This morning I’m in hour 40 of my 48-hour fast and I feel great. My energy level is high and I’m managing the hunger pains easily. It’s a far cry from my very first attempt at fasting (I broke the fast within 4 hours).
Since I incorporated fasting into my way of eating there are a few things I’ve learned to be successful when choosing to go without food.
What follows, like all content on this blog, is provided for your information only and is not medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taking based on the contents of this blog. Fasting and what to eat for health is a personal choice you need to make with your doctor. What I write works for me (and I do talk to my doctor about it!!) but may not be right for you. I did my homework and you should too. A great place to start is Dr. Jason Fung’s series on fasting as well as his video lectures. After you do your homework consult your physician to determine what will work best for you.
10. Minor Prepping = Success
Prep work can mean learning about fasting before trying it, whipping up a batch of bone broth before starting a fast, to picking a day that doesn’t conflict with your girls’ night out.
9. Patience Needed
In a world where we’re told to eat several small meals a day (i.e., grazing like a cow!) to lose weight, it was hard for me to get my head around the idea of not eating for 6 hours, let alone 24 hours. It got easier with each fast.
8. A Handful of Leafy Greens Makes The Vitamins Go Down
All of my daily vitamins and supplements require that I take them with food so my body can better absorb them. What’s a girl to do? Problem solved with a handful of leafy greens. Yes I’m consuming calories, but the amount is too little to matter.
7. A Pinch of Sea Salt To Stay Hydrated
Salt keeps you hydrated. During longer fasts (over 24 hours) your body starts losing salt. I make sure to add a pinch of sea salt to my bone broth.
6. Weight Loss: It’s A Side Benefit
I don’t fast to lose weight. I’m doing it to help repair my metabolic system. Yes, if I don’t eat, I’ll lose weight. But the weight loss effects are minimal once I break the fast. Weight loss is about hormonal imbalance, not “eat less and exercise more.” By focusing on repairing what’s broken (my metabolic system) and improving my insulin sensitivity I’m healthier and consequently burn more fat.
5. What I Do Before & After Is Just As Important As The Fast
There are a ton of benefits to fasting — improved metabolic health, cell repair, lower triglyceride and blood sugar levels, increased insulin and leptin sensativity, less inflammation, and reduced risk of chronic disease, etc. However those benefits are lost with poor eating choices. Healthy eating is key. That means no binge eating either, especially after a fast. When ending a fast the need to eat is more mental than physical.
So how do I break a fast? For fasts longer than 24 hours I eat a small snack, typically a handful of macadamia nuts or a small salad. About 30 minutes later I’ll eat a meal high in fat, moderate protein and low carb (without oversized portions). No need to over eat as a LCHF meal keeps me full for hours. For fasts shorter than 24 hours, I skip the snack.
4. Idle Hands…
My first attempts at fasting didn’t end well. I constantly thought about food. Not because I was hungry. I was bored. On days where I don’t have a lot to do, my mind starts wondering…about food. But if I’m busy, food is the furthest thing from my mind. Think about it. Do you have days at work where you are so busy you forget to eat lunch? Fasting when busy makes time fly.
3. I Don’t Miss A Workout During A Fast
Conventional wisdom (CW) tells me I’m suppose to eat after working out to replenish my energy stores. Yet CW here, like on nutrition, is just plain wrong. How did the cavemen survive long periods of fasting while looking for food? We’re designed to go for periods without food, have energy and still move. Besides, there are loads of benefits to cardio and strength training during a fast.
2. Hunger Doesn’t Last
For some reason I always thought when hunger hits, it stays with you until you eat. But that isn’t true. The rumbling in your stomach only lasts minutes. Now when my tummy growls, I just drink some water and it goes away even faster.
1. Stay Hydrated My Friends
Liquids are your friends during a fast. When I drink I avoid drinks with calories, with a few exceptions. I drink at least 8 glasses of water during a 24-hour fast (more on workout days). That doesn’t include tea, broth or coffee. Plus liquids help you feel full and put an end to any growls coming from your stomach. Here are some ways to make your liquids more interesting:
- Water – Your staple during fasts. Drink tap or sparkling, but nothing with calories. Jazz up a pitcher of water with citrus slices (lemons or oranges) for infused flavor. On fasting days, you’ll find a pitcher of water with cucumber slices and fresh mint leaves. Oh and I always have a traditional weight loss tonic – (apple cider) vinegar with a glass of water before bed. Magical!
- Tea – I drink all types of tea during fasts. But green tea (hot or iced) is my favorite. The health benefits are just too darn awesome to pass up.
- Coffee – Never add sugar, sweeteners or artificial flavors. But 1 teaspoon of heavy cream or full fat milk is OK. For fun I added cinnamon stick to the grounds before brewing. It was fabulously yummy.
- Bone Broth – Bone broth rocks! Homemade bone broth is more nutrient dense than anything from the store. The benefits are amazing.
I’m sure there are other lessons learned from my fasting efforts, but these really stick out as key. For those of you who fast, what are your keys to success?