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Best Practices for a Successful Fast

by | Dec 2, 2020 | +STRATEGIES

There’s plenty of debate over what the best fasting method is. But when it comes to best practices that make for a successful fast, most experts are in agreement.

We’ve gathered 9 expert-approved action steps that you can take before, during, and after your fast in order to maximize your results. 


Sleep is the foundation of a successful fast.

Getting 7-8 hours of sleep ensures that your stress levels are low, your energy is high, and your hunger is in check. [1] Not getting enough z’s disrupts your ghrelin/leptin balance, which leads to intense food cravings that can squash a fast.[2]

You can try a hundred different bio-hacks for a better fast, but nothing can make up for a poor night’s sleep. So whether you’re doing your first 24-hour fast or sticking with your 16/8 schedule, practice good sleep hygiene:

  • turn off blue lights two hours before bed
  • wear blue-light-blocking glasses after dark
  • don’t eat within three hours of bedtime
  • get at least one hour of early sun exposure each day

Supplement with salt

Yes, there’s a reason why consuming salt is higher in this list than drinking water. That’s because drinking too much water during a fast without enough salt may not help you hydrate adequately

See, electrolytes are essential for maintaining fluid balance and for conducting electrical impulses throughout the body. [3] Your brain working correctly, your heart beating: these and many other essential functions depend on having enough electrolytes. And the most important electrolyte is sodium – which we typically get from salt.

Thing is, salt usually comes from food. So if you’re fasting and drinking more water than usual, you may develop low blood sodium concentration, if you are susceptible. [4] This could result in weakness, irritability, confusion, and low energy to start; and possibly even more serious side effects like headaches and heart palpitations. In addition, adding a little bit of salt helps the body to retain the water you drink in your body system to support a healthy level of blood pressure and other vital organ functions.

Best way to prevent all this? Just take the recommendation of fasting experts like Dr. James DiNicolantonio and add a pinch or two of sea salt to each glass of water you drink. You can even sprinkle some salt on your tongue if you start feeling a headache or energy crash coming on. But if you have high blood pressure or congested heart failure, you may want to check with your health care provider if this is a healthy practice for you.

Drink enough water

Food makes up 20-40% of our water intake, depending on the diet.[5] And since water is critical for metabolism and energy production, you’ll definitely want to drink enough of it. But ‘enough’ doesn’t necessarily mean downing a gallon of water in a day.[6]

Whenever you’re peeing a pale yellow color, that’s when your hydration is optimal. If your urine is dark yellow or orange, you need more. If it’s clear, you need less.

Just don’t forget to supplement with sea salt! [7]

Exercise and take walks

We have this idea that fasting and exercise are mutually exclusive. But in reality, exercise is important for keeping your metabolism high and your lymph system flowing – both of which are necessary when you fast.

Also, studies show that fasting won’t interfere with your gains in the gym and that it can speed up your fat loss efforts when combined with exercise. [8], [9]

During fasting, your body is likely to be in a negative nitrogen balance, so this is not the time to push your body to “build muscle” or exercise intensively. Pay attention to this, especially if you are fasting for the first time and not yet know how your body will respond to intense exercise. While experts don’t recommend exercising to failure while your fast – or anything that’s too high in intensity – you can and should attempt movement like

  • lighter gym routine
  • jogging relative to your routine
  • slow-pace swimming
  • easy rowing
  • and especially walking.

Stay as productive as possible

Back in the really really old days, fasting was a time of making stuff happen. You had to hunt. You had to gather. You had to perform even better than when you were fed, because if you didn’t get the next meal…you didn’t last.

Humans are naturally geared to be productive during a fast.

But even if your life isn’t on the line, you should still try to be as productive as possible – it distracts you from cravings! Being bored, on the other hand, gives you too many opportunities to obsess over food. So stay productive!

Write down 3-5 important goals for the day and fill yourself up with accomplishments.

Download a fasting app

Fasting apps are too valuable not to experiment with in your fasting journey. Many people report more consistency when they’re using a fasting app and that it’s easier to stick with an eating window.

Here are some of the main benefits of using a fasting app:

  • built-in timers let you know when it’s time to eat
  • you can keep track of your weight loss and other health goals
  • customized advice for when you’re struggling
  • support from social networks

Check out our article on the top 5 fasting apps to see which is right for you! [10]

Don’t break your fast with a huge meal

The mucous barrier of your intestines shrinks a bit as you fast, so big meals can actually be detrimental if you haven’t already broken your fast with something smaller. Raw vegetables can also cause irritation too.

Most fasting experts recommend breaking a fast with eight ounces of bone broth, which strengthens your gut lining. You can also opt for easily digested foods including bananas, fruit smoothies, or a small dish of rice and steamed veggies.  

The key is to keep your ‘breakfast’ small. This will give your digestive faculties enough time to wake up so that you can chow through a bigger, more savory meal without bogging you down or causing gastric distress.

Drink some apple cider vinegar in the morning

We know, apple cider vinegar (aka ACV) can seem a little woo-woo. But a recent study showed that taking just two tablespoons of ACV per day can boost weight loss by as much as 40% while significantly reducing waist measurements compared to a control group. [11] This means that apple cider vinegar is a potent fat-burner and fasting aid.

Try taking 1-2 tablespoons of ACV in 12-16 ounces of water, first thing in the morning. Since it’s highly acidic – and pucker inducing – it’s important to not consume ACV unless it’s been properly diluted.

Many fasters swear by this one trick as a way to reduce hunger and increase energy on fasting days.[12] You can also make an apple cider vinegar drink any time you’re feeling hungry during a fast.

Lean towards a low-carb, high-fat diet

This one might seem obvious to someone who’s been fasting for years. But for new fasters, it’s important to know that your fat burning ability determines how successful your fast is. If you load up on pasta and cereals in the days before your fast, your body will be so used to burning glucose for fuel that it’ll have a hard time transitioning to your own fat reserves during a fast.

This ability to transition from using carbs as fuel to using fats is called metabolic flexibility.

Fasting will help you to become more metabolically flexible over time. [13] But you can actually train your body to use fat for fuel simply by lowering your carb intake and increasing the quantity of fat you consume. You can also become more efficient at using fat for fuel by consuming a bulletproof coffee or tea for your first meal – a concept known as ketogenic fasting. [14]

Many intermittent fasters use a ketogenic diet in order to increase the fat-burning potential of their daily fasting window.

Read More:


[1] Popular Fasting Methods

[2] The Prevalence And Association Of Stress With Sleep Quality Among Medical Students

[3] A Single Night Of Sleep Deprivation Increases Ghrelin Levels And Feelings Of Hunger In Normal-Weight Healthy Men

[4] Electrolytes

[5] Hyponatremia

[6] Water-Induced Thermogenesis

[7] Sea Salt

[8] Time-Restricted Feeding In Young Men Performing Resistance Training: A Randomized Controlled Trial

[9] Beneficial Metabolic Adaptations Due To Endurance Exercise Training In The Fasted State

[10] If You Like Intermittent Fasting, You Have To Try These Top Fasting Apps

[11] Beneficial Effects Of Apple Cider Vinegar On Weight Management, Visceral Adiposity Index And Lipid Profile In Overweight Or Obese Subjects Receiving Restricted Calorie Diet: A Randomized Clinical Trial

[12] 3 Ways Apple Cider Vinegar Boosts Intermittent Fasting

[13] The Definitive Guide To Metabolic Flexibility

[14] The Big Idea Of Ketogenic Fasting