There are several types of fasting based on the time duration.
- Night fasting – typically done from 8pm to 8am followed by most people as a regular routine.
- Intermittent fasting – The most popular approach when the fasting window is 16 hours and eating window is 8 hours. People usually eat two or three times but within the eating window only.
- Intermittent dry fasting – Very few people follow this. It basically involves a complete fast for 16 hours which forbids even consumption of water or any fluid during the fasting window.
- 24 hour fasting – Most common type of fasting especially in India where a sunrise to sunrise Ekadashi vrat. A version of dry fast is also done once a year which is called nirjala Ekadashi.
- 36 hour fasting – Very common with people those who want to do prolonged fasting. The benefits of growth hormone, BDNF, stem cells and autophagy shoot up drastically during the 8 hour period between 24 hours to 36 hours.
- 48 hour fasting and beyond – This type of fasting is now gaining both popularity and acceptability. It not only gives amazing health benefits, but also mental clarity.
Beginning your fast
Your first aim should be to make the 8pm to 8am fast work. That means strictly finishing your dinner before 8pm. If you have an unsupportive family, impress upon them the benefits of having an early dinner. Same for after you get up in the morning. Do all the morning chores, go for a walk during sunrise and then keep your breakfast delayed till 8am.
Minimise your carbs and sugars during dinner. Consume adequate fat like butter, cheese and desi ghee while having dinner so that you feel full for the night. Wake up in the morning and have a glass or two of water and nothing else. If you are breaking your fast at 8am make sure you begin with a spoon of butter.
Most people prefer to go the next stage by skipping breakfast. You can even choose to skip dinner. Do what is comfortable with you. But skipping one meals will suddenly take you in the territory of intermittent fasting. Just be careful, it is not easy and not everyone can succeed. Here is what you need to know before you make the switch.
- As your body moves from sugar burning to fat burning, you will get headaches and dizziness. If the problem persists, break the fast and then resume your effort the next day.
- If you are having acidity problems on an empty stomach, drink sips of water.
- Many people feel hunger at 8 am. That is because cortisol is released into your system exactly at that time. That is the reason why you feel hunger exactly at that time. If you feel necessary you can drink bullet proof coffee or a spoon of butter.
- The more carbs you are eating, the more hungry you will get within three to four hours. Our food today mostly consists of carbs and sugars. So the best way to do a prolonged fast beyond 8 hours is to eat as much vegetables and fats to feel full for longer time. Reduce as much intake of carbs and sugars as much as you can. Stay off grains and see how good you will feel.
Once you are beyond 24 hours fasting, the next step should be 36 hours and beyond. This kind of fasting requires detailed preparation. It is not easy to switch from a lifetime of eating to fasting.
Choose a day when you are at home and nothing much to do. Staying indoors and keeping yourself busy with activity will help take away the thoughts about eating.
If prolonged fasting for the first time do not attempt any strenuous exercise even if it is part of your routine.
If you have high blood sugar or high BP, if you are overweight or diabetic do consult your doctor before fasting.
Breaking a fast is equally important specially after a prolonged fast. Do not consume anything other than fluids for the next 8 hours. Maybe a glass of electrolytes or fruit juice should be a good start point. Bone broth is the best to break a fast. Slowly move to semi solids and then to solids.