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?