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How Often Should You Fast (And Should You Workout While Fasting?) : Exclusive Renegade Health Article

Friday Aug 12, 2011 | BY |
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fasting or eating
It’s so hard to fast when food looks this good!

I have a love-hate relationship with fasting.

It’s one of my favorite things to do and it’s a thing that like the least.

The reason I love it is because it’s a proven and effective health tool that can help with blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation and many other issues.

The reason I hate it is because I love to eat! LOL!

Anyway, today we have a question about fasting and exercise that I wanted to address. Within my answer I cover a lot more – which includes how often is appropriate and what anyone who fasts should always do.

Here’s the initial question…

“So i fast often — every monday i water fast, i do a three day juice fast every month, then i’ll do something longer than 5+ days a couple times a year. my question is do you guys workout during juice fasts? if so, what kind of workouts do you do? how rigorous and how often? just curious!”

This is a great question, and like always there are a lot of different considerations involved in my answer.

Let’s get into them…

The Balance Between Fasting and Eating

Fasting has been around longer than recorded history. (That’s a long time.)

This indicates, that whether spiritual or physical, there are probably some good reasons why you should consider bringing fasting into your health protocol.

There are many ways to “fast” – which include water fasting (or pure fasting), juice fasting, fasting from stimulants, smoothie “fasts,” TV fasts, etc.

The non-scientific definition of fasting here is the removal of certain – or all – foods.

Dr. Alan Goldhamer of True North would tell you that the only real fasting is water fasting, since the body does some very specific things to turn on its own healing mechanism when it is not provided any nutrients – and, of course, when we fast we do want our healing mechanism to turn on… this is one of the main reasons we fast – from a health perspective.

So, I think it’s awesome that you’ve integrated a fasting routine into your own protocol. I’m sure some people are envious of your discipline!

My only concern, if you’re fasting this much (and apparently active), is that you might end up leaving your body deficient of certain nutrients.

I look at every eating experience as an opportunity to give me the fuel that my body needs to repair, energize and thrive. Fasting, as a part of my eating – or non-eating protocol – can do this as well, but should not be overused.

If what you’ve told me from your protocol is correct, that means there are 2-3 months a year that you’re not really eating for 2 weeks. I don’t know if this is good or bad. Like I said, I’m not telling you – or anyone else – to fast less, what I’d like to do on the otherhand is to simply add an additional protocol to your health program.

This protocol is testing your nutrient levels regularly.

If you fast, why not test?

If you test your nutrient levels on a regular basis, you will know quite accurately if your fasting protocol is working for you and not depleting you. You will also know if you’re reaching whatever goals you set out to accomplish – like less heavy metals, lower blood pressure, better blood sugar regulation, etc.

I’ve seen many people fast and fast and fast themselves into depletion – but on the other side, I’ve seen many fast themselves into amazing health.

This is why testing will help you be assured you’re finding the right balance for you – which is feeling good, looking good and your body is well fed.

The good news is that if you’re drinking a lot of juices (and your digestion is good), you will likely have a good store of minerals. Other things to test for are B Vitamins (folate should be super high – a good thing), fatty acids, hormones, vitamin D and a full blood profile.

What are you fasting for?

Another thing about fasting that I think is important is to fully identify why you’re fasting.

Some people fast for religious reasons. Some people fast to cleanse. Some people fast to lose weight. Some people fast because they don’t have anything to eat and have no choice.

All these have different considerations.

If you fast for religious reasons, you’re likely giving your health to a higher power during this period. There’s nothing to argue about here unless you ignore very physical signs that you’re hurting yourself.

If you fast for cleansing, what are you looking to accomplish? Are you looking to remove toxins, metals? Could chelation or herbs do the job better or faster if you’re sick? The body is meant to detoxify naturally, so to what degree does your diet do the cleansing for you?

If you’re fasting to lose weight, my biggest question is what will you do afterwords? The majority of people who exhibit this type of behavior are disordered eaters who will almost every time gain the weight back. So if weight loss is your goal, are they any other options that may be more effective?

These are all questions that a faster needs to address to identify their own behavior and make sure they’re doing this in the best interests of their needs and their health.

Last year, I did two fasts.

