What can you have during a fast?

Everyday we receive dozens of messages asking what people can have during a fast. On social media I see terms like “clean fast” and “dirty fast” and wonder what it even means?!

Our mission at The Fasting Method is to help people take control of their health. We use fasting and nutrition as tools to help achieve weight loss, type 2 diabetes reversal, and improve symptoms related to metabolic syndrome like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). But fasting can also be used as a tool to potentially prevent against certain disease and ageing as well.

What you can and can’t have during a fast depends on your goals. If you’re looking to lose weight and combat metabolic related diseases, then your primary goal for your fasting days should be to limit the amount of insulin the body is producing, and to fuel off of your own body fat. But if your goal is disease prevention, you’re looking to induce autophagy as well. 

What is autophagy? 

My partner at The Fasting Method, Dr. Jason Fung, has given a wonderful explanation of it in his series of blog posts, but it’s primarily a physiological process that involves cellular recycling. When you’re experiencing autophagy the body will break down old and broken cells and put together new and healthy cells. This phenomenon can be induced by fasting and may be beneficial for disease prevention as well as anti-ageing.  

What can you have during a fast if you’re trying to lose weight or reverse type 2 diabetes?

In cases where the goal is to improve or reverse symptoms associated with too much insulin in the body, a condition called hyperinsulinemia, the goal of your fast should be to avoid adding more insulin to the body. When you eat anything, it has the potential to raise your insulin levels. 

You also want to be fuelling your own body fat rather than the energy from food. You might not think fatty coffee in the morning is doing much to your insulin levels, but it’s giving your body plenty of fat to fuel off of throughout the day. If your goal is to burn your own body fat, wouldn’t you rather forgo the fat and just drink the coffee black instead? 

Here are our recommendations for fasting fluids if your health goals involve lowering insulin levels:

  • Water: you can drink it at any temperature and experiment with having flat, mineral or carbonated water during your fasting day.
  • Tea: any tea is great to have during a fast and green tea is a known appetite suppressant. Pique Tea has their own line of fasting teas they created with Dr. Jason Fung.
  • Coffee: we prefer you consume it black if you can and add cinnamon for sweetness, or salt to help curb the bitterness.
  • Homemade broth: you can make a nice bone broth or a homemade vegetable broth. Kettle and Fire is a good store bought alternative for bone broth. 
  • Sugar-free pickle juice: is a great alternative to broth if you find you need some salt throughout your fast. 

What can you have during a fast if you’re looking for disease prevention and anti-ageing? 

There are many people out there saying things like green tea and coffee enhance autophagy, but the truth is we just really don’t have the data. At least not on humans. We’re not mice or rats. And no one hopes more than I do that green tea enhances autophagy. I drink so much of it while I fast, I may end up living forever if that’s the case!

If your goal is autophagy, we recommend you keep your fast simple and stick to the following:

  • Plain water 
  • Salt

Fasting Training Wheels

Regardless of what your goals are for your health, fasting can be both mentally and physically challenging at first for some individuals. If that’s the case, it’s better to use some of the below training wheels than not fast at all.  

Below are our recommended training wheels to help get you started with your fast:

  • Fat for your tea, coffee or broth: some people will add heavy whipping cream, coconut oil, and butter or ghee to their morning tea or coffee. Others will add some cream or oil to their broth.
  • Chia seeds or psyllium husk: they can help manage the side effect, diarrhea, as well as help you feel full during a fast.
  • Fruit to flavour your water: you don’t want to drink juice or eat fruit during your fast, but you can add some fruit to give your water some extra taste. Alternatively, people add edible essential oils to help improve the flavour of their water.  

But remember, they’re training wheels! It’s OK to use them as your body adjusts, but you don’t want to have to use them forever. Much like learning to ride a bicycle. It’s okay when you’re a toddler or in kindergarten, but it’s not cool showing up to your first day of high school on a bike with training wheels.

Megan Ramos, Co-founder of The Fasting Method

2020-02-26T14:02:03-05:0026 Comments

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Julie Duggan
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Julie Duggan

Thank you. Very clear and helpful.

Alex
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Alex

Hi Megan. I’ve read conflicted statements about diet soda. Some say it’s fine as it has no carbs / sugar, and other sources say it has the effect of mimicking sugar to your brain and thus spikes insulin. What’s your take on it?

The Fasting Method
Guest

Definitely refrain from drinking diet sodas. If you wish for something bubbly, unflavoured sparkling soda, or mineral water is best.

