Food Freedom Friday Edition 177 - Fasting Blunders
Fasting is one of the most powerful yet non-expensive healing tools you can use. By simply not eating for longer periods of time, you can take advantage of things like accelerated weight loss, improved mental function, increased cellular repair, drastic anti-inflammatory states, and much more. If, however, you are making a few common fasting mistakes, you may not have the best experience.
Whether you are fasting for disease healing or disease prevention, there are certain signs to look for to gauge if you are on the right track with your fasting protocol or not. Generally, once you have adapted to a fasting regimen or routine, you find yourself feeling light, full of energy, mentally sharp, and not all that hungry.
Each person brings with them their unique physiology, experience, and health challenges that can highlight unique hurdles in the process. Understanding where missteps can occur will support ensuring you are benefitting from your time without food.
Going Too Long Too Soon
It takes time to become adapted to fasting. Think of fasting as a muscle that needs to be built up. Start slow, get a feeling for the routine, then scale up as it gets easier.
While your body has grown accustomed to three (or more) meals a day, it now has to learn how to pull from stored energy already within itself. First, you will burn through stored sugar in the liver known as glycogen. Once this is depleted, your body will resort to burning body fat.
The more you practice fasting, the more efficient your body will be at shifting between the two. If you rush it, you will likely deal with unpleasant low blood sugar symptoms that occur between this metabolic shift.
While some people have no issue jumping into a multiple-day fast right away, most people will need to start with a short period and work up to a longer fast.
Start by eating your meals in a 12-hour window. Once this becomes easy, reduce your eating window to 10 hours. Continue this pattern by decreasing your eating window by two hours every 1-2 weeks. Make sure to only consume non-caloric beverages during your fasting window such as purified water, teas, and black coffee.
A note on coffee: caffeine intake in a fasted state increases your ability to burn fat Caffeine can thus be used strategically to increase ketone levels and subdue hunger.
You may also have heard of people putting butter in their coffee in the morning as a new way to start their day. When done correctly, this strategy can be excellent for preparing the body to tap into fat stores while fasting. When you combine coffee with healthy fats like butter, coconut oil, or MCT oil – you can teach your body to burn fat without having to do a strict fast.
A Deprivation Mindset
Everyone loves to eat and it is really common to feel deprived as you begin fasting. However, if you focus on the “deprivation” element of the fast and not the healing benefits, you will convince yourself you need to eat and you will break the fast.
Your mindset is important to your success in anything you do in life. If you start feeling deprived or have a desire to eat food, try to reframing your thoughts: focus on the remarkable mental, emotional and physical healing that is happening in your body right at that moment. Remind yourself that you are truly safe, you are not being deprived and will feel better later.
One of the most important things I have found for most people as they begin a fast is to not feel isolated. Doing a fast with your spouse or significant other, with a friend or group of friends or an online community is really helpful. When you do the fast with others you don’t feel alone and you have a level of accountability.
Another trick, if you struggle with food cravings throughout the day is drinking a bit of carbonated water which can be great for settling them.
Lack Of Hydration
Staying hydrated while fasting is critical and requires both adequate water and adequate minerals such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium. In fact, this is likely one of the most common fasting mistakes
Without proper hydration, you will likely feel much more tired, dizzy, and potentially constipated while fasting. Keep some water handy with a bit of sea salt in it to sip on throughout your fast.
Many apps exist on all phone platforms that serve as a reminder to drink water. Alternatively, you can simply set a repeating alarm on your phone to remind you to drink a bit of water every 1-2 hours.
Another great way to make sure you are getting enough water is to just start your day off being well hydrated. First thing in the morning, make it your goal to consume 32-48 ounces of filtered water within 1-2 hours of waking up. If you are going to take this approach, you may want to make it a point to also consume some minerals so add in a sprinkle a high-quality sea salt or pink salt.
Not Enough Salts
As previously mentioned, staying hydrated depends upon both water and mineral salts (electrolytes). One of the primary roles of water in the body is to help conduct electrical impulses throughout the nervous system. Without electrolytes, you lose some of this conductive power.