One a 5 day juice fast and the other a 5 day water fast.

This year, I don’t have anything on the books, but I think I will end up doing another water fast toward the end of the year. I use this almost as a reset button for my body.

What I do, though, should have no influence on what you do. You need to examine your own needs and create your own protocol.

Some people fast once a week, like the woman who posted this question. Others fast once a year. Some every quarter. I’ve seen healthy and non-healthy people who do all types of variations.

It comes down to what works for you mentally, physically and spiritually.

Now on to exercising while fasting.

I’m going to categorize fasting into two categorizes here…

Mega- and Mini-.

A mini-fast is a day or shorter. This is your one-day-a-week fast that is almost what some of us who work really hard do anyway when we’re too busy to eat. LOL!

Mega-fast is anything longer than a day.

During a mini-fast, chances are you can do most activities that you normally would do otherwise. So your exercise program would be similar to what it normally would be.

Some people on mini-fasts get lightheaded, so if you’re that type, just don’t exercise for that day or do some light stretching, yoga (minimal or no inverted poses), and walking.

I would caution on mini-fasts to do anything longer than 1 hour or that is strenuous or puts you in the sun for extended periods of time. This is just smart fasting exercise protocol. Plus, the reality is, it’s pretty simple to make the day you’re fasting a rest day from exercise – this eliminates any concern at all.

When I do a short fast like this, I usually just take a break from exercise that day, or I take a hike instead of a run – do some bodyweight exercises instead of weight training.

Mega-fasts, ones longer than a day, are a different story. (Mega- can be up to 40 days or more!)

While it’s tempting to get out and exercise – particularly around days 3-5 – since you have a lot of energy, it’s best to conserve and enjoy the break you’re giving your body.

Fasting is a time to break from many things. During this time, exercise should be limited to easy walking, stretching and yoga (no inverted or strenuous poses.)

For super-long fasts, sometimes even these can be quite difficult and at that time it’s up to you to either not exercise at all or stop the fast.

When we did our juice fast in Costa Rica, on day 3 Annmarie and I walked to the beach – about 45 minutes – in the hot sun. We both thought we could handle this, but we elected to take a ride back to our cabin afterwords because we had over exerted ourselves.

When I did my water fast at True North, I didn’t do any exercise at all. I just enjoyed the break.

One thing that is important in any cleansing protocol is to activate the lymph system. If you can bounce on a mini-trampoline or rebounder this is effective during a long fast. If not, then massage or stretching will help as well.

What’s the final verdict?

First up, figure out why you’re fasting, then figure out the frequency and type. (For water fasting on long term juice fasting, I recommend supervised for many reasons.)

Second, get your blood tested regularly so you know you’re doing the right thing and what you’re doing is working – not harming you. Remember, eating a clean diet will naturally detox the body, so it’s an art finding the right balance between eating clean, fasting and re-building.

Finally, on mini-fasts, exercise doesn’t need to change so much. On mega-fasts, your best bet is laying low and doing simple, easy movements.

I want to know your thoughts: What do you do when you fast?

Live Awesome!
Kev

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

26 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Tara Burner says:

    Hopefully I wont get bombarded by people condemning me…but I do fasts from 10-90 days
    and I do workout during them…

    Reason for fasting…usually spiritual reasons, throw in the added cleansing factor

    On the 90 day fast I did 10 days water, 20 juice, followed by 10 days water

    I don’t have any ‘set’ way of fasting or working out during the fast…I just do what I feel is right and go w/what my body tells me :)

  2. Dr. Casey says:

    I have supervised long fasts (40-100 days) since 1979. If you do water, you should rest and even stay in bed, because it depletes your energy. Fasting with juice (yes, I had the bias from Natural Hygiene that it wasn’t really a fast – and I found out from experience that it is) exercise is fine. It all depends on your goals, and your habits before the fast, etc. I have had patients run a marathon on a juice fast. I don’t recommend fasting for more than a few days without supervision. Not that it will hurt you – but in order for the results to be permanent you need someone who is familiar with the process to support you. I have done hundreds of blood test before, during, and after a fast and they always improve. There is no need to worry about losing nutrients. Trust the body’s intelligence. Fasting has been used by animals and humans since the beginning of time for healing. The body is smarter than the media would have us believe.

