Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fasting Like a Pro

I've noticed that recently I've been fasting great. Before Tisha B'Av this email was going around, and it seems I've been doing what it is recommending. 

Tips for an Easy Fast

Recap of the article Helpful Tips to Insure an Easier Fast by Ira Milner, R.D.  

1) The first source of your discomfort is the body’s need for water.  Water is involved in practically every bodily function, and if you provide the body with enough fluids, it will help you function as a whole. So, the day before the fast, remember to drink, drink and DRINK.  (When you go from room to room, carry a tall glass of water as a reminder.)  Your regular daily intake is supposed to be six to eight 8 oz glasses.  The day before a fast, that should be upped to eight to ten glasses.  (Do the math: That means one glass every hour between 9:00 am and 6:00 pm.) Warning:  Although you may think cola, coffee and tea also supply water, the diuretic properties of caffeine make those beverages inadvisable.  Remember also that most fruit are more than 80% water, and vegetables are from 70-95% water. 

2) Decrease protein.  Protein attracts water, and too much of it can leach water from body tissues.  In extreme cases, dehydration could result from consuming too much protein because the extra protein pulls out water that is later needed to remove the waste products from the body.

3) Increase Starch and Fiber.  Simple carbohydrates (chocolate bars and candies) are sugars.  Complex carbohydrates (whole grain breads and cereals, pasta, potatoes and legumes) are starch and dietary fibers.  Although during digestion both break down into glucose, complex carbohydrates take longer to break down, and help ease the pangs of a fact.  (Think of what the marathon runners eat the night before their run.) 

4) Decrease salt, spices and fried foods.  What happens in your body when you eat them?  Your blood level of sodium rises.  This stimulates the brain’s thirst receptor, which triggers the thirst sensation.  In addition, since water is required to remove salt from the body, it further increases the body’s need for water.

5) Avoid caffeine.  If you regularly drink more than two to three cups of coffee per day, taper off several days before.  Although technically caffeine is not addictive, the body becomes accustomed to its stimulant effect, and suddenly abstaining from it will inevitably produce the ‘withdrawal headache’.

6) Two other ways to minimize water loss the day before a fast: Don’t exert yourself too much and stay out of the sun.

So what is your meal before a fast?  Chicken soup, roast beef, and a tall glass of cola?  That’s a no-no-no.  Here’s a suggestion:

         Whole grain challah
         Plain pasta
         Baked potato
         Steamed vegetables or tossed salad
         Fresh fruit
         Lots of plain water

Another added suggestion is to ween off sugar and other simple carbs way before the taanis. I no longer have sugar on a daily basis (rarely any white flour either) and my fasts are not remotely as murderous as they used to be.


guyinla said...

I agree with most of it but i take issue with the decrease in salt. Firstly, if you take in more salt you'll be more thirsty and drink more water. And secondly, salt is an electrolyte which helps your body retain and utilize the water you drink.
Obviously you shouldn't eat a lot of salt right before the fast when you can't drink anymore, but up to an hour or two before the fast should be good. I don't have a source for this - it's just my own two cents - but it makes sense to me and I've never had a problem with it.

Princess Lea said...

Whenever I eat something really salty, I'm slurping water for days afterward. But different metabolisms respond differently - and electrolytes can be found in many fruits and vegetables.