The ancestral ritual of fasting has seen a revival in modern times and has taken the health scene by storm. Whether it be intermittent fasting, liquid fasting, or various kinds of prolonged fasting, the benefits of consciously going without food are profound.
Fasting, however, isn’t always easy.
Whether you’re a seasoned faster, have had trouble sticking to a practice, or are thinking of trying fasting for the first time, these are our top tips to help make your fasting experience a little bit more pleasant.
How to Make Fasting Easier
Fasting Tip #1: Prepare Yourself and Ease Into It
Although technically you can just jump into an extended fast, it won't be fun—or easy. Preparing for a fast is one of the best ways to make sure your experience goes smoothly.
Here are three ways to prepare yourself mentally and physically for a 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 cookies, 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. In other words, no more 'hangries'!
- 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 innate 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.
- Start Restricting Your Feeding Window: If you're preparing for a longer fast, start incrementally restricting your feeding window and fasting for longer periods of time each day (also known as intermittent fasting). 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.*
*It’s important to note that even when restricting your feeding window, you should still be consuming enough calories for the day. A prolonged caloric deficit may have a negative impact on performance, metabolism, and overall health. Don’t eat less, eat less often!
If you incorporate these tips a few days to a week prior to your fast, you'll be in great shape and will likely have a much better fasting experience!
Fasting Tip #2: Stay Busy
Fasting can be very difficult if you're bored. Food plays such a big part of our daily lives, from the time we spend thinking about what we want to eat, how we will get it/ prepare it, and of course the period we spend eating it.
However, staying occupied with activities that don't involve eating can help keep your mind off of food. Plus, you'll have lots of extra time now to do all those things you've been putting off! You can work on a home project, read, learn an instrument, journal, meditate, walk outdoors, or spend time with loved ones.
It's also important to know that longer fasts can take a toll on your energy, so be mindful not to over-commit to activities that might end up interfering with your ability to fast successfully. This includes strenuous physical activities and any food-related gatherings that might tempt you to eat.
Fasting Tip #3: Think of Hunger as a 'Wave'
Fasting is an incredibly individual experience, and pangs of hunger affect different people in different ways.
But the interesting part is, hunger doesn't actually get worse over time. It merely comes and goes, like a wave.
When you do experience hunger, know that it is typically psychological signalling more than anything else. Our bodies get used to eating at certain times, and so what we experience as ‘hunger’ is more like ‘habit’. These sensations of hunger will arise (usually around regular feeding times), and will pass after about an hour. Just give it time and it will pass.*
*If you experience severe hunger or stomach pains, there's no shame in ending your fast early. Listen to your body!
Fasting Tip #4: Give Your Water a Boost
Although purists suggest consuming only plain water during a fast, there's not a ton of evidence to suggest that adding natural sources of flavors negatively impact a fast.
If you don't find plain water very enticing, you might consider flavoring your water to make the experience more pleasant. Staying hydrated is important during a fast, and simply adding fresh lemon juice or cucumber slices can encourage you to keep drinking without interfering with the benefits of your fast. Just avoid adding sources of excess sugar, like tons of fruit or other sweeteners, as sugar may impact your fast.
Sparkling water is also a great tool, as the carbonation can help to curb hunger.
Fasting Tip #5: Drink Coffee or Tea
Caffeine is known to suppress appetite, so drinking coffee or tea can definitely ease your fasting experience. The energetic boost that caffeine provides can also help you get through the day while running low on energy during a fast. Studies show that even decaffeinated coffee has appetite-suppressing properties, so opting for decaf later in the day could offer these same benefits, without interfering with your sleep.
It's best to avoid adding cream and sugar to your coffee or tea during a fast. Although you might still get some of the fasting benefits, adding calorically dense substances into your coffee can technically interfere with your fast.
See this article for the definitive guide on whether or not you should drink coffee during a fast.
Fasting Tip #6: Supplement with Electrolytes
Your body can quickly become depleted of electrolytes if you’re consuming a lot of water during a fast. This can lead to many symptoms like cramping, fatigue, dizziness, and in severe cases even blackouts. Supplementing with electrolytes is an easy way to combat this problem!
However, you'll want to avoid choosing an electrolyte supplement with any sugars or additives. Opt for a clean electrolyte supplement, simple trace minerals, or just reach for a pinch of high-quality sea salt.
Fasting Tip #7: Use Essential Amino Acids
Essential amino acids (EAAs) can be a great tool for anyone who plans to exercise during a fast, has body composition goals, or just wants to make fasting a more pleasant experience.
Amino acids will slightly suppress autophagy, so if you’re fasting purely for longevity purposes, best avoid them and opt for more rest instead.
However, if you’re working out in a fasted state (such as a fasted morning session), need to get through a mentally-taxing day, or just need an energy boost during a fast, EAAs are a great way to still reap most of the benefits of fasting. They are also incredible for staving off hunger pangs! Just make sure you’re using a formula that’s pure EAAs (not BCAAs) and doesn’t contain added sugar or calories.
Fasting Tip #8: Choose the Right Kind of Fast for You
There is no 'perfect' way to fast.
In fact, there are a number of different fasting methods out there, all of which contain varying degrees of health benefits. Knowing your intention going into a fast can help you choose the right kind of fast for you.
If you’re already healthy and are looking for a simple boost, a 12-16 hour daily intermittent fast might be all that you need. If you have greater health aspirations, you might consider a longer liquid fast. Whether you’re able to rest completely or will still have a lot to do will also influence which types of liquids you should consume (only water vs. essential amino acids or bone broth). Whether your intention is spiritual or physical (performance, health, longevity) will also point you towards slightly different fasting styles.
Here's a quick breakdown of different types of fasts you can do based on your goals:
Best for Body Composition:
- Intermittent Fasting for 12-16 Hours up to 5 days per week (women may want to stick to 2-3 days per week, max)
Best for Gut Health:
- Caloric Liquid Fasts (such as bone broth, green juice, or an Elemental Diet) for 3-5 days, 1-4x/year
Best for Autophagy and Cellular Health:
- Non-Caloric Liquid Fasts (such as water, coffee, tea, sparkling water, etc.) for 22 hours up to 5 days (women should avoid or practice with caution)
While fasting can be difficult at first, these simple tips can help make your fasting practice a little bit easier.
However, one thing we'd like to close with is the idea that fasting doesn't always need to be easier...
Sometimes the greatest benefits of a fasting practice come from the physical and emotional discomfort we experience when consciously depriving ourselves of a desire, such as food. Lean into that discomfort. Let it teach you something about yourself. Seek to understand it and accept it. That's where the true benefits come from.
And finally, fasting can be an emotionally and physically intense endeavor. There is no shame in stopping your fast earlier than you planned if your body needs it. Ultimately you should always be working in support of your body, and you should feel no pressure to push beyond what feels intuitively right.
Wishing you happy and healthy fasting!
*Fasting is not recommended for everyone. Please consult a qualified healthcare practitioner before starting a fasting practice.