Nearly 20 years ago, I read about a juice fasting plan, the first one that really made sense to me. Since then, I've tried it on several occasions and have found it to be the safest and most effective fast available. This article is my experience on the fast and includes guidelines for how and when to fast, for how long and the rewards of regular fasting.
I recommend fasting once every six months for the best results. And if you are currently taking any prescribed medication or drugs, stop taking them two days before the fast begins and resume taking them one week after the fast or at the end of the recuperation phase of the fast. A competitive bodybuilder might find it advantageous for both health and appearance to fast before a contest. But it would be recommended that he or she not do any training, except only for stretching, practice posing and light aerobics. Stretching will help prevent atrophy of the muscles and also help to maintain their elasticity. Practice posing and light aerobics will assist in fat burning.
There are five reasons to consider fasting:
- Detox your body.
- Kick start your metabolism and alleviate feelings of lethargy.
- Give your digestive tract a rest from all the work it does.
- Overcome plateaus in training.
- Test your self discipline and will power!
You don't need to stop training when fasting. Training and modifying your program to accommodate the body's adjustment to the fast will do more to increase fat loss than if you were not training. You will also increase your body's utilization for burning lean body mass (LBM) or muscle as well as fat. Most of the fat or adipose tissue will be burned when you are resting anyhow, not training. How fast you lose weight during the fast will be a factor between LBM and fat loss. To lose the very least amount of LBM, be sure to drink plenty of juice during the days indicated. The ingestion of simple natural sugars (i.e., carbohydrates) will also help to offset your loss of LBM to a great degree. But you shouldn't worry about the loss of LBM too much since it can be re-gained back when you resume your newly acquired eating habits (through fasting) and your training. It is always easier and quicker to re-build muscle than it is to build it from scratch.
Continue training as you normally would on the fast yet with decreased weight and higher reps. Intensity should be kept fairly high. As odd as it may be, you should have plenty of energy for training while fasting. This is due largely from the juice and fruit consumption. Try to maintain a calorie consumption of 2,000 daily. Actually, the higher the better since you won't be ingesting any fat or a sufficient amount of protein calories.
If improved mind, body and physical fitness is your aim, there is a right way and a wrong way to fast.
In my view, fasting should not exceed a week, so give yourself seven days. Remember to write down what you eat each day: how much protein, fat, carbohydrates and total calories. It is important not to shock the body during a fast. Shocking the body with crash diets or crash fasts encourages the body to lay down additional fat because the body senses an emergency survival situation coming on. Your body is very sensitive and does what it needs to do when drastic changes occur. You need to avoid this as much as possible. Be sensitive to your body, get in touch with it and be patient. Slowly introduce the body into the fasting period. Allow the body to become aware of a change that will alter its biochemistry and that will be occurring soon. This will lessen the shock.
The same is true for ending the fast. During the end of the fast, your body's metabolic rate will be lower than what it used to be. Slowly ingest foods that are low in fat as fat, protein and complex carbohydrate calories begin to increase. Give yourself a week and a half until you begin consuming the same foods as before the fast started, especially the high fat ones! You want to avoid gaining an additional amount of adipose tissue after a fast, especially after you've just lost some through the fast. If you do not end the fast slowly, it will be a complete waste of time. Zero effort and zero results on your part.
Seven Day Fast (plus recovery period)
- Day #1: Slowly decrease your food consumption. Limit your dairy products. Eliminate meat products and high fat foods. Increase your whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Protein should be half of what you normally consume, and fat should be more than half what you are used to consuming. Carbohydrates remain about the same. Calories anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 daily. The ratio would look something like 25 percent protein, five percent fat and 70 percent carbohydrates.
- Day #2: Eliminate all dairy products. Limit your whole grains and vegetables. Increase fruits and 100 percent natural juices. Protein should be half that compared to the first day of the fast and carbohydrates increasing. The ratio should be 10 percent protein, five percent fat and 85 percent carbohydrates.
