t be a problem, but those supplements contain calories that will trigger an insulin response, breaking your fast. 
  • Branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs): One of the best benefits of intermittent fasting is autophagy. Autophagy is a natural cleaning process that allows your body to reuse old cell parts so they function more efficiently. BCAAs trigger an insulin response and prevent the autophagy process from taking place.

Weight loss medications that don’t break a fast

Combining weight loss supplements with fasting or diet is a standard method to shed away excess weight quickly. New anti-obesity medications, such as Wegovy or Ozempic weight loss, are known for promoting more body weight reduction when patients combine them with this practice.

Does taking weight loss medication break a fast? Remember that as long as the medication is calories-free, it won’t break your fast. When thinking of combining fasting with a weight loss drug, ask your healthcare provider about the medicine ingredients to confirm if it’s safe to take while fasting. For example, while fasting, you can take incretin mimetics medications, such as Ozempic, Mounjaro, and Saxenda. It’s common to add fasting to those medication programs to enhance weight loss. Those drugs don’t contain any calories, so you can rest assured they won’t mess with your fast. Besides that, due to how does saxenda work, you can take those medications at any time of the day, with or without food. Thus, you won’t have a problem taking your medicine during the eating or fasting window.

Final thoughts

Does taking medication break a fast? That depends on the medication ingredients and if you take it during the fasting or eating window. Some medications and supplements can sabotage your fasting and weight loss efforts if you are not careful. While most weight loss drugs and fasting can go hand-in-hand, we advise you to consult your healthcare professional before combining them. Do you want to enhance your weight loss efforts with a fasting method, but you’re worried your medication may break the fast? Schedule a call with us to get professional advice and guidance on your journey.

Nurse Walton

Author

Nurse Walton

Born and raised in Chicago, IL, Chanay received her Practical Nurse licensure and went to work in clinical specialties such as Home Health, Assisted Living, Long-Term Care and Dialysis Centers. Through this work, she realized the importance of diet, nutrition and weight loss among her patients. This led her to open A Better Weigh, Inc. Medical Weight Loss Center in 2009.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *