Getting Fit Dad Blog: Diet
How to Try a Juice Fast
By Derek Beres for Completely You
I used to say I was bad at fasting. I had tried it twice, failing miserably on both occasions. During my first fast, I only made it to day No. 3 before devouring fruit. I made it all the way to day No. 4 on my second attempt. But after I nearly passed out while exercising at the gym, I ran out and grabbed a slice of pizza. Not the best way to break a fast, but given the circumstances, I couldn’t wait to find something better.
I tried again anyway, and I recently completed my first successful fast. Part of the reason was that this time, I stayed away from my previous method: the infamous Master Cleanse. Another important factor was that I was less ambitious and more realistic. No more 10-day spicy lemonade fasts for me. This time, I planned to fast for seven days (only three without any solid food), and followed a healthier program.
Although fasting is often done as a weight loss technique, it is not the best way to go about it. You may lose a few pounds during your fast, but they will quickly return if you continue an unhealthy eating regimen. Personally, I fast because it cleanses my body of toxins and it helps me achieve a higher level of mental clarity.
Like my previous efforts, this was an emotional experience; fasting causes most of us to feel anxious and irritated. If you want to try it, the following guidelines will help you develop a safe and doable method that’s effective and will leave you full of energy to boot.
Fasting for 10 days your first time out is not a great idea. Some experts argue that you need at least five days for your digestive system to reset. But honestly, even a single day will give your body a much-needed rest. Remember, we sleep every night, so taking a day (or three) off from eating has a similar effect on our stomachs and intestines. In fact, during the course of my fast, I needed much less sleep and woke up with plenty of energy, partly due to the fact that my body was not spending the nighttime hours digesting food.
Enter and Exit Intelligently
I’ve heard horror stories of people preparing for, and breaking, fasts. They’ll drink alcohol the night before they begin and break with a fried, greasy meal. (My pizza story was definitely a mistake.) I structured my fast as follows:
Day Nos. 1 and 7: Vegan, raw food. Let your body tell you how much to eat. Remember that weight loss is not the goal; cleansing your body is.
Day Nos. 2 and 6: The same, though less of it, with plenty of juice. Here’s one of my favorite juice recipes made from kale, apple and lemon.
Days Nos. 3, 4 and 5: Juice only.
Beginning and ending with raw, vegan meals allows your body to transition smoothly. Going vegan is smart because that way, your body will not be producing mucus, which is a natural response to dairy products. Eating raw is important because it helps you prepare your body to take in plenty of nutrients and enzymes from the fruits and veggies. If you’re unfamiliar with eating this way, I suggest you pick up a vegan cookbook before starting your fast. In addition, here’s a great guide to juicing.
Switch It Up
What I found to be the most difficult aspect of the Master Cleanse was drinking the same exact thing every day. Downing carrot juice for three straight days is not a great option -- not only for taste reasons. You want to consume lots of diverse nutrients during your fast. This time around, I began every morning with a smoothie with a homemade almond milk base. (Note: Do not use sweeteners or flavorings in the milk.) I added two fresh apricots and a date, and I blended them together. This gave me plenty of energy all morning long. Almonds are considered seeds, which means almond milk is totally appropriate for the days you’re only drinking juice. Having a dense drink like this also helps you emotionally because you’ll feel more sated than you would with just fruit juice. With that said, some juices -- like the kale-apple combo above -- can be very filling.
You don’t want to do things you wouldn’t normally do just to get your mind off of the fact that you’re fasting. Go about your normal routine and try to stay focused. You might actually rest a little more than usual, especially in the first day or two, because at first it’s common for your energy levels to drop. As you acclimate to the fast and your body pulls from the fat reserves you’ve stored, you should feel more energetic. Don’t be surprised if you feel sick -- stomach pains, congestion and headaches are all common -- at the beginning as well; the depletion of these reserves has a tendency to release toxins. (After all, that’s what the cleanse is supposed to rid you of). That’s part of the process, and once the toxins are out of you, you’ll feel better and start to heal.
I am now aiming to do two fasts a year; one in the spring, the other during the fall. My favorite benefit is the mental clarity it provides -- something you take with you long after the fast is complete.
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is Completely You’s Getting Unstuck blogger. A journalist, yoga instructor and DJ/music producer, he has written for such publications as Departures and The Huffington Post. He teaches yoga at Equinox Fitness and Yogis Anonymous, and is one-half of the music production team EarthRise SoundSystem. For more info, visit DerekBeres.com.