11 Tips to Help Make Fasting Easier Than You Might’ve Thought
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Fasting doesn’t have to be hard.
“Why do you do this to yourself?”
This is the first reaction I got when I told my friend I do (a weird thing like) Intermittent Fasting (IF). This was 2 years ago. Fortunately, IF is now increasingly common.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of those things which offer a list of health benefits long enough to be featured in a “Doctors hate this guy!” ad. Besides preventing obesity, increasing longevity, boosting the immune system, it also saves money on food!
In addition to IF, I fast the whole day every Saturday on nothing but water. The intermittent fast is easy — the body adapts after a few days. But the full-day fast is difficult, I admit.
There’ve been times when I thought I couldn’t do it. Other times, I was just confused by the experiences I was having. Only after tons of google searches was I able to make sense of what was happening.
Here are things that will make your fasting experience smooth so you don’t have to waste time on the internet as I did.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
If you fast for a day or longer, different things will happen to you, the solution for most of which is water.
If your stomach growls, drink water. If you feel hungry, drink water. If you feel dizzy, drink water. Because the root cause of all these symptoms is dehydration.
At one point, I was too tired that I laid down on my bed and started thinking about how tired I am! A few minutes later, when I drank water, I was back to normal as if nothing had happened. It’s very easy to be dehydrated if you’re not conscious.
Keep a bottle of water by your side, the whole day you’re fasting. Water is not only needed for hydration but also for transporting nutrients and oxygen to the body’s cells.
Before you go bonkers with this tip, I’ve also found that drinking too much water also makes me hungry and take multiple trips to the washroom. You can get water intoxication if you drink too much and put a lot of strain on your kidneys as well.
The key is to drink just enough. Water isn’t a medication that you need to drink in certain amounts. Drink as much as you feel okay to drink and not more.
So how much water do you need? It depends on your environment, level of physical activity, overall health, etc. There’s no objective answer. But two indicators help me the most — thirst and color of urine.
If the color of your urine becomes yellow, you’re dehydrated. Go and chug a glass of water. If it’s as clear as water, then you may be overhydrated so take it easy.
Plus, it’s good to just drink water when you feel thirsty and not neglect that feeling. If you’re not keeping water accessible, you’ll be too lazy to get up and drink some. So keep it handy.
Another common symptom is dizziness or fatigue which can be cured by putting some salt in your water. Drinking plain water can create an electrolyte imbalance in the blood. Some also suggest adding magnesium and potassium supplements to reduce the symptoms but I’ve never felt the need for them.
To sum up, while most people are mildly dehydrated and should drink more water, always keep listening to your body and stop when you feel like.
Tired? Go to Sleep!
Fasting puts your body under mild stress. To fight that stress, you spend more energy. And this fight becomes twice as hard if you’re sleep-deprived. If you feel tired or not wanting to carry on your usual work, then take a nap.
For the longest time, I avoided taking naps on fasting days since I wanted them to be the most productive day of my week. But taking a nap is much better than sitting at the desk, forcing yourself to bang the keys.
Also, ensure you sleep well the night before to reduce the symptoms of fatigue and have more energy overall.
The “Spiritual Steroid”
Meditation on fasting days is the best. Since the energy in the body is not being wasted for digestion, there’s more energy available for your spiritual practices. If you already have a meditation practice in place, you’ll notice a vast difference in your sessions. It’s like injecting them with steroids.
This is evident in the fact that fasting has been a popular practice in all religions, preached by all saints and sages. While fasting, bringing the mind to focus is easier and so is feeling the higher chakras in the body. On fasting, I’ve felt the energy in my spine more vividly than other times in the week.
Meditation helps you keep your mind off food if you struggle with that initially. It also provides much-needed rest during a fast.
Use the Enhanced Power of the Mind
At some point during your fast, the body starts using fat for fuel after depleting the glucose. During this time, ketones serve as an alternative energy source to maintain normal brain cell metabolism. In fact, they may even be more efficient fuels than glucose, providing more energy per unit of oxygen used.
This is a good time also to churn a tough project that you’ve been procrastinating on. You can lock yourself in a room and focus entirely on the task at hand. Since food is not a concern, you’ll not be interrupted by mealtimes.
Earlier, I used to write 3–4 articles before noon on my fasting days. That may not be a very sustainable practice, but it’s a testimony to improved mental power.
Fasting also promotes autophagy, which is the process of recycling waste material inside the body. Brain health is directly dependent on neuronal autophagy. So when you fast, you’re cleaning up your brain of the old cells and helping it form new, better ones instead.
