While it was once considered a dietary taboo and an unhealthy way to lose weight, recent research has found that fasting isn’t actually that bad for you, and is a very effective way of losing weight if you do it correctly.
There are several ways to fast – ranging from low to no food sources to timed fasting periods only. It’s important to understand how they all work so that you can choose the fasting diet that’s right for you.
Basic Principles of a Fasting Diet
While there are many different kinds of fasting diets out there, there’s a constant theme between all of them. Fasting almost always involves choosing not to eat or drink for some predetermined amount of time.
What varies between the different kinds of fasting diets is what you can have while fasting, how long you fast for, and how often you fast. Easily the most popular form of fasting right now is the intermittent fasting diet.
Intermittent fasting involves fasting for various shorter periods of time, as opposed to some diets which involve fasting for days, weeks, or months on end. Another popular form of fast is the master cleanse fast, which involves no solid food.
You drink a certain amount of a mixed drink each day, and have a different drink for the morning and for the night. This fast supposedly clears out and detoxifies your system, making you feel better and helping you lose weight.
Even within each type of fasting diet, you can find subcategories that differ from each other. For example, within intermittent fasting, you can either choose the 24 hours per week fast, or the 2 days fasting 5 days normal eating diet.
While all of these variations will yield similar results, you have to find out what works best for you. There are also certain rules that vary between fasts. Some fasts only allow a miniscule amount of calories in the sub-1000 range, while others don’t allow anything during the fasting period aside from water.
Again, you may find one easier or more effective than the other, so take some time to try different ones. Some have claimed that fasting can improve your health because our bodies are naturally used to going through periods of fasting.
Some say it leads to increased lifespans, while others claim that it can purify your system if it’s being sluggish due to excess fat and sugar. There are very few risks involved with fasting, because fasts are entirely voluntary.
If at any point during your fast you don’t feel right or end up having to break it, you can. It’s entirely up to you how long the fasts go on for, because when you’re ready to break it, you can just have a meal.
If you try a fast, but it ends up just being too difficult to follow, you can always slightly adjust it to fit your needs. You can decrease the frequency of the fast or shorten the lengths of the fast as needed.
Who a Fasting Diet Works Best For
Given the vast amount of variety, most people will be able to find a fasting diet that works best for them, if not more than one. It’s really more of a matter of testing out each one for a bit at a time, figuring out which one gives you the best results.
Most people would do best with the most popular form of fasting out there right now – the intermittent fast – because it’s very forgiving and follows a very basic, beginner’s fasting schedule.
Instead of going for weeks without eating, you’d simply take one day out of your week to either not eat or eat a max of around 500 calories. If you happen to have a day that you don’t feel like fasting, you could always move it to another day of the week, so it’s a very flexible diet.
If you’ve been feeling like you’re low on energy and not very active, then a juice cleanse might be an option that can pick you back up. Many people report increases in energy and revitalization after only about two weeks on the diet.
This is likely because when you give your body the opportunity to go through and detoxify your system, you essentially unclog many systems in your body. Your body will be able to clear itself out more effectively if you give it time to catch up and clear your system out.
Generally speaking, there are a few groups of people who probably shouldn’t try fasting over another diet. For example, pregnant women need all of the nutrients they can get so their baby can fully and healthily develop.
If you don’t eat enough, your baby might not get all of the nutrients it needs. If you’re diabetic, there are a few things to keep in mind when looking into a fasting diet. Some people have claimed that they were able to overcome their type II diabetes through fasting diets, but every diabetic isn’t the same.
Check with your doctor before beginning any kind of fasting diet. Additionally, this diet is only really good for losing weight. Some people do go on diets to gain weight through building muscle, and this isn’t really the right diet for that.
However, given that most dieters are looking for weight loss and not weight gain, this diet is perfect for them. Those who are very active would be wise to try a different diet instead of fasting, as well.
If you’re active, your body needs a pretty good amount of energy, and if you have a day where you only eat 500 calories, you’re probably going to underperform physically. If you’re looking for a good way to lose weight and don’t have a particularly active job, then this diet is ideal for you.
How to Get Prepared for a Fasting Diet
Before you begin your diet, you’ll obviously need to figure out which type of fast you’re going to adhere to. Each diet has different prerequisites and things you need to do in preparation for it, because fasting diets differ so heavily from one to another.
The generally accepted rule to follow before beginning a fasting diet is that you should already have some healthy foods stocked up to eat on non-fasting days. If you eat poorly six days of the week and fast one day of the week, you’ll still gain weight from the bad food.
If you’re doing an all-liquid detox diet like the master cleanse, you’ll need to get the proper foods and equipment ahead of time. You can buy premade plans for diets like the master cleanse, with all of the ingredients you’ll need.
You can also make your own plan if you’d prefer. If you’re making your own liquid fast plan, you’ll need things that you can juice and strain with. You can get good fruit juicers fairly easily from the Internet, allowing you to make drinks from vegetables and fruits.
This will be crucial for making morning drinks and snacks with essential nutrients. You can also get strainers to strain out any pulp or chunks from liquid meals like soups. If you’re going for a more traditional fast, you’ll need a meal plan for each fasting day.
