As anyone who has broken a fast will tell you, going about it the wrong way can cause stomach upset and make you feel bloated and uncomfortable. If you want to avoid that unpleasant possibility, what are the best foods to eat after fasting?
How to Break a Fast
Drink fluids: The British Nutrition Foundation recommends you drink plenty of water during your fast, and as you end your fast, focus on beverages like milk, fruit juices or blended drinks like smoothies. These tend to be a gentle way of getting your body some nutrition — they contain copper, manganese, potassium and fiber — without overloading the digestive process. That said, try to avoid sugar-heavy drinks.
Eat dried foods: Dates are a traditional fast-breaking food in the Islamic faith, and they provide carbohydrates and micronutrients, too. Other dried fruits that provide sugar and fiber, like dried apricots or raisins, are good fast-breaking foods as well.
Sip on soup: Another traditional food, brothy soups help to keep you hydrated. Look for soups that have protein, like beans or lentils and carbs like pasta or rice.
Choose healthy foods: If you think fasting means that when you're eating again, it's a free-for-all, think again. Harvard Health Publishing suggests keeping your post-fast meals healthy, too. They'll sound familiar: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lentils, healthy fats and lean protein.
How Long Should You Fast?
How long to fast before breaking your fast really depends on the diet methodology you're following. There's the 16:8 diet (fast for 16 hours, eat for 8), the 5:2 (eat for five days, fast for two), fasting every other day, fasting all day and eating only at night.
But fasting isn't just a diet fad — it's also been around for years as a religious tradition. Ramadan is one such religious fasting event, when some Muslims won't eat or drink anything between sunrise and sunset during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It's also a time for spiritual reflection and prayer.
In fact, these religious traditions are the source of much of the interest in the health impacts of fasting, and they have also helped provide data for researchers. Energy balance, a reduction of cell and tissue damage from free-radicals and a lowering of lipid cells in the blood, are all noted benefits, according to a March 2017 review published by Nutrition.
Eating Meat After Fasting
Yes, eating meat is fine after fasting. Depending on the length of your fast, you may want to eat smaller portions. But the British Nutrition Foundation recommends eating protein-rich foods, including meat and fish, once your fast is complete. However, you should limit the amount of fatty foods you consume, so lean meat is preferable.
Fasting for Weight Loss
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, it's unclear if fasting is beneficial for weight loss. It looked at three types of fasting: alternate day fasting (eating on certain days and fasting on others), modified fasting (eating very little food on fasting days, but still some) and time-restricted fasting (often called intermittent fasting, in which you fast for a chunk of the day and eat over a shorter period).
With all of these fasting types, there didn't appear to be a significant difference between fasting and low-calorie diets. However, hunger pains, trouble focusing and overeating were reported with fasting. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics doesn't recommend it as a form of dieting, and says it can be particularly harmful for people with a history of disordered eating, those who have diabetes, pregnant or breastfeeding women.