- Day #3: Eliminate whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Drink only 100 percent natural juices and water.
- Day #4: Continue drinking juice and water. For the third and fourth day, liquid intake should be over eight liters (two gallons). Simple carb intake from juices will be nearly 500 grams or 2,000 calories (two percent protein, no fat and 98 percent carbohydrates).
- Day #5: Take in fresh fruits along with juice and water (10 percent protein, two percent fat and 88 percent carbohydrates).
- Day #6: Begin eating whole grains and vegetables along with fruit, juices and water (13 percent protein, three percent fat and 84 percent carbohydrates).
- Day #7: Begin consuming low fat dairy products (15 percent protein, three percent fat and 82 percent carbohydrates).
- Day #8: Slowly increase your low fat protein consumption back up to normal levels.
- Days #9, #10 and #11: Resume your newly acquired eating habits but do it while avoiding high fat foods.
For more efficient digestion and optimum results, it is better to consume your fruits and juices at one sitting, whole grains and vegetables at one sitting, dairy products at one sitting, etc. Do your best not to mix your fruits with whole grains, dairies with vegetables, etc. If you do this, you will be consuming six to eight meals during the fast.
During the fast, you will have a heightened feeling of vitality. Insulin falls, adrenaline rises, and you feel pumped up. At the completion, you will feel like a new person. Your fast should have taught you to limit your fat intake lower than what you normally consumed while at the same time increasing your carbohydrate intake. This is due to your newly acquired food tastes and increased awareness of nutrition. Depending on your metabolism, exercise frequency and duration of the fast, you might have lost six to seven pounds. You'll have more energy, a healthier frame of mind and renewed vigor.
Don't stop here! There is a recuperation - a mending and a healing - phase after the completion of the seven day fast. You might experience tight and/or weak joints and tendons during exercise a day or more after the fast. And you'll obviously experience a loss of strength. Your body will be in a frail condition because of the lack of the nutrients responsible for repair and maintenance to the body (i.e., protein). Like the completion of the fast, resume your training, but do it gradually. Use the same amount of weight and exercises used during the fasting period, but try to increase your reps on every set. You'll be weaker in some exercises but perhaps stronger in others.
Following this recuperation phase will safely help to rebuild your body back to where it was before. After two weeks from the start of the fast, weigh yourself and take a body fat test. Compare your weight loss after the completion of the seven day fast to one week following its completion. This will give you a rough estimate of how much fat and muscle weight was lost.
I recently completed a fast. Before the fast, my body weight was 207 pounds with 14.5 percent body fat. That works out to be 177 pounds of muscle weight and 30 pounds of fat weight. The first day after the seven day fast, I weighed 200 pounds. I lost a quarter of an inch off my upper arms, an inch off my chest and an inch off my waist. In addition to my loss, I learned to cut my total fat calories consumed by more than half as much as before. Instead of consuming between 20 to 24 percent fat from total calories, I began consuming between 10 to 14 percent on a daily basis.
A week later (or one day after the recuperation phase of the fast), my body weight and girth measurements remained unchanged. However, two weeks afterward, I weighed 200 with 12 percent body fat. This is the same 177 pounds of muscle weight but six pounds less of fat weight at 24 pounds! After taking my upper arm and chest girth measurements again, to my expectation, both my upper arms and chest gained back the muscle lost during the fast while my waist remained the same as after the fast. Both my strength and muscular endurance increased by as much as 14 percent and at a lower body weight!
Strength increases or losses are determined by how much total weight is lifted in the shortest amount of time. It could be an extra rep or two or it could be an increase in weight for the same number of repetitions in the same amount of time. I became stronger and healthier at a lower body weight than I was at a higher body weight. This is how the success of a diet or training program is measured: comparing it to a before and after picture and/or seeing and feeling positive results on a regular weekly, monthly and yearly basis.