Extended fasting is a great way to get rid of unwanted body fat.
Plus it offers tons of health benefits such as autophagy.
While extended fasting is generally safe, breaking an extended fast requires reasonable precautions.
Here’s what you need to know.
What is an extended fast? How many days/hours?
First things first. Let’s define exactly what an extended fast is.
An extended fast is usually considered to be anything longer than 72 hours or so. Less than that is still considered intermittent fasting.
Why is it important to break your extended fast safely?
During an extended fast, your digestive system has not been active. It needs time to wake up.
Your hormonal activity and metabolic processes have undergone big changes, as well.
Not following proper refeeding guidelines can put you at greater risks for things like:
- Digestive discomfort
- Fluid retention
- Uncontrolled eating
- Regaining lost weight
- Refeeding syndrome
What is refeeding syndrome?
Refeeding syndrome is a dangerous complication that can occur after an extended fast.
While you’ve been fasting your body focused on maintaining important minerals in the blood. There were no other nutrients to process in absence of food.
Once you reintroduce foods, this changes instantly. Your insulin spikes and your cells open up to absorb glucose.
If you eat too much too quickly, or choose the wrong kinds of foods, your body won’t have enough time to re-adjust. You may end up with dangerously low levels of minerals.
The risk is even higher if you have not been keeping up with electrolytes. (We hope you are keeping up with electrolytes!)
Early symptoms of refeeding syndrome can include:
- Muscle weakness
- Breathing issues
- Rapid heartbeat or heart skipping
- Confusion or brain fog
And while refeeding syndrome is rare, it is serious, and can even lead to death in extreme cases.
How long should I refeed?
You should plan to refeed for half as many days as you fasted.
We know this might seem like a long time. You’ve been fasting and now you want your food.
But taking it slow will allow your sleeping digestive system to wake up gradually.
The longer your fast was, the more important it would be to stick to that guideline.
So for something like a five day fast, two days of refeeding should be fine. Not a big deal.
But let’s say you fasted for 14 days—you would need to refeed for at least seven days.
Keep in mind this is the minimum to aim for; you can continue your refeed even longer if you feel you need to.
Always listen to your body. Better to refeed for longer than not long enough.
What are the best foods for the refeed phase?
You want to stay away from heavy carbs. No pastas, rice, or starchy vegetables like potatoes.
Foods that are easy to digest are best, especially the first few days.
Avoid junk food and highly-processed foods.
Stick to foods and liquids like the following:
- Broth (plain or with added fats such as heavy cream or butter)
- Bulletproof coffee
- Low carb veggie juices
Later, you can add in soft, easily digested foods such as eggs (if you tolerate them well), steamed veggies, and veggie purees.
And don’t forget to stay hydrated! Drink your water.
How much should I eat during my refeed?
Small quantities are best.
The longer your fast was, the less you should eat starting out.
Think spoonfuls at first, not bowl fulls or plate fulls.
Only eat when you’re actually hungry.
Can supplements help during the refeed phase?
Yes – don’t stop taking your electrolytes yet!
You will need to continue taking sodium, magnesium, and potassium. These are all present in our Fasting Salts.
As you start to add more foods later in the refeed process you can adjust the amount of electrolytes you’re taking, since you’ll be getting some with your food.
If your extended fast was 14 days or longer
You will also need to take the following at least 30 minutes before breaking your fast. This will help to prevent refeeding syndrome:
- B vitamin complex
Phosphorus and B vitamins are both included in our Fasting Refeed formula.
Continue the electrolytes and Fasting Refeed for ten days.
What should I do if I experience problems during my refeed?
If you start to feel unwell during the refeed, slow down.
You could be eating too much or too quickly.
Eat only when hungry and in small quantities.
Listen to your body. If you feel that something is wrong, consult your doctor. Always better to be on the safe side!
Breaking Your Extended Fast Safely Reduces Risks of Complications
Thankfully, serious refeeding complications don’t happen often. Generally, they tend to occur as a result of uncontrolled involuntary fasting during natural disasters and other humanitarian crises.
Milder symptoms like uncontrolled eating and digestive discomfort are more common when fasting for weight loss. These can be easily prevented if you follow the advice in this article.
Taking things nice and slow will ensure that you stay safe. And that all the hard work you did while fasting pays off.
Author: Roo Black
Roo is a fasting coach with over 5 years of experience. She leads the admin team of the Official Fasting for Weight Loss Facebook group – one of the largest fasting communities on social media with over 125,000 members. We highly recommend this group for anyone who is looking for fasting advice or coaching.