  3. Niraja Golightly says:

    What I really would like to see included in this discussion is the importance of preparation before a fast and how you come off a fast. It can make all the difference in the world to your experience and health effects. I have 5-day spring water fasted many times over the years, have done seven Arise and Shine 7-day water/juice colon cleanses, and so far I have done three 7 day juice fasts. Some of the 5-day spring water fasts I mildly exercised and even waited tables as I had to keep working–with no problems. I definitely exercised with gentle yoga, minitramp, and walking with my other fasts but found the Arise and Shine cleanses a little too intense to exercise much. They seemed to stir up more toxins and cause dizziness, etc. for me. I’ve also discovered the importance of spacing fasts at least 2 months apart otherwise I get depleted and rundown. During my fasts I sit by a fire if I can, listen to high spiritual music, chant, pray, give myself lots of conscious breathing sessions, and read and reflect on inspirational books,etc.

  4. Josonne says:

    I have water fasted for 21 days for spiritual reasons. I felt horrible from about the 10th day on. I asked God for divine protection and continued even though I felt weak. I then juice fasted for 19 days after the water fast, with the addition of a banana and an avacado for about the last 14 days. The great thing is is that when it was over, several problems in my body were better. My blood pressure went down significantly, my need for thyroid medication decreased, and my joint problems were completely gone. I think fasting and detoxing definitely aids in healing. You should have the supervision of a natural health practitioner like Dr Casey who could help you know what is going on when you are unsure. I recommend long fasts (more than one week) for spiritual reasons only. I relied on God as well when I did not feel good. It is not a real pleasant experience all the way through, but I certainly got the answer to the question that I was fasting for.

  5. Rocio says:

    I am impressed! WOW I would love to fast for all those days, but a day is all I can handle. Any suggestions? many blessings.

  6. Ummrania says:

    Ok, I am not a vegan or a raw foodist, I just try to stay healthy, and I really enjoy reading your articles. To answer your question, I fast for religion as a Muslim, but our fasting probably wouldnt be considered fasting in the sight of many people on here. We abstain from food, water, and sex from the sunrise to the sunset for one month. Its also recommended to fast 3 days a month, or more or less. Sick, or traveling people or pregnant, breastfeeding woman are allowed to not fast, and when woman get their periods they are also not to fast. This type of fasting is meant more for our hearts and souls, however it has medical advantages as long as you are careful about what you eat during the “off” time of the fast. Unfortunately many Muslims eat much sweets and fried foods, this year we are eating at least a green smoothie (usually in the morning before sunrise) and always salad and fruits at the time to break fast. The example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is to break your fast with dates and water.

    Ok, sorry I rambled, but since we are in the fasting month of Ramadan right now I felt like explaining it.

    Thanks for the article! Makes me think about doing a green smoothie only day (or 3 or 7) here during Ramdan.

  7. Candice says:

    I did a 65 day juice fast (or feast) last year, and I exercised almost every day. I actually built my running up to 10 miles a day during that time. In the early part of the fast, I was very tired, and chose to rest or exercise lightly on those days.

    The most important thing for me was to listen to my body and act accordingly.

    I’ll be starting a 30 day juice fast in a couple of weeks, and I anticipate getting back into running as this Atlanta weather cools off!

  8. wendy green says:

    i usually fast 7-14 days on water, every year or so. i do nothing…very very very little. rest. read, draw. rest. this is nature’s way.

  9. Hilary says:

    I recently did a 21 day juice fast/cleanse. I had headaches the first couple of days, but apart from that, I felt great. I also exercised during my cleanse, not strenuous, just some walking, trampolining and weight bearing exercise. I went onto raw whole foods after completing my fast, however on the 2nd day, I ate some raw chocolate, and paid for it the following day – felt incredibly sick! The reason I’m telling you, is that it is most definitely important to prepare before and after a fast, and take care with what you are eating.

  10. LynnCS says:

    Not fasting yet. Still learning from all of you. Thanks for all your posts. Thanks Kevin for the topic.

  11. maca says:

    When I first opened this page I was a little upset that this was a written reply and not a video reply, as I much prefer the videos. But after reading the article I now understand when we sometimes need these written replies. This is one of your best articles and very well explained, so I won’t get so upset at see future written replies. Well, maybe a little.

