Your 24-hour (or longer) fast is officially over. But wait! Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about when it’s time to break your fast once and for all.
Sayings like "break your fast with something light" are not much help when confronted with all sorts of delicious-looking options from pizza to pancakes. The good news is that this article will give you some guidance on how to support your body with nutrients, in a way that will keep your health goals on track!
How to Break Your Fast (The Right Way)
During a fast, you’re essentially giving your body a break from digesting food. This allows you to automatically focus on other things, like repair and detoxification. But when it’s time to break your fast, it’s important to do it the right way.
Breaking a fast is arguably one of the most vital aspects of fasting, as it can have a profound effect on your physical and mental state during the day. But this stage isn't about stuffing yourself. It's about eating consciously and mindfully, while making the extra effort to build good habits into your routine.
How you break your fast should be based on how long you’ve been fasting and what your goals are. This way you can maximize the benefits while avoiding any unwanted side effects.
When you haven’t eaten in awhile, your body is craving nutrients. So the first foods you eat should be packed with vitamins, minerals, and other key nutrients. If you only fast for shorter periods, you don’t need to worry too much about the logistics of breaking a fast. It's not complicated, so try not to overthink it.
If you’ve been fasting for:
Up to 12 hours:
You can start breaking your fast with easily digestible foods like fruits or natural juices.
Start slowly with clear liquids like bone broth or bouillon before moving on to solid food.
24 hours or more:
When breaking an extended fast, it's important to start with liquids that are easy to digest. You can then gradually increase the size and complexity of your meals over the course of a few days. No matter how long you’ve been fasting, it's vital to listen to your body and eat only when you're truly hungry.
1. Ease Back into Eating
After fasting, it's good to gradually make the jump back into your regular diet. This means no binging because you just fasted, nor does it mean following an extreme diet or eating less than your body needs.
You'll want to start with foods that are small, easy to digest, and high in vitamins and minerals. One way to ease your transition is with a nourishing soup or cooked vegetables because those are easier for the body to digest than dense meats (like steak). For your first meal after fasting, try to stick to low-carb, high-fat options. Gradually introducing food back into your diet will help you avoid uncomfortable side effects like headaches, dizziness, and nausea.
2. Stay Hydrated with Electrolytes
During a fast, you lose more minerals than usual through sweat and urine, leaving you with harmful side effects such as dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. One way to combat these problems is through electrolyte water and other fluids.
Adding ¼ of natural sea salt per liter of drinking water throughout the day is a great way to get those vital minerals back in your system. You can also add ReMyte® - an easy to use electrolyte formula designed to replenish the nutrients you no longer get from food during your fast.
Aim to consume around half your body weight (in pounds), in ounces of mineral water each day. If you’re still feeling fatigued after breaking your fast, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any other causes.
3. Don’t Forget Your B Vitamins
During a fast, make sure you're getting enough of the B vitamins. They play an important role in metabolism, energy production, and detoxification.
A nutritious diet combined with a highly-absorbed vitamin B complex supplement has proven to be an effective way to meet nutrient needs, even when you’re fasting. It can also help reduce some of the side effects that occur when you first start eating again.
A Guide To the Best Foods To Break Your Fast
The key to finding the best foods to eat when breaking your fast is to focus on healthy fats, moderate protein, and limited carbohydrates.
In other words, you need to eat balanced meals. Some vegetables, some protein, some carbohydrates, and some fat. If you're ready to break your fast and start eating again, use this list for ways you can ensure your body gets the nutrients it needs to regain energy and maintain muscle growth.
Bone broth is packed with electrolytes and minerals that can help to ease your body back into digesting solid food. It’s also gentle on the digestive system and can help to prevent any uncomfortable side effects, such as indigestion or bloating.
In addition, bone broth has a host of other benefits including promoting gut health, reducing inflammation, and boosting immunity. So not only is it a nourishing way to break a fast, but it's also great for your overall health.
To make bone broth, simply simmer bones from chicken, beef, or fish in water for several hours. You can also add vegetables, herbs, and spices for additional flavor.
The Chinese designate fruit as the food substance that nourishes Qi – the life vital force. The natural sugars in fruit can help stabilize your blood sugar levels after fasting. Fresh fruit is also packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can help to support energy levels and immune health. However, make sure to choose low- to medium-sugar fruits so you don't undo the benefits you’ve gained while intermittent fasting.
Great options include melons, grapes, blackberries, kiwi, or strawberries to re-energize your body and give it the hydration it needs.
Leafy Green Vegetables (Cooked)
If you're looking to break your fast with a healthy meal, then vegetables are perfect because they’re packed with prebiotic fiber that helps jump-start your digestive system.
Green vegetables are also excellent sources of vitamins and minerals including:
- Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, E, K
Like fruit, vegetables are hydrating and full of nutrients that help the body recover from a fast. Plus, most veggies are complex carbohydrates and have fewer calories, so they won't result in blood sugar spikes like simple carbs. You can try incorporating them into a lightly-cooked dish such as soup or stir-fry.
