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Fasting 101 – Part 10 – Breaking a Longer Fast


In the last issue, we discussed how to break a short fast. Short fasts are deemed fasts that are less than 20-24 hours. Anything 24+ hours is typically considered a longer fast. The longer you fast, the more important it becomes to break it properly. The body does some marvelous things to protect itself during fasting periods, and you wouldn’t want to undo all of that good work it has performed while you allowed things to rest and chill out, would you?

Strength train

In the beginning, your body may not want to strength train before breaking a fast. It may need to build up to this so start slow if needed. Instead of the normal 45-60 minutes heavy loads you would normally do, do 30-45 minutes, or try lighter weights. Over time, the body will adjust to working out in a fasted state. At this point, you will have ketones in your body that will help your body breakdown little to no muscle. Also, at this point, you will be insulin sensitive (remember the body will grab carbs up quickly when it is available), so the muscles will grab the proteins up to help with recovery.  Further, this will help you stay lean or build muscle tone.

Start light

Many longer fasters toot about drinking bone broth to break a fast. You can make this by boiling bones of chicken, cows, sheep, or goats (I added the sheep and goats because I think these are substitutes in the Caribbean but hold it against me if this is completely wrong). Purchase the powder from a trusted source (I’ve seen these in a few local stores) OR purchase the pre-made bone broth,  which I was shocked to see on island in one of the soup brands (Progressive was it?).

Bone broth has MANY benefits, such as rebuilding the gut layer that will break down with longer fasts.  I use collagen in my tea to break my fast because I typically have it on hand. Local stores sell the brands that indicate ‘bone broth collage’, but bone broth has collagen in it as it is made from some of the same parts collagen is made from. Pure collagen has more collagen as it uses more parts than just the bone.

I’ve also broken fast with watermelon which is another GREAT thing to break your fast with because it will digest in about ten minutes (it’s 98% water), not harm your digestive tract, satiate the body’s thirst, and spike the insulin due to fructose found in fruit. It’s best to have protein in your first light break; watermelon is a good alternative. It’s completely up to you how you decide based on your desired results. There is plenty of protein in collagen and bone broth.

Carbohydrates are the enemy

If you recall, when you fast, the cells can start to deplete the electrolytes in them. Again, the body has stored plenty of good stuff in there and will release it as it needs it. When you eat carbs (and too much protein), the cells will open (because the insulin has increased and the body is very insulin sensitive), and everything in your bloodstream will rush into that cell. This includes electrolytes you may have consumed during your fast (if you opted to do this) and/or those that were released from within the cell to maintain your body. Too much of this can damage the cell, leading to another set of issues.

What should you look to do?

To start, you will leave the carbs out to keep your insulin levels from spiking. Stick with a lean protein that has no salt or fat (oil) added to it.  You won’t have a massive insulin spike; you will get thiamin that’s needed to metabolize carbs later and replenish what you may have lost during the fast, and satiate you, so you don’t end up binging (and undo all the work done). This will be 4-8 ounces of lean protein.

Your next regular meal will be  2-3 hours later. When you have this meal, keep it clean, do not mix fats and carbs (as much as possible, have your fats with protein), and try to have high GI carbs if you are having carbs. This meal will be your last meal for another 16 or so hours. Why, you may wonder? Well, your digestive system is still fragile, and giving yourself another 16 hours will give it more time to recover from the resting it has done after a longer fast. You’ll want to restart the digestive process slowly, not shock it awake.

Your second meal suggestions?

For the first two days (after breaking the fast and after the next 16 hour fast), follow the guideline below.

  • Avoid fats when eating carbs. The insulin spike will cause the cells to absorb the fat as well. You don’t what that. Saturated and monounsaturated fats are hard to break down. If you add fats for caloric needs, stick with polyunsaturated fats. Plus, the digestive enzymes have slowed down because of the fast and cannot break down fats yet.
  • Eat clean! Your first (and every) meal should be very clean. Your body has just completed a very great rest cycle. You wouldn’t want to dirty things back up by putting junk back in.
  • Stick with high GI carbs. These carbs will help ensure that your body can break them down easily, which aids in ensuring your digestive system is protected during this time.
  • Stay away from raw veggies. You guessed it: your guts cannot manage it. Steamed is okay after your first protein meal.
  • Stay away from most gluten, nuts, and grains. Your body can’t break these down either.
  • Keep the sodium low. The more carbs you eat, the more the cell will open and receive the sodium, which can lead to water retention. In essence, stay away from the combination of sodium and carbs (salted French fries are out!).
  • Keep the meals small. Your digestive system will thank you.

If you’ve had longer fasts for some time, your body may have made some adjustments because it’s smart like that.  For instance, after six weeks of one 24-hour fast a week, you can try some raw veggies and see how it affects you.  Keenly monitor your responses over time. If you change that to a 36-hour fast, it’s back to the drawing board for your body.  The longer the fast, the more you need to be mindful of how you are breaking it. If you are switching it up each week (as you probably should), then you should probably keep your diet basic for the first two days after breaking it.

And as always, I am not a doctor, nurse, or even qualified to give you advice. I’m just a person who has decided to take her health seriously. I research, read published articles,  and watch others who have taken their health by the horns. What I type is what I have tried and what works for me.  You can try it as well. See if it works for you, but don’t hold us accountable as we (the magazine and I) are not medical professionals.