Fasting is meant to be a time of accelerated healing for the body. If you are fasting, but inhibiting your brain’s ability to communicate with your organs – you may be sabotaging yourself!
In addition to this, not getting enough salts will contribute to feelings of light-headedness, fatigue, muscle cramps, and constipation. Of all fasting mistakes, dehydration is one of the most important to avoid.
Getting more salts is relatively easy to do. Depending on your current fasting schedule, I would recommend.
· Adding salt liberally to meals
· Adding a pinch of Himalayan or Celtic salt to your water
· Consuming mineral-rich foods like salted leafy greens, seaweeds, and bone broths
For longer fasts you could make an electrolyte drink:
Combine the following to 64 ounces of water and sip during the day
· ½ Tsp of Himalayan or Celtic Salt
· 1 Tsp of Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda)
· 1 Tsp of Potassium Chloride
· ½ Tsp of Magnesium Sulfate (Food Grade Epsom salts)
Too Much Stress
High amounts of stress can make fasting really challenging. While fasting, your body should be tapping into stored body fat and preserving muscle tissue. If you are highly stressed, you will be excreting higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol.
Cortisol is catabolic, meaning it promotes the breakdown of body tissues. In many cases, chronically elevated cortisol will lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue. Optimally, you want to be breaking down fat tissue. If you are highly stressed, you may want to take extra measures to ensure your fasting period is relaxing.
Ideally, if high amounts of stress are an issue for you, you will want to take a few days off work and spend some time in nature during their fasting period. This is obviously not an option for everyone. Alternatively, you could try
· Utilizing deep breathing and positive visualization frequently throughout the day
· Taking Epsom salt baths each night before bed
· Supplementation to address dysregulated cortisol levels
· Ensuring you are getting restful sleep and recovery
While you might want to take it a little easier than normal while fasting, you don’t want to be completely sedentary. Most times, you will feel significantly better if you can get some movement in during the day.
If you sit inside all day and get little movement, you will tend to start feeling cold and foggy. This is a common occurrence as you might assume that since you aren’t eating food, you need to rest all day.
Exercise is a great way to upregulate fat burning, boost circulation, and improve your fast. Getting some sunlight and grounding will help further lower inflammation and improve the healing process while fasting. A further bonus for grounding is that it actually helps lower stress, which will support fat burning instead of breaking down muscle tissues.
Starting the day with a light aerobic activity such as walking can be a great way to get the lymphatic system moving. During an extended fast, your body will break down and recycle many cellular components, many of which will be present in the lymphatic fluid. The lymphatic fluid relies on muscular contractions to circulate properly so getting movement throughout the day is key
If your daily schedule puts you in a stationary position for most of the day, take active breaks as often as possible. Walk around the office or the neighborhood if you work at home. Do anything you can to keep active without overstressing your body. The more you can do outside, the better.
Not Starting With Low Carb
When you get into a deep fasting state your body will be burning stored fats as a primary energy source. Something that often presents a huge challenge and prevents feeling the benefits of fasting is trying to go from a carb-dominant meal plan, straight into fasting. If you have never fasted or intentionally put your body in a state of ketosis, then fasting will likely initially make you feel unwell or simply “off”.
Getting your body adapted to a state of ketosis or at least significantly lowering your carbohydrate intake, will make fasting much easier.
One of the best ways to prepare your body for a fast is to first teach it to burn fats really well. If you are a high-level athlete then you may already be a good fat burner. If you are the average person that has had carbs with every meal since birth, you will want to try this.
Take about a month during which you reduce your carbohydrate intake and increase your healthy fat intake. When carbohydrates are scarce and fats are abundant, your body will shift to burning fat as a primary energy source. This is exactly what happens when you fast. In this scenario, however, you are easing your body into the process. Once you have taught your body to burn fats effectively, you are ready to take on a longer fast!
When taking the plunge and embarking on a fasting-focused lifestyle, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and make a few blunders or mis-steps. These can hinder your progress and success but are easily corrected. While engaging in longer fasts will usually come along with a bit of mental determination, the tips above will help ensure your fast goes by as smoothly as possible while providing full benefits