If you’re doing one of the more hardcore fasts in which you don’t eat anything for a day, then your preparation is simple: you don’t need to get anything for that day. As long as you eat healthily for the other non-fasting days, you’ll see significant progress.
However, some people may be going for very low calorie days on their fasting days. For example, you might be limited to 600 calories one day of the week. You’ll need to get some low calorie snacks to have when you get hungry on that day, such as fruits and vegetables.
You’ll also need to decide if you want to consume your limited calories throughout the course of the day or all at once in a decent meal. Some people may prefer to have it all in one meal around lunch, so they can have enough to keep their energy up, while others may prefer snacking.
Some fasting diets recommend what is essentially a pre-diet, a diet to get your body prepared for the fast. Check online resources and figure out exactly what you’ll need for that diet, because the prep is important.
If you don’t follow those instructions, you might find it too difficult to go right into your fast, and your body may reject the new diet plan. You can also download food tracking apps to keep track of what you’ve had throughout the day, making sure you don’t exceed your calorie limit on certain days.
Sample Meal Plan for a Fasting Diet
Meal plans will vary greatly between each type of fast. For many fasts, the meal plan is very simple: nothing but water so that you stay hydrated. On the days of your fast, you might be allowed no food, so you’ll just have to keep your hunger pangs at bay with water.
Some fasting plans allow you to have certain things like bread in order to sustain yourself, but it varies between each fast. Some fasts actually require a fair amount of planning.
For example, the all liquid fast isn’t that easy to just pick up and do. You’d have to figure out what’s allowed like broth soups, juices, and nutrition shakes, and then schedule your meals around what you can actually have.
For example, for breakfast you might have some pulp-free apple or orange juice, or even something from a juicer like kiwi and watermelon juice. You can pair that with some milk to get some carbs in for energy as your day goes on.
You could, if your plan allows it, have some runny oatmeal as well, but some diets don’t consider this a liquid over a solid. For lunch and dinner, you can have soups without any chunks like meat or vegetables.
You can either use something with more broth or something more creamy, like a cream of mushroom soup. Make sure you’re still following your calorie limits throughout the day, but also be sure to stick to liquids.
If you’re doing an intermittent fast with a certain calorie limit throughout the day, you have a few options. You can either have all your calories at once in a bigger meal, or spread them out throughout the day in little snacks.
Let’s say, for example, that your max calories for your fasting day is 500. If you’re going to have all of those calories in one sitting, then you have a pretty good range to work with.
For example, you could have some chicken breast with a bit of pasta, vegetables, a hearty soup, and plenty more. Assuming you don’t have other snacks throughout the day, this meal should leave you with a lot of room to work with.
If you’re snacking throughout the day, then you should plan how many snacks you’ll be eating. If you go for about 5 snacks throughout the day, all around 100 calories, you’ll stay within your limits.
These snacks could include fruit, smoothies, nuts, chips, peanut butter, and more. Whatever you get, make sure you get something actually healthy, or you defeat the whole purpose of the fast.
This also applies to your non-fasting days, which are important to plan as well. If you gorge yourself on non-fasting days, not even a complete no food fast will help. You have to eat healthy no matter what on this diet in order to lose weight, but on days off you can have more healthy foods than you can on fast days.
Tips to Increase Success on a Fasting Diet
Fasting isn’t something that many people are used to doing. Naturally, when they try to get into a diet based on fasting, it will be difficult at first. Your body may try to reject the diet and get too hungry for you to operate anymore without breaking the fast.
There are a few ways to make your fast easier, though. For example, you can almost always drink something instead when you’re feeling hungry during your fast. Water would be the obvious first choice, since you need it anyway to keep your body functioning normally.
If you’re ever craving food during your fast, drink some water, maybe with some orange or lemon to add flavor. Stay away from using instant sweet drink mixes with your water, because they have too many calories.
A nice glass of water will usually make your hunger subside. Similarly, you can have tea and coffee, as long as there isn’t excess sugar added. This doesn’t mean you can have sweet tea or coffee drinks with caramel and cream added, but you can have green and herbal teas and coffee with a little bit of milk added.
Spices are also allowed, just no extra sweeteners, even if they boast no calories. Before starting your fast, you should consult your doctor or nutritionist to find out if it’d be the right type of diet for you.
They would be able to tell you if any medical condition you might have would be effected by the fast, and if that would have any serious or dangerous effects on your health.
If you really want to lose weight, make sure you continue eating healthy on your non-fasting days. Many people have attempted a fast only to eat poorly on their off days, entirely defeating the purpose of the diet and undoing all of their progress.
Try using a meal tracking website or app to log every meal and snack if you’re doing an intermittent fast, so that you’ll be able to see if you’re staying within your limits or not. You should also track your off days, just to make sure you’re still eating healthy foods during those times.
If you’re not already active, don’t try to begin being active while on a fast. Going on a walk may be fine, but going for a run or trying to set a new mile time isn’t the best idea. Your body needs energy to perform those actions, and if you’re low on fuel, which is what calories are, then you’ll only burn yourself out.
After picking your fast, make sure you’re not overdoing it. Your fast should never really be agonizing. It might be a bit uncomfortable at first, but never painful or something that you dread. If you don’t like fasting, stop doing it and try a different form of fasting or a different diet altogether.