There are a number of reasons people fast, ranging from religious traditions to preparations for a surgery to wanting to drop those last two pounds before slipping into a wedding dress. But fasting shouldn’t be taken lightly or gone into without any guidance. Your body is used to taking in nutrients from food and beverages every day, and cutting it off completely comes as a shock to your system. Some people are surprised by just how much fasting interferes with their ability to carry out their everyday tasks. Others are surprised that fasting doesn’t help them achieve the results they wanted. You’ll be more satisfied with the experience if you’re doing it for religious reasons, and at least less tortured if you’re doing it for physical reasons, if you’re prepared. Here are things to know before fasting for the first time.

It can boost your immune system

When your body is hungry, it turns to white blood cells to make up for the missing calories. This gives your body’s immune system a little boost, so fasting could be a good idea right before a time you may be exposed to colds or flu.

Eat at odd times leading up to it

While you should typically eat on a regular schedule, that regular schedule will be a curse when you fast. You don’t want your body to prepare itself to digest foods at certain hours each day because on fasting day, it will send those signals to your brain, making fasting harder. Confuse your body by eating at varied and odd times leading up to the fast.

You can fast with liquids

You don’t have to go your entire fast without consuming anything at all. A fast that allows you to consume water, juice, and broth is still a fast that will offer plenty of benefits. This may even be the best fast for someone who is new to fasting.

Set aside the time for it

Don’t try to fast during your busiest week at work or when you have friends in town who want you to show them around. You need to try to reserve your energy when you fast, so choose a time when you won’t be expending it.

Let people you live with know

Do yourself a favor and let the people you live with know you’re going too fast. They may help you out and not cook the giant stew they planned on making, the smell of which would have had you salivating.

Stop coffee early

If you consider yourself a coffee addict then remove the substance from your life at least three days before fasting. You don’t want to contend with a caffeine-deprivation headache and hunger pangs at the same time.

Choose your entertainment wisely

You’re best off avoiding cable television since you never know when a food commercial will come on. Do yourself a favor and watch something that takes your appetite away, like a crime recreation show.

Have a substantial meal before

Even if you normally eat light, the day before a fast is not the time to be concerned with dieting. Have a substantial, wholesome meal near the start of your fast (but don’t overeat). Start that meal early enough so you have time to eat at a natural pace, and don’t gorge—that will leave you nauseous.

Avoid high fiber food

High fiber food like vegetables and certain grains are usually a good thing because they keep you regular, but before a fast, you want food that moves through you slowly.

Have a carb-heavy meal

While you may typically avoid carbohydrates, they are your friends before a fast. Because foods like potatoes, rice and pasta actually bond to H2O, they can provide your body with water while you’re fasting.

Consume healthy fats

Things like olive oil, fish, avocado and nuts contain healthy fats and oils. These actually slow down the process of your stomach emptying its contents, which can help you stay full longer.


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