    All good advice though, especially the testing advice. I think many people just fast for the sake of it and feel like they ought to do it. IT’s good to read down what your goals are and be very specific. And also think about how you will know you have met those goals. It’s all very well doing a 3 day fast because you want to cleanse your body, but how will you know whether it is cleansed or not?

    This might be something as simple as having more energy, clearer skin, etc, but I do think people should be quote specific about their goals and how they will know they have reached them.

    I have heard some say that the only life goal they have is to be happy. But if you ask them what happiness means they have no idea. So how will they ever know if they achieved their goal?

    Great article though.

  12. Velda says:

    Good article, Kevin. I guess I have fasted for all reason. Many years ago, I did a 7 day water fast. I have done a 5 day water fast for prayer and fasting. At least once a month I do a 2 day Isagenix nutritional fast. Usually do a 5 day water fast about once every other month or so. Mostly I fast because I believe it to be healthy. I work so I can get rather tired by the end of the day when I am fasting. However, I think I will try doing a few minutes on the trampoline when I fast because for my lymph glands. Thanks for the great article.

  13. Jules says:

    Thanks great discussion Kev. I’ve been facilitating fasting retreats,& fasting myself, for over 10 years. Average 5-7 days six times a year, max 40 days. Mostly juice fasting for detoxification purposes. Believe juices to be most effective for cleansing due to the high intake of anti-oxidants (wheatgrass/aloe vera etc)& chelative qualities & believe massive health benefits come from regular fasting as our letter writer describes she does. I’ve never witnessed a ‘healing crisis’ which is far more likely to occur with water fasting. Plenty of energy usually after day 3 & I encourage fastees to exercise to increase heart-rate, perspire, oxygenate the body etc. but of course whilst listening to what FEELS right for the individual Saunas, hot baths, yoga all great also. Open as many eliminative channels as possible to detox. Believe Colonics enhance the fasting process 100%. Yes FASTING IS ADDICTIVE & I LOVE IT because it FEELS SO DAMN GOOD. How can that be anything but GREAT!!!!? Never known anyone to say hey, i wish i hadn’t fasted hee hee!!

  14. Rick says:

    Kevin-Excellent article! You may consider a brief personal “Fasting Documentary” to help your audience get a glimpse of this process.

    I think the message is clear, to have a certain goal(s) when fasting (works well in other life endeavors). As well, have measures to determine that the goals have been reached, or not.

    My question regarding testing pre and post, is how to know what to test for initially? I know there are a lot of “blood drawn tests” to choose from when requesting…so can anyone share what specific tests (are there names to these profiles) they recommend to help an individual know what they are deficient-in (whether they plan on fasting or not)?

    What other tests may be helpful?

    I am looking forward to the feedback.

    Rick

  15. BarbaraL says:

    I have fasted several times, twice on water and once on water and watermelon juice, ending with watermelon. They all were hard as even though I am RV I am a foodie. I look at food as high art and it feeds me on all levels. I have a question about trampolines. I am interested in purchasing one but the one that claims to be the best is around $500. Does anyone have an opinion on the best one worth the $$$ it costs? I surely do not want a cheap one as it will be a lifetime investment and I understand they are now state of the art as far as springs and construction goes.

  16. BarbaraL you asked a question I have been wondering about. Also is jump rope as good as rebounding. Kevin do you have some insight on this?

  17. Karen says:

    A really great rebounder is by Cellersizer. I love mine and was told it will last a very long time. Don’t buy a cheap one. Another thing, keep it out. If you put it away every time, you might not do it often. I put mine by the TV and now I am doing it every day. Such an easy, effortless way to exercise.

  18. Nic says:

    Great post Kev!
    I heard a lot about fasting in the last few years. I tried it for one day (on a rest day) last year and I felt miserable and I had no energy… I think the reason why it is not for me is because I’m only 16 years young and I do train for triathlon about 20h/week…

  19. Jules says:

    @ Nic #18.. with 1 day fasting you just got to the starting block…in fact you barely got your running shoes on! If you felt miserable & had no energy it’s because you have toxicity running thru yer blood! Nothing to do with your age. Have introduced numerous athletes to fasting, recently an ironman/triathlete who after his first 7 day juice fast claimed he did his best times ever & felt like he was a kid again. He’s now changed his (high acid/meat) diet & fasts regularly & says his training/competition results are outstanding. Highly recommend you get some professional guidance & see how fasting can enhance your health, life & sporting competition!

