If you’re new to fasting, or about to jump into a longer multi-day fast, there are a few things you’ll want to do to prepare your body (and mind!) for a fasting practice.
Read on for a few small tips to make your fasting experience as easy and enjoyable as possible (ideally incorporated at least 1 week prior to your fast).
Remove Inflammatory Foods (From Your Diet and Your Environment)
Focus on cutting out especially inflammatory foods, such as alcohol, sugar, and refined carbohydrates (think biscuits, cakes, bread, crackers, etc.) For some individuals, dairy and gluten may also be inflammatory.
Removing these foods from your diet will allow your blood sugar to stabilize, reduce cravings, and promote more steady energy. This will make your fasting efforts much easier and more enjoyable! We also recommend removing any tempting or triggering foods from your environment during a fast, especially one that will last more than a few days. Fasting is a discipline that requires self-control and willpower, and setting up your environment to promote success is a key factor that eliminates much of the stress that comes from abstaining from food. Because let’s face it, even the most self disciplined individuals can succumb to a delicious bag of Haribo's when hunger presents itself.
Limit Carbohydrate Consumption
One of the best 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 fat-burning capabilities. This state of fat burning is referred to as “ketosis,” wherein the body creates substances called ketones from stored body fat.
These ketones serve as a source of energy for the body, even in the absence of food, which is particularly helpful during a fast. After a certain amount of time without carbohydrates, the body will naturally switch into ketosis, but some individuals will move into fat-burning more quickly than others. You can prime your body for ketosis and enable the shift to happen more effortlessly during your fast by tapering down carbohydrate intake a few days prior.
In general, a diet that promotes a ketogenic state can range from 50-150 grams of carbohydrate per day, depending on genetics, size, and activity levels. What constitutes a fat-burning state will vary from person to person (but if you want to get nerdy, you can always grab some urine ketone sticks and check your ketone levels).
Start by choosing meals that are primarily composed of non starchy vegetables and protein, supplemented with healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive or coconut oils. Try to limit carbs to those from non-starchy vegetables, tubers, and berries, or shift all carbohydrate consumption to dinner or post-workout.
Start Restricting Your Feeding Window
If you are preparing for an intermediate to advanced fast, start incrementally restricting your feeding window and fasting for longer periods of time each day. How this looks will vary for each person and what type of fast they are preparing for, but for example, you might start with only eating from 8am-6pm, and work up to restricting feeding to 12pm-6pm. Easing the body into becoming accustomed to going extended periods without food will not only assist with fat-burning capabilities, it will also train your body (and brain) to not expect food at certain times, reducing the prevalence of “clockwork hunger pangs” during your fast.
Following the tips above at least a week before your fast will physically prepare your body, as well as mentally equip you for the discomfort that makes fasting challenging, but also incredibly beneficial and rewarding.