Breaking A Fast
These days, weight loss is priority number one for thousands of people all over the world. What they are looking for are effective dietary and workout plans that could result in the effect they desire within a short period of time. Perhaps due to the urgency of time, these people often make serious adjustments in their lives by starting a new diet without properly digging into the data to find out about which nutrition plan they should choose. This is a major mistake, as certain details tend to be what is most important when it comes to health. Intermittent fasting is an effective meal plan which has hundreds of supporters. As a rule, when the weight-watchers decide upon this diet they are choosing the most suitable schedule for fasting and figuring out the foods they will eat during their “eating windows”. However, there is an important detail they usually ignore – how to break a fast correctly and without harm to your health and digestive system in particular. In this article you will discover detailed information about which foods are better to avoid in order in order to not lose the gained benefits of the diet and which foods are most suitable for breaking a fast. There are also some facts about intermittent fasting itself, as to its effect on your body. Read on to find out!
Intermittent fasting: a short guide
Our modern weight loss world offers an enormous number of dietary plans – all of them promise you incredible results. Of these, intermittent fasting is one that is listed among the most popular diets. The idea is that you do not eat on certain periods of time daily during a week (4).
Such a diet helps to trim off unwanted pounds as you significantly limit your calorie intake, and at the same time, improve your overall health metrics. Along with physical exercises on a regular basis, it causes the lowering of your risks for diabetes and even some types of cancer. According to some evidence, it can also improve one’s health related to such medical conditions as stroke, asthma, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and more.
There are numerous approaches to this diet. For example, some dieters prefer following their regular meal plan five days a week and fast the other two days. Others fast every second day. Another widespread approach is to eat only during an 8-hour window of the day and fast the rest of the day.
This diet is basically safe for the majority of people, but not exactly suitable for anyone. It is critical to consult your doctor before starting this nutrition plan. You should also keep in mind that intermittent fasting can lead to a number of side effects, such as hunger, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, and more. However, you shouldn’t let this bother you as these effects usually fade away after about a month when your body gets used to the new regime (12).
How to break a fast?
Yes, intermittent fasting doesn’t look like something extremely hard and in the majority of cases the dieters don’t pay some special attention to the details. Very often the followers of this dietary pattern are very careful with the start of their fasting day. They pay attention to their bodies and incorporate this lifestyle change very gently. Many people, though tend to neglect another important aspect – that it is as crucial to break the fast carefully and correctly as well.
First, it is important to understand that there are several types of fasts. There are long and short fasts which are based on length of time. A 12-24-hour long fasting period is considered to be short-term, and the one which lasts for more than 36 hours, is a long-term one. These have different effects on your body.
You experience a short-term fast almost every day, even if you don’t follow an intermittent fasting dietary pattern. This happens as you have the period between after eating your dinner until you have your first meal the next day. Such fasting has no specific impact on your body and digestive functions in particular. Breaking this type of fasting also doesn’t require any special approach or planning. However, longer-term fasting has a bit of a different effect on your body. During such fasts your body is more likely to decrease the amount of digestive enzymes produced by your digestive system. This is why returning to eating on this type of fast requires more attention and planning.
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The work of your body during your fasting days
Let’s figure out more details about the work of your body during your fasting days. When you just start with your intermittent fasting journey, your body will need some time to adjust. During your usual diet, when you ate regularly, your body used metabolic energy to produce digestive enzymes to effectively process the foods you consumed. This all changes when you start practicing intermittent fasting. Your body just doesn’t need and therefore doesn’t produce the same amount of enzymes, and instead your metabolic energy is used for other functions in your body. Perhaps for this reason fasters often experience a burst of energy and have increased feelings of wellbeing (6).
Breaking a long-term fast can lead to a litany of side effects. When you start eating again after a prolonged period of fasting and after your body has slowed its production of enzymes down, you may notice bloating, stomach pains, diarrhea, nausea and more. This happens because your body doesn’t have necessary amounts of digestive enzymes to process the foods you eat, and so it stays in your stomach longer. At this time, your body needs a couple of hours or more to start digesting the food.
There are several efficient methods that can help you to minimize these side effects. First, it is important to fast on a regular basis. In this way, your body gets used to this dietary pattern and doesn’t cease producing enzymes. As a result of this, you won’t face such side effects at the end of your fasting period. Of course, after a certain period of practicing intermittent fasting of a nutrition type, you will be able to finish your fasts the way you like. But note that it is important to exercise caution during the very beginning of your new lifestyle (approximately first 2 months).
Second, use of the best foods for breaking a fast will help you to avoid or minimize the above listed side effects. So now the question is, which foods to eat and which to avoid when breaking a fast?
Foods to avoid when breaking a fast
There are foods which can be too tough on your digestive system and it is better to avoid them until your body gets used to this dietary pattern and understands that it is not a stress, but a new lifestyle. Below you can see a list of foods that are NOT a good choice for breaking your fast.
- Nuts and seeds (including nut and seed butters)
- Raw cruciferous vegetables (you can replace them with cooked ones)
- Red meat
- Foods which are problematic for you personally
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t eat these foods at all. After a 6-hour window, your body will be used to the fact that the fast is finished, and you can safely eat all the listed above foods. In addition it’s important to avoid junk food, as they are packed with fats and sugar.
