I get this question a lot:
Am I breaking my fast by adding collagen powder to my coffee?
— CB Supplements customer
I’ll certainly answer this question for you, but forewarning, this is complicated. Let’s start with understanding why this topic of collagen and fasting is top of mind for many folks.
Intermittent fasting + black coffee
It all starts with coffee, doesn’t it folks?
Many people who ask if collagen breaks a fast are typically those following a 16/8 intermittent fast and drinking coffee during their fast — which is allowed since most believe that black coffee doesn’t break a fast. Though, Dr. Mindy says (see video below) that you’ll need to measure your blood sugar to be completely sure coffee doesn’t pull you out of a fasted state.
Intermittent fasting + black coffee + collagen
Back to collagen.
Guess what goes really well with coffee? Yep, collagen peptides powder. Most collagen takers love their collagen and coffee — it’s a staple to their morning routine.
So, if you’re an intermittent faster and drinking black coffee (which most know keeps you in a fasted state), but then you stir in collagen powder or swallow collagen pills, what happens? Will this break your fast? This is where things get complicated, but here’s the short answer.
Will collagen break a fast?
It depends on if you define fasting in the traditional sense, which is abstinence from food and/or drink for a certain amount of time. Adding a scoop of collagen powder to that hot cup of black coffee in the morning will, technically, break your fast because collagen is food and contains calories — typically around ~30 calories per serving.
However, the only way to be 100% certain is to wear a glucose monitor and see how collagen impacts your personal blood glucose levels. More on that in a second.
Does an unflavored collagen powder break a fast?
Even unflavored multi collagen peptides powder — typically free of artificial sweeteners or additives — will still come with ~30 calories a scoop and by traditional definition will break a fast. We explore the calories from collagen below.
Does a flavored collagen powder break a fast?
Again, if we’re sticking to the traditional sense of fasting, flavored collagen will impact your fast. If you’re not defining fasting in the conventional sense, then the key to exploring is the sweetener they use.
If the brand uses sweetener that stimulates the gut and digestive system, such as sucralose and aspartame, then yes, it will break your fast. If stevia or monk fruit is used, then it will not break your fast since many studies (including Diet Doctor) show these two sweeteners do not raise blood sugar. Learn more about flavored collagen powder.
The Key: Blood Glucose levels
Back to blood glucose.
If you need 100% certainty on whether adding collagen powder to your coffee breaks a fast, get a glucose monitor as I did.
Collagen did not take me out of fasted state
As with all things collagen, I’m an experimenter. So, I ran a test on myself to see if collagen powder disrupted my blood glucose levels. Per Dr. Mindy, it’s important to remember we all can react to foods differently.
Everybody’s reaction to different foods is going to be different.
— Dr. Mindy Pelz
My readings stay well below what’s considered the “high” ranges when I drink coffee and collagen, I stay in the 80s consistently. So, from a blood glucose perspective, I am still in a fasted state.
What about autophagy?
This is the next logical question in this conversation, skip ahead to learn more about autophagy and collagen, or keep reading as we explore the history of fasting to help us see the bigger picture.
History of Fasting
Let’s take a step back and quickly discuss fasting.
Simply put, fasting is not eating or skipping a meal on purpose when we have otherwise been trained to eat, like breakfast for example. But wait, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? It would be a terrible idea to intentionally skip it, or would it?
Let’s have a little history lesson, shall we?
Some of the earliest human fossils date back over 200,000 years ago. Actually, archaeologists in Ethiopia have found human ancestral remains of a female they have named Ardi that are 4.4 million years old. So, whether you think God created Adam and Eve, or we came from monkeys that came from fish that came from an amoeba (we love everybody at CB Supplements by the way), let’s just agree that humans have been walking the earth a very, very long time.
I love this product!
"I'm a nutrition scientist and recommend it when I can. The high quality of the multiple types of collagen is superior to anything else on the market."
- Michelle (Tappahannock, VA)
Now, let me ask the million-dollar questions.
Pertaining to the humans that lived 20k – 4.4M years ago:
- Do you think they ate breakfast every day?
- Do you think they ate 6 small meals a day?
