Fasting 101: Methods, preparation and the right workout

Fasting has a centuries-old tradition, giving body and mind a sometimes much-needed time-out. Why? When you fast, you abstain from solid food and stimulants such as coffee or alcohol. What once used to be an everyday challenge in times before supermarkets and delivery services, is nowadays a proven way to press the reset button. And that’s precisely what happens when you fast! The digestion gets a break from our habit to constantly eat, and body and mind are relieved from pent-up deadweight. That makes fasting the perfect start to your VAHA Journey, helping you tackle your goals, change your diet, and feel fitter and fresher afterwards.

The Benefits – What Happens During Fasting?

After about 12 hours, your metabolism starts to change to an “internal” diet. Due to the reduced glucose supply, the insulin level drops and the body is stimulated to break down proteins (proteolysis). At the same time, the formation of new proteins (protein biosynthesis) is reduced, i.e. more proteins are being broken down than formed. This process is also called fasting metabolism. After 72 hours, the body’s glycogen stores are used up, and the body switches its metabolism entirely to burning fat. This is why many fasting cleanses last seven days or even longer. So far, so good. And what is the advantage of this fasting metabolism? Through the calorie deficit, your body activates a mechanism called autophagy. This is a sort of recycling programme of the cells that, to a small degree, continuously takes place throughout our organism. Damaged or defective cell components are broken down and new energy is gained from the process. As a result, fasting supports the health of your cell structures through autophagy, helps you lose weight and frees the body from unwanted deadweight.

Different Methods – Something for Everybody

Nowadays, there are many different fasting methods to choose from, depending on preference, experience and personal constitution. The best-known fasting practices are probably water fasting, interval fasting and juice fasting. Water fasting is one of the most intense methods. After the obligatory “colon cleaning”, the only nutrition consumed for about one week (or more) is water. Intermittent fasting is a diet in which the regular night fasting time is extended, meaning that you only eat during a particular time window (e.g. two main meals between 12 noon and 6 pm). And juice fasting can be placed between these two practices: Approximately 700 kcal are consumed daily in the form of vegetable and fruit juices, although vegetable broth and tea may also be drunk. However, in contrast to intermittent fasting, no solid food is taken in, which relieves the digestive system despite the calorie intake. The advantage of juice fasting is that it is the most “gentle” version of fasting and can be carried out at home without intensive supervision. It can be easily integrated into your everyday life since you’re still consuming “carbs” in the form of juices. That makes this fasting method ideal for beginners yet still suitable for more experienced people as a small reset for in between.

Fasting and Fitness – Can I Exercise During Fasting?

You can and you should! Exercise keeps your circulation going and prevents a loss of muscle mass. During fasting, the body breaks down proteins, but it first uses substances that are no longer needed. Staying physically active during fasting also speeds up fat catabolism, while reducing protein catabolism! In addition, you support your body’s ability to detox by sweating during exercise. Of course, it also depends on the intensity of your fast – especially during water fasting you should pay attention to your body’s signals and not overdo anything. This means that competitive sports and intense HIIT workouts are not a good choice during fasting, as they can quickly overstrain your body. Moderate workouts without hectic movements are ideal, e.g. light strength training, yoga, pilates, flexibility training or a slow barre workout! Listen to your body and be gentle with yourself. Without your usual nutrition intake, reduced performance is absolutely normal. If you’re feeling particularly weak, switch to simpler forms of exercise: slow cycling, a round of easy jogging in the park or a long walk. 20 minutes of physical activity per day are already sufficient to help your body fast!

Getting Started – How to Prepare for the Fast

No matter which fasting practice you choose, proper preparation is essential. It will make your fasting time easier and help prevent unpleasant symptoms. The best is to already start 2-3 days before your actual fast with the so-called “relief days”. Eat a mainly vegetarian or vegan diet and drastically reduce stimulants such as coffee, salt, sugar and alcohol. This is an enormously important step, especially for caffeine lovers, because the withdrawal from coffee, green tea and the likes will make itself felt in the form of headaches. If you’ve already gone through these “withdrawal symptoms” before the fast, the fasting period itself will be much more relaxed. Suitable foods for the relief days are light soups and salads, vegetable dishes with brown rice, smoothies and porridge. The aim is to have only easily degradable food residues remaining in the intestines during fasting in order to avoid symptoms such as abdominal pain and a bloated belly. Additionally, a colon cleanse can be helpful but is not a must. By the way, the principle of the relief days also applies to the time after the fast! Allow yourself 2-3 days to slowly acclimatise your digestion to solid food again.

Safety and Side Effects

Fasting can be quite a challenging change for your body, which can sometimes manifest in symptoms such as headaches, nausea or a feeling of weakness. That’s why it’s vital to prepare for a fast properly – it will considerably reduce side effects. If you experience too many problems, it is better to break the fast prematurely and start eating again. But don’t worry, for most people these complaints are limited. As a general rule, you should always discuss your fasting plans with your doctor first to assess which method is suitable for your constitution. But then you can look forward to a transformative journey that will give you unknown clarity and strength. Remember, it is not only your body that is going through a process but also your mind! By committing to a few days of conscious austerity, you can wipe the slate clean and build healthy new habits that leave you feeling your best, inside and out. 

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