  20. Melissa says:

    When I fast, I catch up on my reading and try to go through one book a day. ^_^

  21. QC says:

    I fast whenever I feel that my body is not running optimally. In the past 2 years, I fasted for 14 times. They were just 1-day to 3-day water fasts. I usually reduce my exercise level before and after I fast. No exercise, and actually complete bed rest during the fast.

    At first, I felt quite bad and now it’s easy. My health improved significantly. I haven’t tried juice fast, wondering whether it would help like water fast. Or 801010 is close enough.

  22. Lar says:

    I recommend the cellerciser as well. Jerry Hall is the inventor, check out some of his videos on YouTube. He has also called me back personally regarding a concern I had with the product….it’s rare to get that these days.

  23. a luke warm reader says:

    there’s a woman on youtube whom fasted on just water 3x40days. Between fasting she ate for 7 days. She looked anorexic on her 3rd fasting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekF-leNnHBE&feature=relmfu Here she’s 2 days away from finishing the 3rd round of 40 day fast.

  24. Colon cleansing – preferably through colonics, but at least double-enemas or herbal laxative products – are very helpful when fasting. I typically do colon cleansing during the 1st or 2nd day of a fast and then again once every couple of days while fasting (every 3 days if it’s a colonic, every 1-2 days if just doing enemas). This greatly facilitates the removal of toxins from the body and allows me to continue fasting without getting overly tired or getting other detox symptoms.

    Also, I feel like if I’m going through the trouble of fasting, I might as well get the most out of it from a detox standpoint – and it certainly makes a world of difference in terms of how I feel.

    In addition, the colon cleansing is helpful for staying on the fast in the beginning because it helps to put the body in a cleansing state in which it is not hungry. (Usually I’m not hungry after a colonic or a deep enema – even if I’m feeling a little hungry beforehand.)

  25. Andrew Tay says:

    Just to share with those who are curious or interested to gather more information from those who had gone through the experience. There are two books written from a pastor – Julius Fortunate Suubi who had gone through many 40 days of fasting, at least one or two forty days water fasting. The name of the books are:- The Unbeatable Power in 40 Days Fast and Governmental Anointing.

    After reading his books i went into my 40 days of fasting, it is a spiritual journey to seek GOD, i just trust GOD can protect me in my 40 days fast. My goal is to seek GOD and to build an intimate relationship with GOD. It was my most enjoyable time in my 55 years on earth, the only thing i regretted from this experience is that i should started this when i was 20 years old just before i am coming out into the society.

    i keep a normal schedule during the 40 days, before i go to office, i woke up early to read the bible and for prayer and then i go to my office on time and after office hour i quickly go to read my bible and for prayer. It was so enjoyable, the LORD opens the bible to me, i got vision, dreams and i know my direction. The dreams were to tell me my direction and i asked those pastors who can interpret dreams for me.

    i really enjoy it and know how to get power from GOD by asking for Governmental Anointing.

    If any of you wanted to know more about my experience please contact me. As for me during the 40 days i have no suffering at all. i only lost 12 kg.

  26. Candace says:

    Hi .. I am older, my work is strenuous, and I can not tolerate many juices so i do my wonderful pineapple or watermelon fasts. Try these if you are new to fasting. These give you something to chew, you don’t really get hungry and I have found they have great health benefits. Pineapple is my favorite. It clears parasites, smoothes and invigorates the skin and speeds healing. However, watermelon is great, too. You lose weight, of course. Really, I think these fruit fasts give me all the benefits of stricter fasting without the negatives. Some pineapples are too astringent and you can burn your mouth or cause ulcers. Drink plenty of water after eating and rinse your mouth. I usually fast only 3 days because I run out of pineapple! My health practitioner said I should do a one day watermelon fast every year for my bladder. A very tasty way to give me a boost during the hot dry weather in Texas. I just discovered renegade health and think it’s great.

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