With regards to what breaks a fast depends on your initial goals from fasting. Numerous experts give differing opinions on what exactly would break a fast. The purist would say that any calorie more than zero technically breaks a fast. Now this is technically true but if your goal is body composition ie fat loss. Then feeding your body with MCT’s (good fats) during the fasting period will assist in the production of ketones and ultimately more fat burning for energy.
Fasting For Body Composition, Metabolic Health, or Gut Health
If a food does not contain a significant amount of calories or sugar, it will not “break a fast” in the context of the desired benefits. Additionally, an essential amino acid supplement, can actually be beneficial for these purposes by promoting the maintenance of muscle, boosting cognitive function, supporting athletic performance, improving sleep, and even suppressing hunger, without hindering the benefits of a fast in this context. These are more suitable for longer fasts in excess of 24 hours.
Fasting for Longevity & Cellular Health
Less is more when it comes to fasting for enhancing autophagy, and it’s best to avoid all calories.
Contrary to fasting for other purposes, amino acids should be avoided, as they have been shown to stimulate the mTOR pathway, which inhibits autophagy. Electrolytes may be an exception when fasting for longevity, as the decrease in insulin during extended fasts signals the body to flush electrolytes which are crucial for staving off fatigue, cramps, and low energy as the body taps into stored fat for energy. However, simply sprinkling some sea salt in your water should do the trick.
So now onto the break of the fast itself.
While fasting can be a great tool, you’ll eventually need (and want!) to break your fast and start eating again. And the surprising truth is, while fasting itself has a plethora of health benefits, most of the magic occurs during re-feeding. When you resume eating after a fast, healthy stem cell production is stimulated to replace the damaged cells that have been removed during the fast. You’ve given your body the chance to clean up old, defective cells, and now it’s primed and ready to receive the nutrients it needs to rebuild and regenerate. Upon re-feeding, you may have a desire to gorge yourself, probably not because of physical hunger, but because of a psychological compulsion. However, eating too much, too quickly, or the wrong kinds of foods can lead to gastrointestinal distress such as cramping, bloating, and frequent trips to the bathroom. Here are some tips for easing back into eating after your fasting window has ended.
Prime your system for digestion by supplementing with digestive aids like lemon, apple cider vinegar, bitters, or digestive enzymes prior to your meal.
To avoid potential digestive distress, resist the compulsion to hit the all-you-can-eat buffet post-fast. Instead, try to break your fast gently with a normal-sized, well-balanced meal. For fasts lasting longer than 24 hours, a small snack, soup, or smoothie might be a wise choice. A general recommendation is for your first meal to have about 500 calories or less.
No matter how much you eat to break your fast, avoid wolfing your food down. Eat slowly and chew thoroughly to activate digestive enzymes and prime the body for digestion. You want your body to clearly get the signal of “hey, it’s time to eat again!”
Make Sure It’s Healthy
Definitely avoid processed foods to break a fast, as your body will likely be very sensitive to sugar, refined grains, and vegetable oils immediately after a fast. Instead opt for a high fat, low-carb meal from whole foods that’s easy to digest. Think avocados, coconut yogurt, lightly cooked veggies, or maybe a piece of salmon. Additionally, liquids are much easier on digestion than solids and can be a great way to ease the body back into eating again, especially after an extended fast. Try breaking your fast with a liquid meal like bone broth, smoothies and soups.