Intermittent fasting can improve health, reduces the risk of serious illness, and promotes longevity. Perhaps you're intrigued and would like to give it a go but aren't sure how to start. Or maybe you have tried it once or twice and found it too challenging. This article will give you strategies and guidelines to practice intermittent fasting safely and successfully.
Intermittent fasting is usually practiced in one of these three ways:
a) Only eat from 6pm to bedtime every day, b) 24hr fast on alternate days, or c) One or two 36-hr fasts each week. It's worth experimenting with all 3 strategies to see which works best for you in terms of your lifestyle and effect on your health and wellbeing.
As long as you are in reasonable health it is safe to do a short term fast (up to 36hrs). However, it is important that you are aware of the following contraindications.
Don't do intermittent fasting if you are pregnant, diabetic, suffering from a serious illness, or taking any prescribed medications. If in doubt it is best to consult with your health care provider.
In addition, if you current lifestyle isn't that healthy (lots of junk food, over-the-counter and recreational drugs, alcohol, and the like) then it is probably best to improve these for a month or two before starting intermittent fasting.
I've compiled a list of important guidelines to help you to get the most out of your intermittent fasting experience. They are designed primarily for the 36hr fast but most of them apply to the 24hr fast as well.
1. Pick a day that isn't too hectic or demanding because you may experience some detox reactions. Make sure you have the option to relax if you need to. You will get more out of the experience if you make time to turn inward, still the mind, meditate, contemplate, and listen to your inner guidance.
2. Enlist Support from people close to you before you start. It's great to fast with your partner so you can both motivate each other and share experiences.
3. Eat lightly the evening before by choosing a large salad or steamed vegetables with some lean protein. There is no point gorging the night before because it will make you feel even hungrier whilst you fast. It's best to avoid alcohol as well.
4. Keep hydrated during the fast as your body has an essential need for fluid. Water, herbal teas, and vegetable juices are good choices. Have at least 2litres of fluid during the day. Avoid coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, fruit juice, and alcohol.
5. Have 1 or 2 glasses of vegetable juice as it will provide important electrolytes as well as having a health-boosting alkalizing effect. Try juicing celery, cucumber, chicory, fennel, and watercress. Avoid carrots and beets as they are quite high in sugar.
6. Don't fight feeling hungry because you most probably will. Just be with the sensation without judgment, rather than resisting it (but read guideline 10 below).
7. Engage in light exercise such as walking, stretching, and gentle yoga. This is not the day to do an intense gym workout or anything too vigorous.
8. Add some breathing exercises such as yogic pranayama. A few minutes of practice offer amazing benefits from detoxification to boosting energy.
9. Expect some detox symptoms such as headaches, grogginess, or short periods of jitteriness. These are made worse if you usually have lots of caffeine and sugar in your diet. Avoid taking over-the-counter medication to reduce these side effects. Instead rest, go for a walk, and practice breathing exercises.
10. Listen to your body wisdom and if you feel unwell or it gets too much then have some food. Your body knows best.
11. Break the fast gently the following morning. Have water or herb tea and a piece of fruit when you get up then 30min later have your usual breakfast. Eat as usual for the rest of the day (you probably won't feel the need to overeat.
Pay attention to how you feel during and after the fast. Notice changes in your energy, emotions, and mental state. A common experience is to notice an energy slump in the early part of the fast followed by an energy surge later and the following day. You may notice food is far more enjoyable on the day after the fast because your senses are heightened.
Remember it can take a few attempts to get used to this practice. After a few weeks your body will get used to it and the benefits you feel will increase as the discomfort simultaneously decreases.
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