Fasting has been around for as long as man has walked the earth, and is in my opinion, the most effective, healthiest, quickest and easiest way to help you lose weight. People are often surprised at how much easier it is to eat nothing than to eat small meals that leave you hungry and then battling hormones and blood sugar.
However in modern society, as with many things, anything easy is rarely worthwhile. So this is my guide to how to make your fasting day as painless as possible.
1. When to fast
Choosing the right days to fast is vital, ideally you want to pick days when you are busy and have the most control over your environment with the least temptations. So weekends are often best avoided, as are days when you have an important work lunch or a party. Days out are also bad, as you will often be surrounded by temptations (ice cream, my own personal vice, at the cinema is a good example)
The time of day you do your fast is a personal choice. For me, start after your dinner in the evening (ideally an early one), sleep, skip breakfast, skip lunch, eat dinner 24 hours later. Job done.
2. How long to fast
24 hours seems to be the optimum time, balancing the effect of the fast and the ease in which to complete it.
The great thing about 24 hour fasting, is that by timing it right, you still get to eat everyday.
3. How often to fast
Anywhere from 1 to 3 days per week. But avoid consecutive days. If you are just starting and are highly motivated, 3 days is great (so Monday, Wednesday and Friday), but not for more than 28 days, and no more than twice a year as you don’t want to burn out.
January is always a good month after the excess of the holiday season, as is the month before that beach holiday or wedding.
Otherwise stick to 1 or 2 days per week depending on how you feel
4. Surviving the fast
If you have chosen the right day etc you will already be most of the way there. On the day, you need to drink a lot of water (even better add a dash of lemon). For me, a large glass of water and a black coffee when I wake up seems to persuade my body that it isn’t hungry.
Black tea and Coffee are both extremely effective at putting off any hunger pangs.
Distract yourself. Training at the gym seems to cure most hunger pangs.
Once you have done a fast you will know for next time, when your body starts to complain, so plan ahead and do something before it hits.
5. Hitting a wall
Sometimes 20-ish hours in, you will hit a wall and feel that you can’t go any further. If this happens, make yourself a protein shake. It will fill you up and get you through to the end. Whilst it’s not a strict fast at this point (depending on who you listen to anyway, as the warrior diet and 5:2 both seem to allow limited eating during a fast) it is better than finishing your fast early.
6. After the fast
Eat normally and properly (ideally Paleo/low carb), don’t binge but eat until you are full.
Depending on a huge number of factors, including age, sex, bodyweight, physical activity etc etc. You should expect to lose between 0.5 – 1.5lbs per week for every days fasting. So for a month of 3 days per week fasting, that’s around 12lbs. You can add another 50% to that figure if combined with eating well (see above) and perhaps another 25% with a good exercise plan (Strength training is most important for good body composition i.e. burning fat not muscle and maintaining your metabolism so that you don’t put the weight back on the moment you stop)
Finally, good luck and enjoy the journey.
Richard aka The Fat Executive
Important note: Before you fast make sure you are healthy enough to do so. Please check with your doctor first and anyone with a history of eating disorders, low blood pressure or any other medical condition should avoid it. The advice on diabetes is mixed so suggest it is best avoided unless under medical supervision.