Nutrient-rich vegetables you can eat to break your fast include:
- Spinach (cooked)
- Zucchini (cooked or raw)
- Carrots (cooked or raw)
- Cucumbers (raw)
- Chard (cooked)
- Arugula (raw)
- Celery (cooked or raw)
- Seaweed (cooked or dehydrated)
- Asparagus (cooked)
- Cauliflower (cooked)
Contemporary fasting research shows that muscle mass is not broken down when you fast. However, if you fast for many days and remain sedentary, your muscles can diminish because of disuse. If you want to maintain muscle and optimize your health, it's important to get enough protein. Decreased muscle mass can cause a variety of issues like an increased risk for insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Maintaining muscle activity through exercise is associated with lowered insulin levels.
Your body will undergo some changes as it adjusts to having fewer calories from food. It needs protein for the structural components of the body and it also requires enzymes (made from proteins) for proper biochemical processing. Protein delivers a boost to your metabolism and also provides essential amino acids to support key functions. Eating healthy protein-rich foods after a period of fasting can help kick start fat burning and ensure efficient muscle repair.
Excellent sources of protein to break your fast include:
- Ribeye steak
- Fish (wild-caught salmon, tuna, oysters, sardines, fatty fish)
- Plant-based protein powder
When following an IF diet, it can be tough to get enough protein. Adding a protein powder during your eating window can help you meet your daily requirements and replenish amino acids. ReStructure® is a pure protein powder that features grass-fed whey protein (with low to no casein and lactose), rice, and pea proteins combined with Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin C. This unique combination not only supports muscle and cellular health but also improves overall energy production to power you through each day.
When you break a fast, you want to do it in a way that won't leave you feeling sluggish or weighed down. While you probably have a fear of fat, you shouldn’t. Healthy saturated fat is necessary for cellular health, energy, and hormone production.
Plus, fats are essential for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, so if you're breaking a fast after a period of fasting or calorie restriction, fats can help replenish your body's stores.
All in all, healthy fats and oils are probably the most important ingredient for keeping your blood sugar stable in between meals. They help to promote feelings of satiety, so you're less likely to overeat. As long you don’t have a weight problem you can be as liberal as you like. Just make sure it’s healthy fat. If you are trying to lose weight, you can still have some fat – just keep it down to a teaspoon or so per meal.
So, what are some good sources of healthy fats?
- Olive oil
- Nuts and nut butter
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Coconut Oil
- Grass-fed butter
Fish and Seafood
Wild-caught salmon and sardines are high in both protein and healthy fats that we need in order to maintain our optimal health. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in our cellular health, but it can be difficult to get enough from just diet alone. If you're practicing intermittent fasting, you may find yourself deficient in these key nutrients. For this reason, supplementation with an algae-based omega-3 supplement may be a good choice.
Optimal dietary sources include:
- Wild-caught salmon
- Rainbow trout
Complex carbohydrates are absorbed into the body slowly over a long period of time and provide a more sustained energy level. These foods are also packed with fiber, antioxidants, protein, B vitamins, vitamin C, and other key nutrients. It’s the simple carbs, found in many processed foods, that you want to avoid. Unlike complex carbs, they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and cause harmful blood sugar spikes.
Healthy sources of complex carbohydrates are found in:
- Whole grains
- Brown rice
- Black beans
- Green beans
- Lima beans
- Starchy vegetables
It’s important to eat foods that support the liver and help to detoxify the body. Breaking your fast with fermented foods can replenish your gut flora and help the transition back to solid foods.
Fermented foods are packed full of gut-boosting probiotics, prebiotics, and enzymes, making them easier for the body to digest and absorb. They serve as a great way to get your gut's microbiome back on track and improve digestion, boost immunity, and reduce inflammation. Foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, and yogurt are all great options to choose from.
While fasting, you cannot eat anything during your fasting period. Of course, this includes any foods and drinks with calories such as soda, juice, and coffee or tea with milk, creamer, or sweetener. However, water and black coffee without milk or creamer are fine to drink while fasting.
Additional beverage options to choose from include:
- Water (make sure to add electrolytes!)
- Teas, including herbal
- Sparkling water, with no added sweeteners
What to Avoid When It’s Time to Break Your Fast
Sugary, fried, or greasy foods
It’s important to avoid sugary, processed, fried, or greasy foods. Although tempting, these types of foods cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, which can lead to weight gain and other health problems. Instead, focus on eating whole foods that are rich in nutrients and fiber.
Research tells us if you come out of a fast into a high glycemic meal, blood sugar goes higher, insulin goes higher, and inflammatory markers increase - leaving you feeling worse than before. Therefore, when breaking intermittent fasting periods, try to stay away from the following highly processed foods:
- Fast food
- Ready-made sauces
- Ready Meals
If you do eat something on this list - call it another experiment! Give your body a little extra digestive support by taking digestive bitters or a shot of apple cider vinegar (in water) with your meal.
