Updated: May 16, 2020
Fasting Tip #1: Prepare Your Mind, Ease Into It.
Although technically you can jump into an extended fast, that approach can be difficult. Preparing for a fast is a great way to make sure your fasting experience goes well.
Here are three ways to prep your mind and body for a fast:
Removing Inflammatory Foods From Your Diet AND Your Environment. Alcohol, sugar, dairy, gluten, and refined carbohydrates (think cookies, cakes, bread, crackers, etc.), will allow your blood sugar to stabilize, reducing cravings, which promote more stable energy. In other words, you'll reduce the chances of being 'hangry'!
Limit Carbohydrate Consumption: One of the most efficient ways to make a fast easier is to shift away from relying on glucose from carbohydrates for fuel in order to improve the body's inner fat-burning capabilities. This state of fat-burning is one of the popular terms of the nutrition world 'ketosis', where your body creates substances called ketones from stored body fat. Which is what we all want to burn more of anyways, right? Ketones serve as a quality source of energy in your body, even in the absence of food, which is particularly great during a fast. After a certain amount of time without carbohydrates, your body will naturally switch into ketosis. Some individuals, like my wife, will fly into fat-burning more quickly than others. She seriously gets into Keto in half the time it takes me.
Start Restricting Your Feeding Window: If you're preparing for an extended fast, start incrementally restricting your feeding window and fasting for longer periods of time each day (also known as intermittent fasting). For example, you might start with only eating from 8 am-6 pm, and work up to restricting feeding to 12 pm-6 pm. Easing your body into extended periods without food will assist with fat-burning, and train your body (and brain) not to expect food, reducing the prevalence of 'clockwork hunger pangs' during your fast.
It's important to note that even when restricting your feeding window, you should still be consuming enough calories for the day. A prolonged caloric deficit may have a negative impact on performance, metabolism, and overall health. Don't eat less; eat less often!
Following these tips a few days to a week before your fast, you'll be in great shape and will likely have a better fasting experience!
Fasting Tip #2: Stay Busy
However, staying occupied with activities that don't involve eating can help keep your mind off of food. Plus, you'll have lots of extra time now to do all those things you've been putting off! You can work on a home project, like this article I wrote just for you read. Learn an instrument, I practiced ukelele, journal, meditate, walk outdoors, or spend time with loved ones.
It's also important to know that longer fasts can take a toll on your energy, so be mindful not to over-commit to activities that might end up interfering with your ability to fast successfully. This includes strenuous physical activities and any food-related gatherings that might tempt you to eat. I had to forgo riding my bike on my fast.
Fasting Tip #3: Think of Hunger as a 'Wave'
Fasting is an incredibly individual experience, and feeling hungry will affect different people in different ways.
The interesting part is, hunger doesn't get worse over time. It merely ebbs and flows like a wave.
When you do experience hunger, know that it is typically a psychological pattern more than anything else. Our bodies get used to eating at certain times, and so what we experience as 'hunger' is more likely a 'habit'. These sensations of hunger will arise (usually around regular feeding times), and will pass shortly if you keep busy. Just give it time, it will pass.
Fasting Tip #4: Give Your Water a Boost
Although there is much discussion going on over the topic of boosting water during a fast, there's not a ton of evidence to suggest that adding natural sources of flavors negatively impacts a fast.
If you don't find plain water very enticing, you might consider flavoring your water to make the experience more pleasant. Staying hydrated is essential during a fast, and merely adding fresh lemon juice or cucumber slices can encourage you to keep drinking without interfering with the benefits of your fast. Avoid adding sources of excess sugar, like tons of fruit or other sweeteners, as sugar will impact your fast.
Sparkling water is a great tool, as the carbonation can help to curb hunger.
Fasting Tip #5: Supplementing with Electrolytes
Your body can quickly become depleted of electrolytes if you're consuming a lot of water during a fast. This can lead to many symptoms like cramping, fatigue, dizziness, and in severe cases, even blackouts. Supplementing with electrolytes is an easy way to combat this problem!
However, you'll want to avoid choosing an electrolyte supplement with any sugars or additives. Opt for a clean electrolyte supplement, simple trace minerals, or something I like to do which is simple is to reach for a pinch of high-quality Celtic sea salt.
Fasting Tip #6: Use Essential Amino Acids
Essential amino acids (EAAs) can be an effective tool for anyone who wants to exercise during a fast, has body composition goals, or just wants to make fasting a more pleasant experience.
Amino acids will slightly suppress autophagy, so if you're fasting purely for longevity purposes, best avoid them and opt for more rest instead.
However, if you're working out in a fasted state (such as a fasted morning session), need to get through a mentally-taxing day, or just need an energy boost during a fast, EAAs are a great way to reap most of the benefits of fasting. They are also incredible for staving off hunger pangs! Just make sure you're using a formula that's pure EAAs (not BCAAs) and doesn't contain added sugar or calories.
Fasting Tip #7: Choose the Right Kind of Fast for You
There is no 'perfect' way to fast.
There are many different fasting methods out there, all of which contain varying degrees of health benefits. Knowing your intention going into a fast can help you choose the right kind of fast for you.
If you're already healthy and are looking for a simple boost, a 12-16 hour daily intermittent fast might be all that you need. This is my default. If you have higher health aspirations, you might consider a more prolonged liquid fast. Whether you're able to rest entirely or will still have a lot to do will also influence which types of liquids you should consume (only water vs. essential amino acids or bone broth). Whether your intention is spiritual or physical (performance, health, longevity) will also point you towards slightly different fasting styles.
Fasting Tip #8: Fast with Friends
One of our favorite and most enjoyable ways to fast is to do it with a community.
That's why I have a group of friends every January that starts the New Year off right!
If you're interested in fasting, it's not too late. Reach out, and let's discuss what might be the best option for you.
Whether you're entirely new to fasting, have dabbled in it in the past, or are a seasoned veteran, A Fasting Challenge is a great way to challenge yourself while benefitting from the many health benefits that come from fasting!
While fasting can be challenging at first, these simple tips can help make your fasting practice a little easier.
However, one thing I'd like to close with is the idea that fasting doesn't always need to be easier.
Sometimes the most significant benefits of a fasting practice come from the physical and emotional discomfort we experience when consciously depriving ourselves of a desire, such as food. Lean into that discomfort. Let it teach you something about yourself. Seek to understand it and accept it. That's where the actual benefits come.
And finally, fasting can be an emotionally and physically intense endeavor. There is no shame in stopping your fast earlier than you planned if your body needs it. Ultimately you should always be working in support of your body, and you should feel no pressure to push beyond what feels intuitively right.
Wishing you happy and healthy fasting!
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