What to eat when breaking a fast?
First, it is better to start your non-fasting days carefully and gradually. If you eat something high-fat, sugary and even fiber-packed immediately after your fast, it will place a huge stress on your digestive system. You should start with small portions and choose the foods which are easier to digest. In this way you won’t overload your digestive tract and will avoid unpleasant side effects. So for example, it is better not to drink soda or eat your favorite burger at this time. Even healthy foods which are high in fiber, such as nuts and seeds can be harmful for you at first. Below you can find a list of foods that can help you break a fast gently and gradually.
For example, an avocado, or a hard-boiled egg will be perfect for this case. Healthy fats also have a number health benefits – they lower your risks of heart disease and stroke, reduce your blood pressure and more (9).
They are nutritious and won’t be such a fiber bomb for your body as raw fruits and veggies. Here you can add your favorite ingredients and get a drink with essential nutrients.
A great source of carbs that will be easily digested, and with protein. Such ingredients as pasta, lentils or tofu could help you to finish your fast gently.
Raisins or dried apricots can be a great snack on the early part of your non-fasting days. Dates are a nice option as well, as they are packed with essential nutrients (10).
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Breaking a fast can be much easier with vegetables. However, you should opt for the soft and starchy cooked veggies, such as potatoes.
This type of food is beneficial for your digestive system. Yogurt and kefir will not only help you to break fast gently, but will support the health of your digestive tract as well. They can populate the gut with good bacteria (3). Kefir is supportive of your immune system and has antimicrobial properties (8). Yogurt is packed with probiotics, which help to prevent and treat diarrhea, constipation, respiratory tract infections and more (11). As you can see, fermented foods are an ideal option in this regard.
Some recommendations for your success
Here you can find some tips that will help you to break a fast safely.
- You can start breaking your fast with hydration. You probably know that drinking water has a wide range of benefits for your health. It helps to maintain the balance of your body fluids, control calories, improves your skin health and supports the proper function of your kidneys, helps you to lose weight and more (5). It is also a great option for ending your fast.
- When you break your fast, it is better to get your protein from fish and poultry. The size of the portion should be similar to the size and thickness of your palm. You can add non-starchy, above the ground veggies. Make sure to use healthy fats, such as butter, ghee, or coconut oil in preparation. If you still feel hungry after these foods, you can have an avocado, which is packed with nutrients.
- It was mentioned above, that it is better to avoid alcohol when breaking a fast. Here are some details. If you consume alcohol after fasting, you may experience alcoholic ketoacidosis, in which ketones are very high in the blood, and blood glucose is extremely low. This diagnosis is accompanied with such symptoms as abdominal pain and vomiting. This is primarily common among the individuals who are dependent on alcohol. There have been such cases recorded among people who had little to no food before drinking high amounts of alcohol (1).
- Make sure to avoid overeating at meals and consuming junk food during your non-fasting period. Overeating not only has harmful impact on your health (7), but will undo all the benefits you get from your fasting. It is better to focus on minimally processed and whole foods.
- If you fast for a long period of time, you can experience vitamin deficiency. In order to support your health, you can take supplements while fasting. It is important to choose those ones which won’t break your fast. Sugar-free multivitamins with no added fillers, fish oil, pure collagen, probiotics, prebiotics, and creatine are unlikely to break your fast.
What can I drink during my fasting period?
Fasting days (or parts of the day) are the most difficult times for the followers of this dietary plan. Yes, you shouldn’t eat anything during this time. If however, fasting becomes unbearable for you, there are some drinks that may help you to manage it.
Water is a good option not only for breaking your fast, but for dealing with the fast as well. It can help to suppress your appetite, and it will be much easier for you to not to eat during the daylight hours (2).
Tea and coffee
Intermittent fasting allows drinking low- and zero-calorie beverages in moderate amounts. Tea and coffee won’t break your fast. However, make sure to choose unsweetened drinks without added ingredients, such as milk or heavy cream. A better option is to have simple green, black or herbal tea.
In conclusion, as you can see, breaking a fast requires as much of a special effort and focus on time as when starting it. It is important to be careful and attentive to your body. You should carefully choose what foods to eat during your first non-fasting day so as to avoid unwanted side effects.
Fasting can be challenging for dieters, as it is important to take care of your body. Make it a rule to consult a health professional before leaping into your diet. In this way you’ll avoid possible risks for your health and will achieve your fitness goal much sooner. Take care and appreciate yourself.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Alcoholic ketoacidosis (2006, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Can water help you lose weight? (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Kefir or yogurt: Which is better? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Seven ways to do intermittent fasting (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- 6 Reasons to Drink Water (2008, webmd.com)
- The Adaptation of Digestive Enzymes to the Diet: Its Physiological Significance (n.d., pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Effects of Overeating (n.d., livestrong.com)
- The Microbiota and Health Promoting Characteristics of the Fermented Beverage Kefir (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between (2019, health.harvard.edu)
- The unexpected truth about dates and hypoglycemia (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Using probiotics in clinical practice: Where are we now? A review of existing meta-analyses (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What is intermittent fasting? Does it have health benefits? (2020, mayoclinic.org)