Have you heard about the recent health craze? It seems like everyone is doing some sort of fast. Now, don’t get this confused with extreme calorie restriction diets. While fasting does cause a bit of weight loss and can be used to help you bust through a plateau it is actually being studied and used as a medical treatment. And many people, like me, use it to stave off illness and hopefully increase health and life span. It just seems like there’s so much information and so many different fasts that it can be overwhelming knowing where to start. So here is a simple overview of 3 of today’s most popular and well known fasts. Learn the basics, fasting made simple!
Disclaimer and Contraindication
Now, before I get into everything I think you need to know about fasting and how to get started on your own fast I need to let you in on a couple of things. Firstly, I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, therapist or your mom so I really can’t tell you whether this is healthy for you. You might want to consider checking with your doctor and anyone else you need to get clearance from before starting a fast. Secondly, and this is VERY important, if you have EVER been diagnosed with or there has been suspicion that you suffer from, an eating disorder do NOT fast! Don’t even read this article. It isn’t for you! Fasting is contraindicated by all eating disorders! Whether you’ve suffered from binge eating, bulimia, anorexia or orthorexia you should NOT be fasting. It can and is VERY likely to exacerbate an eating disorder. Love you bunches and I have tons of material you will enjoy so go ahead and skip this piece!
Health Benefits of Fasting
Fasting gives your digestive system a break and allows it to heal. It decreases oxidative stress (think toxins) and inflammation and it stimulates the immune system (in a healthy way). When you fast Insulin levels drop, insulin resistance is reduced and cell repair takes place. Fasting has been shown to prevent cancer, it is good for your brain and it may be beneficial to heart health and prevent Alzheimer’s. It is also suspected to help improve, alleviate or cure everything from headaches to autoimmune diseases.
And yes, fasting causes weight loss. It specifically causes loss of visceral fat, which is the disease causing belly fat. It also results in an increase in metabolism after fasting as well. For people who have messed up their metabolism from yo-yo dieting and those who are struggling to kick start a healthy plan or get the last few pounds off this may be a good way to go. That being said, fasting should not be considered a diet or weight loss plan. That can lead to an unhealthy or dangerous relationship with food. And, honestly it really doesn’t work that way. Weight can fluctuate throughout a fast due to water weight and body composition changes. So, you are likely to feel frustrated if you use fasting as a means for weight loss.
3 Common Types of Fasts
There are countless types of fasts but I personally participate in 3 different types on a regular basis. They are all fairly common and you may have heard of them. Each works in my life in a different way. And all are good for promoting health and preventing illness and disease.
I suggest that you try one and then add the others as you like. I’ll describe them each in order of difficulty (from easiest to most challenging)
Timed Eating / Intermittent Fasting Made Simple
This is also referred to as “timed feeding”. It is commonly practiced in the ketogenic diet and is touted as one of the biggest factors in the efficacy of that diet. Timed eating is reasonably simple. You eat all of your food and consume all of your beverages within a specific window of time and then avoid anything except water for the rest of the day.
How to do it
Typically the best timed eating approach is to eat approximately 10 hours a day and fast for 14. Now, you might be thinking that longer fasting time is better. This is not true. Longer fasting time has been linked to gall bladder issues and can negatively effect metabolic rate. You can play with what is the optimal fast time for you between 12 and 16 hours. I personally find it is best for me to break my fast at 14 hours with a cup of black tea or macha and typically eat my first meal about 2 hours later. I often do a quick work out and my morning routine before eating breakfast. There are some schools of thought that zero calorie beverages don’t count as breaking the fast. Recent research has revealed that there are metabolic changes when you consume black tea or coffee. For this reason it is now considered breaking your fast.
Break / fast
For my first meal of the day I always have at least 2 servings of veggies, protein and fat. I avoid fruit, especially high glycemic impact fruits as a first meal and I don’t eat refined carbohydrates at all but definitely don’t recommend it first thing in the am. My go to is usually sauteed mushrooms and spinach with 2 poached eggs. Choose something healthy and well balanced as your first meal. It is important to avoid spiking your blood sugar immediately following a fast.
What people like about it
One of the biggest reasons people like timed eating is that it’s relatively simple and causes weight loss. Even if you don’t change your diet at all you are very likely to lose weight. And to top that off it is just as effective if you do it 5 days a week as it is 7. So, feel free to skip weekends. This doesn’t mean to go hog wild on weekends but don’t worry about sticking to a window.
Timed eating is so popular that there is a ton of support available for it. My friend and I both practice timed eating. I can stick to a pretty consistent schedule because I work from home but her schedule varies greatly. She’s a self employed personal trainer so she’s on the road a lot and works early mornings and late evenings often. The app “Zero” is a huge help to her. She sets the timer at the end of her last meal of the day and then has her first cup of coffee when it goes off the next day. It even tells her how many fasts she’s completed and how many other people are fasting at the same time. We both swear by intermittent fasting. Neither of us has had any illness in over 9 months (despite being exposed to many viruses and flu). We both also have way more energy and are sleeping better than ever.
Enlist a buddy and start this fast immediately! You’ll love the results!
Bone Broth Fasting Made Simple
So all I can say here is YUMMM!
I love bone broth and I make my own. It is pretty simple and I have the recipe on my blog, you can find it here. I talk about bone broth a lot because it is amazing goodness. It helps heal the gut and bolster the immune system and is so soothing to drink. You can add seasoning to it (I love ginger, turmeric and pepper) or drink it plain.
Bone broth fasting is the first type of fast I tried. I was a little behind the fad so I tried it for the first time a few years ago. I now like to do a 1 day bone broth fast here and there as I feel it’s needed. I’m planning to incorporate it into my weekly routine and likely fast on Mondays and see how I feel (I’ll post an update in the comments).