All this makes the day of fasting apt for mental work.
Reduce Physical Effort
Extreme exercise or manual labor is not a good idea on your fasting days. When I started fasting, I used to complete 20,000 steps by extensive walking and playing sports. But that left me drained of all energy, unable to focus on anything else.
It’s best to keep exercise mild and low intensity, especially at first. These include slow walking, yoga, stretching, or housework. Over time, as you feel your strength increasing, try pushing yourself if you have to.
Most of all, listen to your body and rest if you’re struggling to be physically active. It’s completely normal and is not an indication of weakness.
“Can I Have Coffee?” Umm, It Depends
I’ve recently quit caffeine completely. Before that, however, I used to drink 2–3 cups of coffee during my fast, with the first one being a cup of Bulletproof Coffee.
Even though it helped me manage hunger and appetite, it made me dizzy and nervous. The coffee jitters came too soon and rendered me incapable of focusing on my work. The worse part is that it took me a long time to identify that caffeine was the culprit.
This study also recommends sticking to decaffeinated drinks to control appetites like green coffee or a simple decaf. As a species, we consume too much coffee without realizing its side effects. No one questions the health benefits of caffeine for it’s so pervasive and an inherent part of the culture.
The truth is that caffeine doesn’t work for everyone. But let’s stick to our case of fasting. The above study states,
“While caffeine has long been used as an appetite suppressant, in this study it was decaffeinated coffee that resulted in significantly lower hunger levels and higher plasma levels of PYY than placebo (plain water) and the other caffeinated beverages.”
Now, every study has its limitations. But I’d say go ahead and try it yourself. Replace the cup of joe with a decaf on a fast and see how you feel. I’ve felt much better with this simple switch and I think you can too.
Technically, sugar-free gum wouldn’t be allowed but the amount of sugar alcohols in the gum makes no difference. Sugar-free gum helps you get rid of a sour taste/bad breath that can develop while fasting.
That said, unless you’re measuring your blood glucose levels every day, it’s hard to determine if the gum can break your fast or not. This is why I choose to either avoid or have it only once a day. Nonetheless, I mentioned it in the list since it’s been helpful.
Have Something Better Than Food
Have you ever been so lost in work that you forgot to have lunch? Perhaps you’ve been through a 3-hour meeting realizing it’s already 5 pm. (No? Only me? Ughh)
At any rate, keeping yourself busy is the surest way to avoid the temptation of food. It helps to use your enhanced mental powers to make progress and forget about food at least for a day.
This is why I often feel fasting on a weekday is better than doing it on a weekend since it keeps one busy either at work or in meetings.
Breaking Fast With a Feast?
During my initial days of fasting, I gave myself permission to feast on anything for dinner. After all, I hadn’t eaten anything the whole day! I’d pile up on a bunch of rice, and perhaps a dessert too.
However, feasting on high-carb, high-sugar food can lead to refeeding syndrome leaving you confused, weak, brain-fogged, with a slew of other symptoms.
Normally our bodies use up metabolic energy to produce digestive enzymes and juices to break down the food we consume. When we fast, these digestive enzymes and juices are no longer produced as they are not needed.
This means while fasting, our bodies are devoid of digestive enzymes and juices. Therefore, we need to be careful when breaking a fast because it will take some time before the body produces these necessary chemicals that are needed to break down food.
If you absolutely want a delicious dinner like me, try breaking your fast 1–2 hours earlier with the easily-digestible foods like nuts, smoothies, fruits, bone broth, eggs, dry fruits, and so on
Keep It a Secret
Don’t tell others that you’re fasting for people will usually not understand. Whenever I’d been invited out by friends on a fasting day, I was sick of saying no to their requests. They ask weird questions and go in rambling about how good food is crucial for a good life!
Don’t draw any attention to the fact that you’re fasting. Trust me, it’ll make your life much easier.
Affirm Your Real Nature
I’ll end this with a spiritual point, because fasting, is more spiritual and mental than physical. In reality, all of us are souls — we’re not the body or the mind.
The body feels hungry but the soul doesn’t. The mind may think of food and crave it, but the soul doesn’t.
So whenever you feel you can’t do it or someone tells you that you need to eat regularly to be energetic, affirm to yourself — “I’m neither this body nor this mind. I am Spirit.”
Of course, you need to take care of the body, but fasting for a day will not do harm. If anything, it will revitalize your system and give your organs much-needed rest. This simple thought of our true nature helps me to avoid temptation and keep cravings at bay.
Important Note: All the tips above should be put into practice after taking any special health condition that you might have.