Fasting Basics: When to Stop Your Fast

Are you paralyzed with thoughts of mouth-watering bacon? No matter what you do you just can’t stop thinking about how desirable it would be to sink your teeth into that juicy steak you’ve been daydreaming about?  It’s low carb and even keto, right?  Should you give in and break your fast since this is a ‘safe’ food selection? FINISH YOUR FAST!

For most of us, our biggest issues when it comes to fasting is mind over matter.  Sometimes our mind can feel like it’s a hurdle more challenging to climb over than Mount Everest.   But with consistent effort we can change our thought processes within a matter of weeks (more on the behavioural challenges with fasting in my next post).

But, when should you call it quits during a fast?  In our last post on Fasting Basics, we talked about some side effects of fasting, such as headaches and flu like symptoms.  More often than not it’s okay to push through those side effects as long as you consult with your doctor and make sure there isn’t anything more serious going on.  However, there’s one symptom that should be taken very seriously: nausea.  If you feel even the slightest bit nauseous during a fast, you should end your fatst immediately.

Nausea usually occurs because you’ve become too dehydrated.  Either your electrolytes have become too depleted or the concentration of ketone bodies (fuel source produced by burning fat) in your blood has become too high.

Does this mean you should drink more water?  No, not necessarily.  You should only drink if you feel thirsty.  There is no ideal number of ounces of liters of water you should consume each day.  If you feel thirsty, drink.  If you don’t, then don’t drink.  Overhydration is just as problematic as dehydration.

So, how can we stay hydrated if that doesn’t mean we need to drink water every second of the day?  Follow these tips below to make sure your only problem while you’re fasting is the thought of a yummy meal ahead.

 

Supplement with electrolytes

 

Problems with electrolyte imbalance is often experienced when someone with elevated insulin levels or metabolic syndrome start to fast (hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance). When we start to fast our insulin levels start to fall quite dramatically.  This drop causes a signal to be sent to the kidneys to release excess water.  But often, we lose extra electrolytes, particularly sodium, too.

What can we do to help prevent this from becoming problematic:

  • Have a cup of homemade bone broth or a low carb vegetable broth
  • Have some pickle juice either straight or diluted in water to taste
  • Add 1-2 TBSP of sole to a cup of water
  • Take some fasting drops throughout the day
  • Take a pinch of salt and place it on your tongue

 

If you’re someone who doesn’t have issues related to high insulin levels, and you’re not coming off a carb binge, then you’re less likely to experience these issues.

 

Expert tip: it’s more important to be diligent with electrolytes during the first 72 hours of an extended fast because that’s when you’re going to see the greatest drop in your insulin levels.

 

If you feel hungry, try having a cup of water first

We often mistake thirst for hunger because we’ve become so out of tune with our bodies.  And when we’re fasting, we expect to experience intense hunger, so we just ignore it.  This is how thirst often becomes ignored.  As a result, the concentration of items in our blood can become too high, which may lead to problems like nausea.  The same is true if we overhydrate with water and the concentration becomes too low.

As we burn body fat we produce an alternative fuel source to glucose called ketone bodies.  Usually the presence of ketone bodies in our blood is a safe and welcomed thing, especially if we’re trying to lose body fat.  But just like everything else, too much of a good thing can be a very bad thing.  If the concentration of ketone bodies is too high in our blood, then we may start to feel nauseous.

Follow these suggestions to make sure you aren’t mistaking thirst for hunger:

  1. If you feel hungry, drink 1 cup of water and wait 30 minutes
  2. Go do something instead of sitting and staring at the clock
  3. Ask yourself: do I still feel hungry? More often than not the answer is no.

 

Expert tip: you should even do this on eating days between meals when you’re tempted to snack on nuts and cheese.  Remember it’s not just what you eat but it’s also when you eat that determines whether or not you’re healthy and will maintain your weight.

 

Always remember you can break your fast if you feel unwell for any reason, not just nausea.  You can always start your fast when you start to feel well again.  Listen to your body and seek medical attention immediately.

 

  • Megan J. Ramos
2019-05-28T09:04:57-04:0011 Comments

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Danica Mila Bulic
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Danica Mila Bulic

Thank you for this. I try to be very careful because I live in the middle of nowhere in the Andes mountains. There is only one other person in this valley that has both a cell phone and a vehicle in case of medical emergencies. It is also a 2 hour drive to the nearest medical facility. I have naturally low blood pressure and oftentimes feel dizzy on extended fasts. Salt helps. I have never experienced nausea, but I have broken a fast because I wasn’t sure if continuing was safe. Now I know. ☺

Carol H
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Carol H

This is exactly what I’ve been wanting to know Megan. Thank you! I had not only nausea but vomiting when I first tried extended fasting. I did break my fast after several “rounds’ and I haven’t been brave enough to try again. I’ll try now, knowing more!

Wendela Roberts
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Wendela Roberts

What about heart palpitations? I’m healthy, no diabetes or pre-diabetes, no cholesterol issues. But after about 36 hours of fasting, I get these palpitations. So far, I’ve stopped fasting immediately, but is there a way to mitigate the effects?

rachel
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Sometimes that is caused by electrolyte imbalances. If you are unsure, you should always check with your physician.

Steph
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Steph

Nuts and cheese? What’s wrong with having nuts and cheese?

Ol' Will
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Ol' Will

In the context, the author was saying not to snack between meals – even on a fed day. Try drinking some water and then do something else for awhile. You want your insulin to remain low between meals.

James Harless
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James Harless

Can an insulin dependant diabetic take only background insulin and still do 24 hour fast? If BG goes below 70 in fasting, does one eat carb or ignore low?

BarbaraJo
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BarbaraJo

My Nutritionist recommended I use an electrolyte powder called Ultima. It has no sugar in it and is what she uses herself on her keto/IF journey. I eat keto/low carb and doing 16:8 IF this was her recommendation for that. Now that I am beginning to fast 36hours 3d a week can I still use this powder? This is my first week to fast more than 16:8. This week I did MWF no food to end up doing three 36hour fasts. I noticed towards the end of the day I was a little light headed off/on and felt wobbly on… Read more »

fitnesshealthforever
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Hey, very nice blog. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

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Akhil Jain
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Akhil Jain

I am a 55 years, 74 kgs, 6 ft 1 inch, vegetarian male with thin body and very high hbalc reading of 13 type 2 diabetic male. Suffering from diabetes from last 15 years. No medicine or insulin seems to make any difference in the diabetes readings. They are almost same whether I take medication / insulin or not. Will fasting help me to get rid of diabetes.

rachel
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Fasting will help lower your blood glucose levels. We would also recommend low carb, moderate protein, and high healthy fats as well.