For Periodic Fasters'. Such as those of you following 5:2, 4:3, Alternate Day Modified Faster's or similar.

Some days fasting days can suck. And it can be hard unravelling what made that day so much harder than usual. Could be hormones, a hangover, too many or not enough carbs the day before or you might just be tired, really busy or really bored.

Having a strategy can really help you avoid those horrid days. Here we take a look at things you can do to help you out on the day itself and things you can do in the lead up to a fasting day to make sure you stay on track.

The fasting day itself

1-      Stay busy. But not too busy. Being busy gives you a distraction from thinking about food all day. But being stressed can make all those good intentions fly out of the window. Aim for some kind of balance if at all possible.

2-      Treat yourself to things that aren’t food related. For example, it’s lunchtime. You need a break. You are thinking about the food you can’t have. Have a stick of FASTING+ then it's time for a distraction. Go for a walk around the block. Grab a coffee and read a chapter of a book you’ve been meaning to read for ages. Plug in some guided meditation. Escape to a yoga class. Have a manicure. Phone a friend. Go to the aquarium. Whatever works for you but take a break. After all you are fasting for health not punishing yourself.

3-      Get some sleep if you can. Okay this isn’t going to be an option for everyone but if you can schedule it, sleep in a little later than usual (after all you don’t need to allow time for breakfast today) or go to bed earlier than usual. And if you really own your own diary (or live in mainland Europe) grab an afternoon nap.

4-      Actively manage hunger and cravings. Water, black coffee and FASTING+ sticks will help with hunger. If you are craving salty or sugary foods or getting a mild headache remember the body loses salt during a fast and those cravings may just be a side effect of that. Instead of reaching for a bag of salt and vinegar crisps or a chocolate biccie try one of these instead: ½ tsp sea salt with a pint of water or a few olives, a small bag of nori seaweed crisps, a cup of miso soup or bone broth. 

5-      Stay hydrated while reducing the monotony. Still water is the mainstay of fasting but it can get rather dull.  To liven it up you could add herbs (mint is a classic) or a squeeze of lemon but there are many other approaches to mix things up. Black coffee is your friend. Treat yourself to the best you can afford. Switch to decaff from 3pm or stick to decaff full stop if caffeine is an issue for you. Schedule your coffee breaks for a time when you tend to struggle or need a lift as it has the added benefit of reducing any hunger pangs you may be experiencing.

If you don’t like coffee but still need a coffee-shaped lift try matcha tea – hot or cold. But yes a matcha Latte is cheating. Matcha tea is amazing stuff. You get a lift from the caffeine but it's also rich in L-Theanine which can improve concentration levels. If you need a power hour to focus on getting a pile of work done then this is for you.

Tea is also allowed on most periodic fasting regimes. Nothing wrong with breakfast tea but experiment to keep things interesting. Green, peppermint, chamomile, rooibos are always popular but expand your repertoire. During a fast, warming teas can be comforting-  pu'er and coconut chai are worth seeking out as is anything with cinnamon, cocoa or liquorice in it. 

Use your none-fasting time to set you up for easier fasting

1.       Get some sleep – yep, that again.

2.       Ditch the alcohol… and the sweets… and the chocolate… and the white carbs… and the white pasta. I know, boring! But as boring as it sounds, reducing your refined carbohydrates outside of your fasting window will help support insulin and blood sugar regulation making the transition into a fasted state easier. You don’t have to go to extremes. Just be aware of what you are eating and try to add in some fat, fibre or protein to reduce the overall effect of any refined carbohydrates.

A few tips;

§  Focus on getting your carbs from vegetables and fruit and leave the skin on where possible for extra fibre and extra nutritious goodness

§  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil on your veggies and salads

§  Add full fat yogurt to your fruit

§  Choose high cocoa chocolate and have it with some nuts or seeds

§  Ditch the top of your sandwich and pile the filling high

§  Have one glass of red wine with a meal and savour it

§  Stir a tablespoon of coconut oil into your porridge before serving

§  If you can choose between full fat or low fat, always choose full fat 

3.       Eat enough. Of the good stuff. Don’t go into diet mode on none fasting days. Eat proper meals of proper food in proper amounts. This will help you stay on track when you fast and support your metabolism. Try not to over eat though and try not to have snacks between meals. The odd treat? Why not.

4.       Do your hard, high intensity training sessions – weights, sprints, endurance work etc. on a non-fasting day… maybe. The jury is still out so feel free to try exercising on a fasting day and none fasting day and find out what works best for you. Some say HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is brilliant on fasting days as it improves the fat burning benefits of a fast. Others say fasting days should be limited to low intensity training.

If you are trying to lay down muscle, best to do that on a none fasting day. Or you could be clever about how to time the calories you do have – eat something high in carbs an hour, hour and a half before training (such as fruit) and something high in protein and carbs post training (such as meat and veggies). If you are fasting to lose fat, give fasted training a go. 

If you decide to exercise during your fast, stop immediately if you feel dizzy or your energy levels drop significantly and give yourself a break. If you can, try and work out why it was hard for you on that day - trained too hard the day before? Not enough sleep? Too much on at work? Poor diet during the lead up to the fast? Etc. so you can adjust things for next time.

On balance woman tend to struggle with training during a fast more than men (thanks hormones) so ladies be extra aware of any changes and adapt your programme to work for you.

I hope some of these work for you. Happy fasting. x