Notes from a Pro- How to Prepare for Your First Fast
After hearing so much about fasting, you have decided to give it a shot. Although it seems pretty simple, just don’t eat, there are many things you can do to set yourself up for success before your fast.
Here are a few of our favorite registered dietitian-approved tips to get you started:
1. Speak to your doctor.
Fasting has many health benefits, but it is not for everyone. Just like any new diet or exercise regimen, if you have any concerns about how it will impact your health, it is best to speak to your doctor ahead of time. This is especially important if you have a diagnosed medical condition or prescription medication, as these may interfere with both the safety and the impact of fasting, as well as the effectiveness of the medications.
2. Don’t binge before your fast.
You might be tempted to load up on unhealthy foods before starting your fast to “stock up. But, it’s best not to do this. If you eat a ton of high carbohydrate foods, for example, this might ramp up your cravings for carbs and sugar during your fast making it more challenging to stick with your program.
Instead, start your fast with a normal, balanced meal. This should include vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fat. Some examples would be salmon with brown rice and broccoli or steak with quinoa and a large salad on the side. If you nourish your body, it will likely cooperate with you as you get started with fasting.
3. Decide on the length of your fast.
There are many different types of fasting. The one you choose depends on your goals and lifestyle.
As a dietitian, I recommend starting with a more moderate 16:8 protocol if you are a beginner before moving into the longer fasts. With this method you fast for 16 hours, while maintaining an 8 hour eating “window”.
Starting with a shorter fasting period will allow you to ease in so you can begin to understand how it works for you.
4. Choose your fasting window.
Decide what time you want to start your fast. Most people start after dinner, then fast until lunch or later. You can choose to eat a later dinner, if you don’t mind skipping breakfast. I personally like to eat breakfast, so I prefer to eat dinner around 5pm, so I can eat breakfast around 9am and still maintain my fasting window. Choose what works best for you.
5. Gather your fluids and supplements.
Although you are technically not eating, there are a few things you will consume during your fast. You want to have these ready before you start.
Water is the most important fluid during a fast. Be sure to have plenty of fresh water on hand readily available. Electrolyte water may help you stay better hydrated as well.
You can choose to fast with or without caffeine. A cup of coffee or tea can really help get you moving in the morning and stave off hunger. If you want to avoid caffeine, consider tapering off a few days before so you don’t have a withdrawal headache while fasting.
Supplements are not mandatory during fasting, but here are a few you might want to consider especially if you are planning on a longer fasting period:
- MCT oil
- Bone broth
- Electrolyte tabs
- Sea salt to add to water
Once you have everything in place and have decided on how long you will fast, you are ready to get started.
Wishing you a successful first fast!