Wondering if fasting is for you? And if so, how to go about it? Perfect, let’s get in to it.
What is fasting?
Fasting literally means to go without some, or all food and drink for a longer period of time. So this could mean you go without food or drink for 12 hours. Or it could be that you go without solid foods for 24 hours, where you have coffee, electrolytes, bone broth and maybe some MCT’s. It could be a water-only fast for 72 hours, or to go 5 hours without food between meals throughout the day. There are a variety of ways to do it. AND, you can do it once. Everyday for 30 days, or once a quarter. Fasting is a tool for anyone with epilepsy and cancer, to the everyday person who wants to improve overall health and gain metabolic flexibility. And since fasting is a tool or lever for your nutritional tool box, you get to choose what feels best for you. There is no one size fits all.
There are many benefits known to fasting such as helping to clean up damaged cells and create newer healthier ones, improve digestion, and natural weight loss. Because of the cellular regeneration it provides, it improves things like cognitive decline, cancer, aging, sleep, and can prevent many other illnesses or diseases.
Just like exercise, fasting is a hormetic stressor. If done too much, too intensely, or too often, it will lead to more damage than good. Just because it may feel good, doesn’t mean more is better. We need calories and we need nutrients to live an optimally healthy life. So we want to look at our individual “stress cup”. Before we add another stressor, where is our stress cup level at. Because once we have too many stressors going on at once, then it will start to overflow, and lead to negative physical manifestations and outcomes.
Those who should not fast or consider a less stressful way of doing it:
- Those with eating disorders
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding women
- Women who don’t have a period
- Children – growing/development!
- High level athletes or underweight people
- Too many other stressors going on – physical or mental.
If you fall into any of these categories, you may want to forego fasting in general, or do a moderate version that involves smaller fasting windows like a 12 hour overnight fast, and 5 hours between meals throughout the day.
So Where to Start?
First ask yourself what your goals are. Then proceed with those in mind. Someone with a chronic illness will practice fasting much differently then one simply trying to lose weight or improve metabolic flexibility. The latter being more flexible and less restrictive. If you’ve never fasted before, start with a 12-14 hour fast, a couple days a week, and go from there. If you want more guidance, book a free clarity call with us and we can help! You can stick with the 14 hour fast everyday, a few days of the week, and then work your way up to a 24 (or longer) fast, one hour at a time, to do a few times a month or year. The longer fasting times (like 24-72 hour) provide more of the benefits listed above such as cellular regeneration, muscle health, and improved memory.
How to Prepare?
Make sure the last meal you have before starting your fast is nutrient-dense with plenty of quality proteins and fats, instead of lots of sugar or hyperpalatable foods that will leave you hungry and metabolically inflexible the next day. Next, make sure you have plenty of electrolytes. That may mean all your water has LMNT, perhaps you’re adding a few pinches of salt to your water every couple hours, or you’re sipping on bone broth throughout the day. You can have some plain tea or black coffee if you so choose, and add things in like MCT oil or coconut milk if you want to ease into it (if you’re feeling hungry, or want to exercise and are feeling like you need something to boost you through it). Again, depends on your desired outcomes.
When you “break” your fast, be sure to have a plan with a nutrient-dense meal, and avoid the sugar, alcohol, and any foods that are hard to digest – like raw veggies. Some animal proteins with fat and cooked veggies or bone broth would be great for most people. We encourage you to also take a moment to reflect on how it all felt for you. Questions to ask:
- What felt good?
- What felt challenging?
- How’d my sleep, energy, and hunger feel?
- How will I adjust for next time?
Start out somewhere, see how it feels for YOU, and proceed from there. Remember you have control, and if it doesn’t work for your lifestyle, you have the power to adjust either way! Let us know how it goes and if you want more support in the process!