To open up this article I want to simply state the fact that I (personally) love fasting. In fact, I implement intermittent fasting (IF) as part of my lifestyle as well as a weekly 24 hour fast. Why do I fast? I’ll get into that in just a moment. But first, I want to touch on what exactly fasting is, what you may experience while doing it, and then finish off the article with a protocol for you to follow.
Disclaimer: Fasting is NOT for everyone. If you have any medical conditions it is not advised that you do any form of fasting. As always, you should consult your doctor before engaging in any exercise or nutrition plan.
What is Fasting?
A fast is just what you would assume… a period of time where no food is consumed. The only thing recommended during a fast would be water or a calorie-free beverage such as black coffee or green tea.
I know what you’re thinking – Why would anyone want to stop eating? We become so accustomed to eating several meals a day that shutting it down for upwards of 24 hours can seem quite odd and even scary. But trust me, there is a method to the madness.
Why Would You Want to Fast?
There are several reasons why someone may want to fast. Below are some of the benefits that you may experience:
• Aid in weight loss
• Increase in productivity
• Enhance cognition
• Improve gut health
• Give your digestive system and organs a break
• Better management of cholesterol and sugar
• Reduce inflammation
• Lower blood pressure
• Minimize your risk of certain forms of cancer
Potential Side Effects of a 24 Hour Fast
There are inherent risks with just about anything we do. Consuming too much of a certain macro nutrient comes with risks and potential side effects. So, let’s lay out some of the side effects you may experience during a 24 hour fast.
• Increased hunger
• Drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemic)
• Physical exhaustion
Is a Fast Right for YOU?
First thing’s first… have you ever tried a fast in the past? If not, jumping right into a 24 hour fast may not be the best idea since you have nothing to base your experience off of. What I would recommend to get started would be to initially get your feet wet in the world of fasting by doing a 16:8 fast.
A 16:8 fast is a 16-hour fasting period followed by an eight-hour feeding window. Most people would have their eating window from noon until 8pm and then fast from 8pm until noon the following day. This will ease you into fasting without tossing you into the deep end of the pool without first learning how to tread water and keep yourself afloat.
You can actually implement a 16:8 routine into your daily lifestyle. I have seen great success (personally and through my clients) with this ratio.
What’s the Best Reason to Fast?
Ok, this question is somewhat of a set up. The reason why you fast is very individualized and personal and the reason I do it may be very different from the reason you do it. However, I do want to toss out MY reason for fasting and the reason may surprise you.
Being that I’m very much into health and fitness, you would probably assume that it’s for health reasons. And while that is a secondary reason in my situation, my primary reason for fasting is to drastically improve my productivity.
Think about how much time you spend each day eating, preparing meals, doing dishes, etc. What would you be able to do with that time if you got it all back? A lot, right? That’s my reason. Owning various businesses, I’m always trying to maximize my time. And being that we all have the same 24 hours in a day, I need to make sure I don’t waste any of it. Therefore, fasting allows me to focus on my work and being as productive as possible.
The 24 Hour Fast Protocol
The process is actually quite simple and once your body gets used to going 24 hours without eating, it will become second nature and you won’t even think about it. when I first started the 16:8 fast, I was always looking at the clock to see when I could eat. The main thing to do so you aren’t always looking at the clock is to stay busy. Fill your day with activities or work to keep your mind focused on anything other than food. Sure, at first you will feel hungry throughout the day but your body will quickly adapt and you won’t have the hunger sensation and it will be smooth sailing.
1. Choose a starting point
Decide what time you want to start your fast. Personally, I’d recommend fasting during the hardest window of the 24 hour fast which would be the latter portion of the fast. In the beginning, you’ll tend to not be as hungry since you ate not too long ago. But as you get into the 18-hour portion you may feel some hunger creeping in.
I like to start my 24 hour fast at 8am and run it through 8am the following morning. I wake up, eat a solid breakfast full of healthy protein and fat and then the fasting clock starts. When I wake up the next morning, I’m ready to break my fast with more healthy and lean protein sources as well as some healthy fats.
2. Drink plenty of water
Your body is made up of primarily water and every cell in your body needs it. So, not only is it important for overall health to be consuming water but it’s also a great way to stay full by tricking the brain into thinking there is something in your stomach.
You also have to remember that there is water in the food we consume and eliminating food for 24 hours means that you’re also missing the water content from your meals. Therefore, you need to be mindful and ensure you are drinking water throughout the day.
During this time, you can also drink other calorie-free beverages such as coffee and green tea if you wish. Both have natural caffeine which can help keep you energized throughout the day.
3. Only utilize a 24 hour fast 1-2 times a week
This is not a long-term play like the 16:8 fasting protocol is. The 16:8 you can do every single day for the rest of your life if you wish. However, the 24 hour fast is one that should be used sporadically and at a maximum, two days out of the week.
4. Stay busy
As I mentioned earlier, the best way to get through a 24 hour fast is to stay busy and keep your mind off of food. Fill your day with projects and start crossing things off of your to-do list.
5. Keep exercise to a minimum at first
When you’re just starting a 24 hour fast protocol, your entire body is going to be thrown off until you do it a few times and your body acclimates. If you decide you want to exercise on your fasting day, make sure it’s low intensity. Remember, your body is used to having energy and the sudden lack of energy can cause blood sugar to drop not to mention without energy, your strength may suffer.
As your body gets used to the fast 1-2 times per week, it will make the necessary adjustments and you’ll be able to train hard – even on your fasting days. One word of caution… if at any point when exercising you don’t feel well, stop exercising immediately. This actually leads us to our next point.
6. Stop immediately if you don’t feel well
This should go without saying but if you don’t feel well during any point of a 24 hour fast, discontinue the fast and start eating. Some hunger and irritability may be common but there’s a drastic difference between those feelings and not feeling well as in becoming sick or disoriented.
7. Ease your way out of the fast
When your fast is over, don’t eat everything in sight. You want to ease your way back into it by consuming a small meal consisting of whole foods and quality protein. Focus on nutrient-dense foods and remember to keep your water intake up as well.