With the rise of the popularity of intermittent fasting, also the ancient tradition of extended fasting gains more attention. Fasting for 24+ hours can be a powerful tool for weight loss, improved health, and mental clarity. In this blog post, you’ll learn what extended fasting is and what health benefits it offers. In addition, we’ll provide you with important guidelines that help you get started with prolonged fasting in a safe way.
What is extended fasting?
Extended fasting is a term used to describe long fasting periods (24 hours or more), in which you abstain from food and drinks (with the exception of water, plain tea, and small amounts of coffee). It is a more focused and intense form of fasting compared to other methods, such as intermittent fasting or time-restricted feeding.
What are the main benefits of extended fasting?
Extended fasting has a number of health benefits.
Some of them are:
1. Increased fat burning
Extended fasting can lead to greater fat oxidation and weight loss (especially compared to shorter fasting periods). This is because the body gets the chance to perform ketosis during longer periods of fasting. Ketosis is a metabolic state in which the body uses fat as the primary source of energy instead of glucose. Ketosis typically starts when the body’s carbohydrate stores are depleted. However, the exact starting time varies depending on individual factors, such as the person’s current diet, level of physical activity, and metabolic rate.
2. Improved insulin sensitivity
By abstaining from food for an extended period, the body has the opportunity to reset its insulin levels. In the long run, this leads to an improvement in the body’s insulin sensitivity.
3. Enhanced autophagy
Autophagy is the body’s process of removing damaged cells and repairing healthy ones. Prolonged fasting can increase the rate of autophagy, leading to improved cellular function and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
4. Increased mental clarity
Fasting can help improve focus, concentration, and overall cognitive function, and this benefit may be even more pronounced with extended fasting compared to shorter fasting periods.
What is happening in your body when you’re practicing extended fasting?
During the first few hours of an extended fast, your body will start to break down stored carbs (glycogen) for energy. After about 12 hours, your body will switch to using stored fat for energy (”Metabolic Switch”). Autophagy can begin as early as 12-16 hours of fasting and can significantly increase after an eating break of 24-48 hours.
How to get started with extended fasting?
Starting extended fasting can be a big change for your body, so it’s important to approach it in a safe and controlled manner.
Here are some important guidelines with which you can slowly work your way up to the method.
1. Consult a healthcare professional
Before starting extended fasting, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions or are taking any medications.
2. Start slowly
If you are new to fasting in general, start with shorter fasting periods (12-16 hours) and gradually work your way up to longer fasting periods (e.g. by extending your fasting periods by 30 to 60 minutes per week). This will help your body adjust to the fasting state.
3. Stay hydrated
It is important to stay hydrated while fasting. So, make sure to use the water tracker in the BodyFast app to hit your daily water goal more easily. When fasting you can go for non-caloric beverages that are free of sugar, sweeteners or other additives.
4. Prepare for extended fasting with a balanced meal
Before starting your fasting period aim for a meal that is high in fibre, healthy fats, proteins and micro nutrients. Especially fibre offers a crucial advantage, because it fills you up for a long time and helps you to get through your fasting period more easily. With proteins (e.g. meat, eggs, legumes) healthy fats (e.g. avocados) and micro nutrients (mainly vegetables) you ensure that your body is well nourished while fasting.
5. Break your fast right
Similarly important as the last meal before fasting is the first meal after fasting. In order to prevent digestive problems and support your progress in an optimal way, make sure to plan out your meals ahead of time. Especially after long fasting periods, it is important to start with small portions and to eat nutritious, whole foods. You can find more tips on how to break your fast in this blog post.
6. Cover your electrolyte requirements
Electrolytes are essential minerals that play a crucial role in various physical functions, including muscle contraction, nerve function, and fluid balance. During fasting, the body can lose electrolytes through sweating, urination, and other physical processes. Therefore, adding electrolyte tablets or drops that contain sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium to your water can help prevent potential deficiencies. When going for electrolyte supplements, please choose plain ones without additives such as sugar, sweeteners, or artificial flavors. Otherwise, your fasting period will be interrupted.
Additionally, you might consider adding mineral-rich foods (e.g. avocado, spinach, nuts, and seeds) to your post-fasting meals.
7. Avoid (too much) caffeine
In general, moderate coffee consumption of up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day (about 4 cups of coffee) is considered safe for most healthy adults. However, caffeine sensitivity can vary greatly between individuals, and consuming too much caffeine during your fasting period can lead to negative side effects like jitteriness, anxiety, and disrupted sleep.
If you’re incorporating coffee into your fasting routine, it’s important to listen to your body and adjust your consumption accordingly. If you experience negative side effects, consider reducing your caffeine intake or avoiding it altogether.
8. Listen to your body
Pay attention to how your body is responding to extended fasting and adjust your plan accordingly. If you experience any negative side effects such as headaches, fatigue, or irritability, consider reducing the duration of your fasting periods or speaking with a healthcare professional.
9. Get support from like-minded fasters to stay on track
Friends, family, or a fasting community can be worth its weight in gold when it comes to perseverance. Therefore, you might consider joining our Facebook group for a regular dose of motivation, support, and inspiration.
Who shouldn’t practice extended fasting?
Although extended fasting offers various health benefits, it is not suitable for everyone. People who suffer from one of the following preconditions should not fast:
- Individuals who are underweight or have a history of eating disorders
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- Children and teenagers
Which extended fasting options does the BodyFast app offer?
In the BodyFast app, you can find several weekly plans and multi-week programs for extended fasting. Furthermore, all the plans in the app are customizable, i.e. they allow you to adjust the length based on your preferences and goals.
Here are the most popular options available:
1. Autophagy Booster
This multi-week program involves long fasting periods and rests for a maximum of autophagy.
2. 5-2 Special
When doing our 5-2 Special program you fast for 2 entire but non-consecutive days per week.
3. Power Week
Our Power Week plan includes one 30h fasting period and several periods that vary between 16 and 20 hours. Its main feature is that it is very variable, which makes it a highly effective weight loss program.
4. Weekend Faster I+II
As the name suggests, prolonged fasting in this plan takes place on the weekend. On the remaining days, gentle 14-10 fasting is on the agenda.
Have we made you curious now? You can find these and further plans for extended fasting in the BodyFast app. Alternatively, you can have the BodyFast Coach put together a suitable plan for you. With your subscription, you also get guidance on how to break your fast, with suggested meals and snacks to help you ease back into eating after a prolonged fasting period.
Your ultimate guide to extended fasting: from beginner to pro
Extended fasting can be a powerful tool for improving your health and well-being, but it is important to approach it with caution and preparation. If you are new to fasting, talk to your doctor first and start with shorter fasting periods.
Ready to start your fasting journey? Find the optimal fasting plan, delicious recipes tailored to your fasting lifestyle, supportive weekly tasks, daily motivational coachings, and more in the BodyFast app.