The Benefits of a 24 Hour Fast and When to do It
Hi, friends! If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I engage in a 24 hour fast to give my body a chance to refresh and repair itself each month. There are SO many benefits to this practice, and today I’d like to share a few as well as some insight of when to do it and when not to do it. Let’s start with the benefits.
Fasting can help control blood sugar and insulin resistance. Have you ever felt it when your blood sugar gets too low? Too high? By fasting, our body learns how to control these waves of energy and lessen the negative effects we might feel day to day. Our bodies are able to more efficiently break down glucose and use it for energy in the future, rather than lead to these highs and lows and insulin resistance later down the road.
It can help reduce inflammation and build your immune system. When we fast, the body is able to put all of its energy towards repairing itself and fighting bacteria that may be harmful to its system, rather than also having the task to break down food energy sources. This is why many will claim that when participating in fasting, they were sick less often than those who were not fasting. Who doesn’t want that during cold and flu season?!
Fasting helps increase human growth hormone in the body. This hormone is responsible for growth and repair of muscles, and it also plays a vital role in metabolism, weight loss, and muscle strength. This ties in to the point above; when our bodies have less stress and duties to perform it can run more efficiently when needed.
Though it may sound intimidating at first, fasting for 24 hours is totally doable! However, there are certain times when a fast is more appropriate than others.
Do fuel your body appropriately the day before. Fasting is not meant to be a method in which we restrict ourselves in the hopes of losing a few pounds. It is supposed to be a time in which we focus on proper hydration and repairing our bodies, not as a quick fix or starvation diet. Before you plan to fast, ensure that you are eating enough calories the day before. This will not only help your body function and repair better, but it will help with your mindset during the fast.
Don’t fast if you have a hard workout planned that day or if you are training for a strenuous event. When we fast, it is typically a day in which we focus upon active recovery (walking or yoga - low impact exercises) or complete rest. We should not be pairing fasting with strength training or long runs, as that will defeat the purpose of giving our bodies time to repair!
Do participate in a full 24 hour fast on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. It may be tempting to try out a few different methods of a 24 hour fast, but I recommend beginning on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. To gain the benefits of a 24 hour fast, it is NOT necessary to fast every other day as some of us have been told. Simply following this regimen on a specific day of the week each month will allow you to enjoy the benefits, while also letting you ease into it.
Do use fasting as a way to give your body a break when you are feeling ill. Feel a head cold coming on? Fasting may be the answer! With a benefit to the immune system as one of the key reasons one might fast, doing so on the onset of a cold may help you lessen your symptoms all together!
Don’t fast if you have underlying conditions. If you are pregnant or have a chronic disease, you’ll want to talk with your doctor before engaging in a 24 hour fast. He or she will know your case best to determine if this is for you.
Are you ready to try it out? It’s simple to get started: eat a nutrient-dense meal the night before and write down the time you stopped eating. This is the time you will break your fast the next day. When you wake up the following morning, focus upon hydration with water and herbal teas. When the time comes to break your fast, focus upon another nutrient-dense meal that is around 500-600 calories. You’ve got this! I can’t wait to hear how it goes!