How to get the most out of your fast

One of the questions that I get asked a lot is “are there anyways to boost your odds of success when using intermittent or alternate day fasting?”

The answer is yes, but as to what specifically to do, that will depend on your buy in level and your health overall.

Remember that I do a combination of intermittent and alternate day fasting (which I will refer to as Ketofast as per Dr. Mercola’s book of the same name (here)) so I do things regularly to “get the most” out of my fasting days and my intermittent fasting window.

In my experience, here are the things that I do and I’ve seen clients do to “get the most out fasting”:

1) Sleep off hunger.

2) Get enough water.

3) Aim to control stress.

4) Create rules that work for you so you can achieve your targets.

5) Exercise, not too much, but at the right times to utilize optimized hormones.

6) Share with friends, family and support people.

I will explain each of these points in more detail below.

1) Sleep off hunger.

This is pretty straight forward.  This refers to going to be a bit earlier when you are able to and if you are feeling extra hunger during a fasting period (intermittent or day).  This will decrease your hunger pangs during an often difficult time, and it will help you catch up on sleep.  Interestingly, if you, like many are trying to use fasting as a strategy to prevent (usual) winter weight gain, then going to bed early in and of itself can help decrease carb cravings that can occur when our awake hours are the same during the shorter days and longer nights of winter vs. the summer.  See my post on Dealing with SAD (here).

2) Get enough water.

It really goes without saying by this point that adequate hydration is absolutely critical for health and if someone is attempting to lose body fat and also purposely eat fewer calories over a period of time, increasing your water intake can be invaluable in helping you achieve these goals by helping to decrease the intensity of hunger pangs that occur, and giving you adequate water to allow for flow of any toxic substances once stored in your fat to flush out of your system.

3) Aim to control stress.

There is a large relationship between increased stress and increased hunger in many people (CITE).  It is important to have strategies that you know you can use (including primary and fall back ones) that do NOT require food or beverages in order to deal with stress/de-stress.  This way you separate nutritional intake from stress management and should be able to avoid the increased intake of starchy or sweet “comfort foods” that is all to common now a days.

4) Create rules specific to you that will help you achieve your goals.

This is where you get to be as strict or as flexible to the concepts of a fast as you can handle.  Remember, there are obviously greater benefits the more strict you can adhere to it, but I’m practical and a realist and have been to this rodeo before and know that if we practice “all or nothing” thinking that more often than not people just quit (the nothing part of it) and will get net zero benefits.  A prime example of this is coffee intake during fasting hours.  Obviously, this will slightly break your fast, however, I do this myself with cream (sometimes a fair amount) and still am able to get results.  Maybe it took longer for me to get my results than if I drank black coffee or none whatsoever, but I like coffee, so to heck with that.  I chose a specific plan that allows me to stick with my fasting program and set myself up for success rather than failure.

5) Exercise, not too much, but at the right time to utilize optimized hormone patterns.

Obviously, when you are eating a controlled amount of food (or none at all) it’s important to not increase stressors on yourself too much, otherwise you could stimulate increased hunger hormones or even become injured. But, during and after these controlled fasts your hormones (if operating normally) will be primed for fat burning (during a fasting window) and also (after a fasting window with a bit of adjustment) muscle building.  You will have to experiment with different workout times and protocols to find what is best for your goals.  Obviously, if your goal is to get leaner, your strategy should take advantage of the fat burning hormones during a fasting window (especially towards the end). While, if your goal is (re) building muscle then your protocol should take advantage of the anabolic hormones that can be present after breaking your fast (using highly protein foods, which I will cover in a future post).  Bottom line try out some exercise protocols well suited for your goals and see if you can enhance your results using a good fasting protocol.  NOTE: You might need to adapt a fasting protocol first, then integrate an exercise program once you are comfortable and reliable with fasting.

6) Share with friends, family and support people.

This is one of the most important elements of behavior change success.  The will to succeed and to execute a behavior plan definitely comes from within, but especially if you interact with people on a regular basis, it’s important to explain to them what it is you are doing, to what end and how what they do might help/hurt you.  In this way, you eliminate excuses for yourself and help to enlist any of those in your life who are willing to help you in one way or another.

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Yours in fitness & health!

Dan T