- Do you think they liked brunch as much as we do?
If you are laughing, then you sense the undertones of sarcasm in my questions because the obvious answer is no.
Humans ate whatever they killed, whenever they could and went many days without eating not because they weren’t hungry, but rather because they had nothing to eat. For hundreds of thousands of years, there was no farming, no refrigerators, and no Chipotle.
*Gasp*, no Chipotle? What a terrible world! 🙂
— Charlie (being lovingly sarcastic)
Organized farming wasn’t a common practice until about 12,000 B.C., and the refrigerator has only been a commodity for less than 200 years.
So, what’s the point again?
The point is that it’s OK to skip a meal or fast. Maybe even every day. The whole concept of breakfast was invented in the 19th century by Seventh Day Adventists James Caleb Jackson and John Harvey Kellogg to sell their newly invented breakfast cereal. Does that last name Kellogg sound familiar?
Fasting helps put your body in Autophagy
Remember Dr. Mindy speaking briefly about the process called autophagy? That fancy word is the main reason why fasting is vitally important to health.
Autophagy is a process that happens when we are/have been fasted for over 12-16 hours, where the cells of our body cleanse themselves, breaking down and recycling damaged cells. The word literally means “self-eating”.
In other words, damaged cells, including those that can/will turn into cancer cells, are thrown out and new healthy cells are created. Autophagy can also protect against infections, inflammation, aging, and more.
Does collagen stop Autophagy?
Does having a scoop of collagen peptides powder in your morning coffee throw you out of a fasted state and stop autophagy (“ah-TAH-fah-gee”)?
There are mixed opinions on whether collagen stops autophagy in the world of nutrition advice. Some claim it slightly impairs, others say it doesn’t, and some (like Dr. Mindy) say you won’t know until you wear a glucose monitor. Below are 5 highly respected sources (three being medical doctors) and their quick take on whether collagen stops autophagy:
- Healthline = may slightly impair autophagy
- Dave Asprey = founder of Bulletproof, claims maybe not
- Dr. Mindy Pelz = we don’t really know, wear a glucose level monitor!
- Dr. Jason Fung = the leading expert on intermittent fasting, says no
- Dr. Ted Naiman = believes “Protein [including collagen protein] is not a fuel source, but rather the building block for all tissues in the body and therefore, not really a calorie.” (video below)
As I was saying, this is complicated. 🙂
Case for collagen in fasting for weight loss
Let’s pretend collagen breaks your fast.
You desire the benefits of collagen protein powder and add a scoop to your morning coffee or tea, and it does break your fast! What are the implications?
This is a great question and allows me to highlight another huge benefit of skipping breakfast. By adding collagen to your morning coffee/tea, you push off hunger for a few more hours because as Dr. Naiman stated in the video above, humans eat until we are satiated by protein, which includes collagen protein.
So, if coffee and collagen replace breakfast, you effectively just eliminated 500-1,000 calories that more than likely were being supplied by carbohydrates. Do this for 3 weeks and watch what will happen – you will more than likely lose weight!
Now that we have learned about the history of humans, the history of breakfast, autophagy, fasting, and what the heck our bodies do to keep us from dying when we don’t eat — let’s go back to our original question.
Does a scoop of collagen in your morning coffee break a fast?
Let me answer that question with another question.
Does it really matter?
We don’t really know if consuming collagen protein disrupts autophagy. And who cares if it breaks your fast as long as it doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels, which can be checked anytime with the help of a glucose monitor (see our recommendations below). Because after all, if a few scoops of collagen keep you from grabbing sugary donuts, cereal, or bagels — that’s a big victory.
Recommended Glucose Level Monitors
As we mentioned above, if you want a definitive answer on whether collagen breaks your fast, strap on a glucose level monitor, sip away, and find out.
Here are some devices you can use to monitor your blood sugar to confirm if collagen in your coffee pulls you out of a fasted state. Most, if not all, push data to your smartphone for easy readings and tracking:
- FreeStyle Libre. Buy on Amazon: Glucose Meter for under $25, and you’ll need their Test Strips (50 count)
- Dexcom G6