The practice of fasting for a limited period is well-known in various ancient cultures for thousands of years, whether as part of a religious ritual or for medicinal purposes. Fasting accelerates the exchange of substances, prevents cellular aging, and even improves the immune and brain systems. The benefits of fasting, whether done once every few months or as part of a daily routine (intermittent fasting), include:
Blood Sugar Regulation: Fasting has a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, making the body respond better to sugar and carbohydrates. Insulin, responsible for removing glucose from the blood and transporting it into various cells in our body, becomes more efficient after a period of fasting.
Anti-aging: One of the characteristics of aging is the slowing down of metabolism and cellular aging. As we eat less, the workload on our digestive system decreases. Fasting delays aging and accelerates the repair mechanisms in cells that combat the gradual accumulation of damage that comes with age.
Regulation of Hunger and Fullness Hormones: Most of us don't feel true hunger because we eat every three to four hours. An average person needs to abstain from food for 12 to 24 hours to experience real hunger. Fasting helps reset and regulate the hormones in the body related to the feelings of hunger and fullness.
Brain Health: Fasting increases the production of the protein "brain-derived neurotrophic factor" (BDNF). This protein encourages the activity of compounds in the brain that contribute to the health of the nervous system. BDNF also protects brain cells from changes related to the development of diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Immune System Function: Fasting reduces oxidative damage caused by free radicals and encourages the immune system to produce new white blood cells, a key factor of the immune system.
Mental Health: When the body is lighter and the mind is clearer, we feel more conscious and alert to our surroundings. We can develop a heightened awareness of the "here and now" more easily. Fasting directs the energy that was once needed for digestion and makes it available to other systems in the body. Fasting allows us to feel better both physically and mentally.
A proper diet maintains the health of the body and soul. It can also help you easily go through relatively long fasts. During the fast, our bodies utilize all the carbohydrate reserves it has. In the advanced stages of fasting, there is a significant drop in blood sugar levels and a loss of energy. However, do not attempt to use one-time fasting to lose weight. 24 hours really cannot help you lose weight, and if you do, it's only temporary weight loss. Nevertheless, fasting can be used as a kind of detox for the body, so it is especially important to adhere to proper nutrition before and after fasting. To avoid headaches, weakness, and nausea during the fast, it is very important to prepare the body about five days before your fasting day, and to eat properly in the pre-fast meal. In order to prevent a sudden rise in blood glucose levels, it is important to end the fast gradually and carefully.
In preparation for fasting
These dietary preparations can help your body adjust more smoothly to fasting for 24 hours or longer. It's important to listen to your body and make adjustments as needed during the fasting period. Remember to break your fast gradually and gently to avoid discomfort.
Five days before the fast:
Reduce your caffeine intake. It is recommended to stop drinking coffee at least two days before the fast to prevent headaches that many people experience during fasts.
Two days before the fast:
Make sure to drink a glass of room temperature water every hour and a half.
Eat balanced and nutritious meals. Each meal should include a substantial amount of protein (animal or plant-based), complex carbohydrates (such as brown or black rice, quinoa, bulgur, pearl barley, whole oats, sweet potatoes, and beets), and healthy fats (avocado, tahini, olives, nuts, and seeds).
Start your meal with a fresh salad to increase the dietary fiber content and slow down blood sugar absorption.
Avoid processed and spicy foods, and reduce salt intake in your meals.
Consume less sugary foods in the days leading up to the fast (and in general).
On the day of fasting:
Start your day with a large glass of vegetable juice rich in dietary fiber (celery, parsley, cucumber). You can also incorporate low-glycemic fruits like apples or pears.
Avoid letting yourself get too hungry before the break-fast meal; have several small meals throughout the day.
Drink at least two liters of water 24 hours prior your fasting day.
Last meal before the fast starts
Start with with warm water or a warm clear soup.
Ensure your last meal is balanced with complex carbohydrates, double the protein portion, and healthy fats.
Your meal should be satisfying but not overly heavy.
It's recommended to avoid fried and fatty foods that might be heavy on your digestion system.
Try to avoid ending the meal with a sweet dessert, as it may make you feeling hungry again in a few hours.
Finish the meal with a cup of herbal tea, such as cloves, chamomile, cinnamon, hibiscus, and a bit of honey.
During the fast
A fasting day provides an opportunity to connect with yourself and your loved ones. Use it as a day of rest, meditative sitting, listening to a calming book or music, engaging in deep conversations, and enjoying tranquility.
Avoid exposure to direct sunlight and physical activity. It's not a good time for organizing closets or embarking on a high-intensity hike.
Ending the fast
Begin with warm herbal tea and a date or a clear soup.
Make sure to drink warm water before eating.
Eat about two hours later: a large portion of complex carbohydrates, a bit of protein, and a bit of healthy fat.
Avoid strenuous physical activity during the fast and for about 12 hours after breaking the fast.
These guidelines can help you have a more comfortable and mindful fasting experience. Remember to listen to your body's signals and adjust your actions accordingly during the fasting period.