Giving your body a full day without eating gives it more time to clean house. When you don’t eat your body makes its self more efficient by removing dead or sick cells. It also creates new healthy cells to take their place. To keep everything operational your body breaks down fat for food and since you are consuming some protein in the broth it helps to preserve muscle (for this short stint). Because your brain and nervous system are heavily reliant on fat this period of fat fueling can help you clear up brain fog and fatigue and give you a little boost.
People like bone broth fasting because bone broth is delicious and nutritious. And it is easy to do because broth is surprisingly satisfying. Some people will fast with broth only for 3 days and others eat one small meal in the evening. You can even alternate days throughout a week. I personally prefer to do only 1 day of broth fasting. Bone broth fasting is so flexible it can be made to suit almost anyone’s lifestyle and preferences.
Partial Feeding Fasting Made Simple
This is the MACK DADDY of fasting! it is generally considered safe for most people and has no long term downside. Many people consider water fasting to be the gold standard but medical supervision is required throughout a water fast for safety reasons. The master cleanse is also less effective and should be accompanied by medical supervision. Long term the best fast you can do is this one. Not only because it requires less medical intervention but because it improves compliance rates and is repeatable. Not many people are going to water fast 3 – 5 times a year and more frequently if they are treating a condition.
This fast is based on the fasting-mimicking diet. After much research I created a mirror for it to complete at home, on my own, without the packaged food. I utilized a DIY fasting mimicking formula commonly used by biohackers as the foundation. I have had the results I expect and have been consistently happy with this approach. That being said, I am not a researcher and my methods have not been specifically studied.
The fasting-mimicking diet is a specific low calorie high fat vegan plan that lasts 5 days. It has been studied extensively for the treatment of cancer and many other diseases. And, has been shown to activate the body’s healing system. It causes the body to clean house similar to a bone broth fast but because it is prolonged it also stimulates stem cells to create new healthy cells.
How it’s done
For 5 days in a row follow a strict diet that is low calorie and high fat. After an elimination diet and reintroduction of eggs I have included eggs in my fasts but it is generally best to stick to a vegan plan for your first round.
Here’s what to eat:
Pick 2 – 3 fats
- 1c mashed avocado
- 24 olives
- 10 -12 raw macadamia nuts
- 10 – 12 raw pecan or walnut halves
- 1/2c full fat coconut milk
- 1 T chia seeds
Pick 2 -3 protiens
- 1/4 c raw almonds
- 1/4c raw cashews
- 1/4c pumpkin seeds
- 1/2 c quinoa
- 1T hemp seeds
- 1c broccoli
- 1c cooked spinach
Last but not least, pick 3 – 4 cups of non-starchy veggies
You might have noticed that there is a range for each of these. That’s because they are based on a percentage of your body weight. People under 150lbs might want to stick to the lower end and people over to the higher. On the first day you need to add one to each category. If you become overly famished you can add some celery sticks or some extra fat.
Things to avoid
Do NOT consume alcohol, sugar, fruit, legumes, any nuts or seeds not listed, dairy, gluten or any processed food. On your first fast NO caffeine or animal products.
Stick to spring water or distilled water. Avoid tap water. Make sure to also avoid any heavy chemicals. No insect repellents, heavy duty cleaning supplies, or harsh soaps. Your body will be very sensitive to anything you come in contact with. I also avoid all supplements during my fast and absolutely do not take any OTC meds. If you are on any prescription medications you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist before fasting.
It is typically recommended that you complete one fast a month for 3 consecutive months and then fast every 3 – 6 months. That doesn’t mean that you don’t get any benefits from even one fast. You can always try one and see how you feel and decide from there. After my first 3 fasts I could tell when I was due for another. I just didn’t feel as great as I had before and some food cravings I hadn’t had in months started to show up again.
What to expect
Everyone feels different while fasting but there are some general things that seem to be universal. For the first 2 – 3 days you are likely to feel pretty miserable. This is especially true if you usually consume sugar, starchy carbs, alcohol or caffeine. If you stick to the fast though you are likely to feel amazing on days 4 & 5. Typically these last couple of days are marked by clear thinking and plenty of energy. Be aware though that throughout the fast you might feel achy or chilly and have some trouble sleeping.
It is important to be prepared not just with your food but also with your surroundings. To pull off a fast like this you will want to have a clear plan as to what you’re eating each day and have your food prepped. You may also want a good book and a show to binge watch. You’ll need some blankets and maybe even a nice cozy sweater. The thing you definitely want to consider is timing. I find Friday to be a great day because you are likely to feel fine (just a bit hungry) throughout the day on the first day. And it’s nice to have Sat and Sun for the most challenging days. By Monday you’ll likely be feeling great.
Breaking your fast / refeeding
You might think that the day after your fast it would be a good idea to plan a huge feast. Some people do this. It is really hard on your body to suddenly shift back into eating too quickly, though. You should also take this opportunity to get back in touch with feelings of satiety when eating rather than stuffing yourself. After 5 days of restricted eating you are very likely to notice that you have a smaller appetite. Go ahead and add fruit, starchy veggies and maybe a little meat or fish. If you aren’t sure about your tolerance for eggs, dairy or gluten you might want to add them individually. Meaning add one then wait a couple days before adding the next. This doesn’t replace an elimination diet in revealing food sensitivity. But it might save you some headache (literally) and tummy ache to space out reintroducing these common irritants.
Fasting Made Simple
Hopefully with these simple tips and instructions you’ll be able to find a fast that is right for you. There are so many health benefits gained from fasting that it’s well worth trying out.
If you have any questions about fasting share them in the comments. Share this article to help others realize the benefits of fasting in their own lives!