Eating Too Much
We’ve all been there. You’re so excited to break your fast and finally get some food in your stomach after hours of being hungry. But then you go a little too crazy and end up eating way more than you intended. Whether you’re breaking a fast for religious reasons, or you’re just trying to eat healthier by intermittent fasting, overeating can undo all of your hard work.
It can be tempting to go all out when breaking your fast, but it’s important to start slow. Eating a large amount of food after not eating for a period of time can be hard on your digestive system and can lead to nausea, indigestion, and fatigue. It can also interfere with your sleep any time you eat a large meal too close to bedtime. Try starting with smaller portions and then increasing your intake if you’re still feeling hungry.
It is generally recommended to avoid drinking alcohol while breaking a fast. Alcohol can dehydrate the body, leading to feelings of dizziness and lightheadedness, along with various other health problems. It is also a diuretic, which means it can potentially flush out important electrolytes and nutrients that are essential for maintaining your health.
Heavy consumption of alcohol could also trigger alcoholic ketoacidosis, in which ketones are very high in the blood, but unlike diabetic ketoacidosis, blood glucose is usually dangerously low.
Smoking not only offsets some of the benefits of a fast, but can also be dangerous to your health. Cigarettes and tobacco products contain harmful chemicals, including sugar, that are damaging to your heart and lungs. These products can also cause your blood pressure levels to rise and lead to feelings of nausea. If you must smoke while breaking a fast, do so as little as possible and with extreme caution.
If you're not used to working out while fasting, it's important to start slow and build up gradually. It’s recommended not to exercise immediately after breaking your fast. Pushing yourself too hard right off the bat can lead to dehydration, lightheadedness, and even fainting. The same goes for saunas during fasting. They cause a lot of sweating, which leads to dehydration and electrolyte depletion.
Staying hydrated is key when working out at any time, but it's especially important when you're breaking a fast. Make sure you drink plenty of water (with added electrolytes) before, during, and after your workout to avoid becoming dehydrated. If at any point you start feeling dizzy, nauseous, or lightheaded, stop immediately and rest. These could be signs that you're pushing yourself too hard or aren't properly hydrated, so it's best to err on the side of caution.
5 Easy Recipes To Kickstart Your Clean Eating Plan
Don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavors and recipes! Eating more high-fat, nutrient-dense and satiating foods while cutting carbs will contribute to more stable physical and mental energy.
With all of these things in mind, here are some great recipes to consider when breaking your fast:
Avocado Toast with Hard Boiled Eggs
This is a great option if you're looking for something that's high in protein and healthy fats. Simply top some whole grain toast with avocado slices and a couple of hard boiled eggs. You can also add some freshly diced tomatoes or cucumbers for an added boost of vitamins and minerals.
Berry Smoothie Bowl
Start by blending up a cup of your favorite berries with a cup of almond milk or low-fat yogurt. Then, pour the mixture into a bowl and top with chopped nuts or seeds or shredded coconut. This is a great way to get plenty of nutrients while satisfying your sweet tooth at the same time.
Chicken Vegetable Soup
This is a classic comfort food that's perfect for breaking a fast. Simply simmer chicken breast, carrots, celery, and onion in chicken broth until the vegetables are tender. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy. Even better the next day.
This is a great option if you're looking for something light but filling. Start by cooking quinoa according to package directions. Then, mix in your favorite vegetables like diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. For a protein boost, add in some cooked chicken or canned chickpeas. Season the salad with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Salmon Avocado Wrap
This is a quick and easy option that's perfect for a light meal. Simply top a whole wheat tortilla with cooked salmon, avocado slices, and your favorite greens. Roll up the tortilla and enjoy.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you're looking for more recipe ideas, be sure to check out more here.
What If I Want to Prolong My Fast?
You've learned how to break your fast, but what if you want to continue fasting? Whether you're a beginner, or you're trying to graduate to a longer fasting window, there are certain things that can help get you over the hump.
Filtered water, tea, or an occasional coffee are all fine to consume between meals, but water is healthiest. Just don’t add any sweeteners, cream or milk. If you like your coffee or tea with cream, milk or honey, then drink them with your meals, or immediately afterwards. Otherwise, consuming any form of calories will send an immediate signal to your liver to stop putting sugar from your liver into your bloodstream and to stop burning fat. This is even true for zero calorie sweeteners, including the healthy ones like stevia or xylitol. We know, they don’t contain any calories - but your taste buds can’t tell the difference and will shut down fat burning!
Now, if this sounds like agony, that’s a clear indication your liver is probably congested already. Try drinking water and then feed yourself with other things: A good book. Focused work. Music. Art. Sports. Social time. Meditation. A recreational project. A good movie.
Note: If you find your heart rate accelerating after drinking coffee on a fast, then put it aside.
The Bottom Line
Now that you know how to break a fast the right way, there's no excuse not to try it out for yourself! A properly executed fast can do wonders for your health, both physically and mentally. So what are you waiting for? Pick a day, give it a shot, and see how you feel afterwards. Prepare to be surprised.