Monday, July 27, 2015

5 Healthy Fasting Tips From a Nutritionist

By Maureen Namkoong, RD
Ramadan, the month of fasting observed by Muslims around the world, just started. Limiting calorie intake is a spiritual practice in many cultures and religions, but people also fast for health and other non-religious reasons, including weight loss, preparation for medical testing, and anti-aging, or to detox, boost immunity, or overcome addictions.
If you’re think about fasting for any reason, here are several tips that will help you fast safely:

1. Consult a Doctor Before Fasting

If you have a health condition, are pregnant, or, especially, if you are taking medications, you need to speak with your healthcare provider about how to fast without harming your health. This is especially true for those with type 2 diabetes, who are at risk of hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, and dehydration during a fast. Plan ahead before fasting and make an appointment with your provider to create a customized plan that you can safely follow. You may need to modify your medications during the fast and your provider will help you with those adjustments.

2. Try Different Fasting Tactics

If you are fasting to lose weight, consider a modified approach. Rapid weight loss sets you up for long-term weight maintenance failure. The key to weight loss is to lose it slowly, as this allows you to maintain the greatest amount of muscle and, therefore, keep your metabolism stimulated. Instead of going to extremes by fasting to lose weight rapidly, think about initially eliminating some (but not all) foods for a few weeks.
Pay attention to any trigger foods or foods for which you struggle to control portion size. Some people find that eliminating sugar can help them readjust their palates and rediscover the natural sweetness in foods. Packaged foods, coffee, and soda are other examples of foods that you can begin to cut back on. Another way to change your diet to lose weight is to limit meat to one meal (if any) or to try not to snack during the day. An effective strategy is to focus on what you can have versus what you cannot have. Begin by setting a goal to have one to two cups of vegetables at every meal and two to three servings of fruit each day.

3. Adapt Your Exercise Routine

With a significant change in your dietary intake, you’ll have to consider what changes you’ll need to make in your daily activities. This really depends on the type of fasting you are doing,  but high-intensity workouts may need to be put on hold until your fasting period is over. You can continue most light-to-moderate activities throughout a fast. For example, continue to get up from your desk and take a light walk, but forego the kettlebell or HIIT class until you’ve finished.

4. Stay Hydrated

We need water to live, so plan to drink enough water during your fast. The amount of water you should consume really depends on your activity level, body size, and environment. You may find that during a fast you need less water than when you are not fasting. This is partly due to decreases in your food intake and activity levels. However, you still need to drink water. Be sure your urine is the color of light lemonade. Any darker means you haven’t been drinking enough.

5. Plan Your Meals When You’re Not Fasting

Every fast should have a period during the day when you consume something, and the choices during that time should be balanced and nutritious. Because you’re limiting your intake, now more than ever, your food choices provide essential and important nutrients. Don’t eat fast food and desserts thinking you have “extra” calories. Think about starting with one to two glasses of water with a handful of dried fruit or nuts. The water and sugar will help you quickly rebound from the fast. Then try to fit in a well-rounded meal with whole grains, healthy lean protein, and plenty of vegetables and fruits. You can even splurge by adding some liquid calories, like milk or juice, to keep your total intake high enough for each day.

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