BernardP
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BernardP

As explained in Dr. Fung’s books, diet soda is bad because the sweet taste provokes insulin release, even in the absence of sugar.

Amanda
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Amanda

So I am addicted to the scales and I weigh morning and night… I am currently into my first water only fast 93 hours in and today I gained almost a kilo in weight???? How is that possible when I’m not consuming anything. Today I was also hungry for the first time.
Thoughts??

The Fasting Method
Guest

First off, have someone hide your scale!! Second when you are fasting, you produce HGH which can increase lean mass. Nothing to worry about though it will come back off.

JohnM
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JohnM

Congrats on your extended fast. I’ve morning and evening weight measurements going back to 2013. From that I see nearly identical bell curves with a 2-4 pound daytime weigh gain 65% of the time, and a nighttime 2-4 pound weight LOSS 84% of the time. Most of that daily variation is water which makes conclusions/concerns from single readings within that range nearly useless. Longterm trend data is your friend.

Michelle
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Michelle

Thank you Megan! Do you know if anyone is working on getting the autophagy data for humans with any studies going on?

The Fasting Method
Guest

We are not sure of any at this time.

David Cain
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David Cain

Well written article. We always learn something. I was fooling myself in thinking that I could drink coffee while fasted to experience autophagy. Not looking forward to giving up my “liquid oxygen” but if only for a few days..

BernardP
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BernardP

In his books, Dr. Fung says that you can dring coffee. Adding milk or cream is a minor infraction, not a deal-breaker. No sugar or sugar substitutes are allowed though.

Jose
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Jose

Thank you for the information.

I have unsweetened almond or macadamia milk with my 2-3 cups of coffee during my fast, 16 to 18 hrs per day. These contain 2g to 4g of fat. Is this still too much fat?

Always making sure to have plenty of water!

The Fasting Method
Guest

If you can’t fast without it then just add a splash. Otherwise, it is best to do black coffee.

Kate Richmond
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Kate Richmond

Thank you very much for this article making these helpful distinctions. It was especially interesting that ordinary table salt is the only electrolytes recommended for autophagy. I’m not much of a faster compared to most of you…I’m 70 y.o. with no real weight or metabolic issues (other than I strongly suspect I am somewhat insulin resistant despite normal fasting glucose). I have done shorter fasts throughout my life for religious reasons, and more recently I have mostly adopted a 2-meal-a-day early feeding schedule because I feel it helps my sleep, makes it easier to control my weight while eating the… Read more »

Chuck
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Chuck

Is there any benefit to 16/8 fasting daily over a 24 hour fast Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, with regard to Type II Diabetes reversal and weight loss?

The Fasting Method
Guest

Generally we find that individuals with T2D or other metabolic disease see better response when doing longer than 24 hrs three times a week.

Kelly Kelley
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Kelly Kelley

I typically take magnesium, vitamin D, and fish oil. Should I adjust the schedule on these to only take them during my eating window?

The Fasting Method
Guest

Fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamin D, should be taken with food. We do sometimes instruct some people to take magnesium daily as it can help offset the side effects of cramps and insomnia.

Kelly K
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Kelly K

Thank you!

Keisha Raybourne
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Keisha Raybourne

Is eating Grapefruit during a fast ok?

The Fasting Method
Guest

If you eat ANYTHING during your fast, you are not fasting. Also, grapefruit is high in natural sugar.

Linda Morris
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Linda Morris

My husband has been a diabetic on Metformin for over 25 years, and Glipizide added for the last 15 years. He read THE DIABETES CODE and THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO FASTING. He immediately gave up Glipizide and Metformin, as his fasting sugars had been around 250 while medicated. He has been switching up all kinds of fasting schedules for the past 6 months. He lost 35 pounds, but his fasting sugar levels are still averaging 200, even on extended fasts. He wants to see much lower levels and he is getting frustrated. Any thoughts?

The Fasting Method
Guest

He should speak with his healthcare physician so they can adjust his medication doses rather than stopping them altogether. Being a 25+ year diabetic, it will take time for the blood glucose to come down. Keep with it and be patient it will come in time. But I again reiterate that he should be followed by his own physician.

Ana Ghia-Pereira
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Ana Ghia-Pereira

Megan
I tried to order Pique tea from their site (the ones developed with Dr. Fung) but they don’t deliver to Canada for some reason. Amazon has Pique tea but not the ones for fasting. What are our choices?
Ana

The Fasting Method
Guest

Pique Tea is still working on shipping to Canada. Unfortunately, as of right now, it’s not available, so sorry for the inconvenience caused.

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