Fasting is more popular than ever, and for good reason. You can experience a myriad of health and body composition benefits by avoiding food for 16 hours or more. In fact, I consider a one-day fast each week to be the most beneficial nutritional strategy for my clients.
I’ve found that a one-day fast reduces inflammation better than anything else. And with less inflammation you get better fat loss, recovery, and energy. Furthermore, I believe that lowering inflammation and taking stress off the gastrointestinal (GI) tract helps your body better assimilate amino acids when you return to eating. This means your body is more apt to build muscle after a fast.
Since we all want to have a leaner midsection and more energy, those are two of the benefits mentioned most often. However, there’s another benefit of fasting that’s discussed less frequently: mental toughness.
The first time you make your body spend a day without food, it sucks. But over time, that one-day fast will get easier and you’ll actually look forward to it – especially after an indulgence. I’m fasting as I write this because I had too many wings, nachos, and Miller High Life beers while watching the bowl games yesterday.
Once you realize that you’re not a slave to food, and once you experience the calm, focused energy you get after 24 hours without food, it’ll improve your psyche. And that extra mental toughness will carry over into all other aspects of your life because you’ll have heightened willpower.
Nothing builds mettle like fasting does.
Last June I spoke at the Perform Better summit in Providence, RI. My buddy Dr. John Berardi spoke there, too. After our presentations we hung out and discussed training and nutrition. He mentioned that one of the most beneficial changes he made to his athlete’s nutrition programs was a one-day fast.
I was already sold on the benefits of fasting since I’ve been experimenting with Ori’s Warrior Diet for the past few years. But I never did a full day of fasting, and neither did my clients. But Berardi’s advice ranks high in my book so I started incorporating a one-day fast into all my client’s programs, and my nutrition plan as well.
It was the best nutritional change I ever made. The morning after a full day of fasting you’ll have a tighter, leaner midsection and your mind will be calm and focused. Your first meal that day will taste and sit in your gut better than ever.
One-Day Fast Details
1. If you’re on medication, or have health issues, or are unsure if a full-day fast is for you, be sure to check with your doctor first.
2. As soon as you wake up squeeze one-half of a fresh lemon into 16 ounces of water and drink. The lemon juice helps the liver deal with the detoxification process. Add a few pinches of cayenne pepper to the drink to help control hunger and aid the detoxifying effect, if you can handle the taste.
3. Drink 0.5 ounce of water per pound of body weight throughout the day. So a 180-pound person needs 90 ounces of water from morning until bedtime. You can add lemon and cayenne pepper to the water throughout the day.
4. Drink unsweetened black, green or white tea or black coffee if you need an energy boost. The tip I give my clients is to hold off on any caffeinated beverages as far into the day as possible. If you reach a point where your energy is very low, use the tea or coffee to pull you out of it. This doesn’t contribute to the water total in step 3.
5. If you’re worried about muscle loss, take 3-5 grams of branched chain amino acid (BCAA) pills 2-3 times spread throughout the day. However, I don’t think it’s necessary. I have 250-pound athletes do the one-day fast without BCAAs and there’s no problem with muscle loss, especially once their glycogen is restored the next day.
6. Before bed take magnesium and vitamin C. The magnesium will calm your nervous system and the vitamin C will lower cortisol. This combination makes it easier to fall asleep. I use four droppers of liquid magnesium from Mineralife mixed with one packet of Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C in a few ounces of water. Chug the concoction down like a shot because it tastes terrible if you let it sit in your mouth.
7. Finally, do not perform any type of strenuous exercise on this day of fasting. A brisk walk is a good idea, but weight training is out of the question. Let your muscles, nerves, and organs recover without any added stress of training.
With this one-day fast you’ll spend around 36 hours without food when you consider the sleeping hours the night before, and after, the fast. In other words, this isn’t a 24-hour fast: it’s a one-day fast that leads to around 36 hours without food.
This strategy works with any style of eating, whether or not an intermittent fast is already part of your plan. You could be on a Warrior-style plan where you have an intermittent fast (IF) for 16-20 hours every other day of the week. When this is the case I recommend you have two scoops of whey the morning after your full day of fasting to break the fast and stimulate protein synthesis.
Make 2013 be the year that you made a one-day fast part of your weekly routine. You’ll be leaner, healthier, and mentally stronger because of it.