Nil By Mouth: Top Tips For Fasting Successfully & Safely

fruit and vegetable powder - Diet, healthy fruit salad

It has been widely reported that prime minister Rishi Sunak fasts for 36 hours at the start of each week. This might seem to be a rather daunting prospect for those of us who find Monday mornings a battle at the best of times, but fasting can bring health benefits by aiding weight loss and reducing the risk of serious diseases such as diabetes.

However, it’s important to fast safely and ensure that you are not depriving yourself of essential nutrients. A deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals could leave you feeling sluggish and tired, and may make you prone to dizzy spells, muscle cramps and confusion or poor concentration levels.

Speaking to BBC News, Clare Thornton-Wood, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, said intermittent fasting could help people lose weight but “it needs to go hand-in-hand with eating a healthy, balanced diet for the rest of the time”.

She added: “If you then make up those calories by eating more on other days and eat whatever you like for the rest of the week, you actually won’t lose weight overall.” Therefore, it’s important to maintain your discipline and avoid indulging in too many sugary or high-fat treats.

Nevertheless, even the iron-willed Mr Sunak admits to allowing himself a few indulgences during the week, The Sunday Times reports. He has a weakness for Mexican Coca-Cola, which is made with cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup. Unprocessed sugar can be more easily converted into energy by our metabolism, rather than stored as fat. 

Mr Sunak told a podcast in 2022: “I do intermittent fasting, so on most days I have nothing for breakfast. Otherwise, we have Greek yoghurt and blueberries during the week. And then I have a second breakfast mid-morning which is a cinnamon bun, a pain au chocolat or a chocolate chip muffin. So I have one chocolatey, sugary pastry at some point.”

The prime minister said his fasting was part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. However, fasting may not be suitable for children and teenagers, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or those with certain medical conditions.

Intermittent fasting can take various forms. For example, the 16:8 diet involves fasting for 16 hours per day and eating during the remaining eight hours. The 5:2 diet involves eating 25% of your usual calorie intake on two non-consecutive days of the week. Some people such as Mr Sunak simply don’t eat for 24 or 36 consecutive hours every week.

If you are considering fasting as a way to promote weight loss or just improve your sense of wellbeing, it’s important to make sure that you take a sensible approach and don’t put yourself at risk of nutritional deficiencies. 

Some people avoid this risk by taking a food supplement. Nevertheless, it’s important to take pure or minimally processed substances to ensure you don’t inadvertently consume anything that breaks your fast. For example, many brands of multivitamin tablets also contain sugar and small amounts of fat and protein to make the product more palatable.

However, if you are partaking in the 5:2 method of fasting and want to ensure that you eat healthily while keeping your calorie intake to a minimum, an excellent solution is to add fruit and vegetable powders to smoothies or hot drinks. 

These are powders that are made from 100 per cent pure plant extracts and lose none of the potency of the vitamin and mineral content. For example, organic spinach powder is rich in iron, antioxidants, vitamins A, C, E, K, B2, and B6, magnesium, manganese, folate, calcium, potassium, folic acid, phosphorus, zinc, niacin, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

All of these substances are vital to the healthy functioning of the body, and in particular they can be an extra support if you are following a highly restrictive diet. It can be added to smoothies, juices, salad dressings, soups, risottos and so on, bringing you a substantial boost of nutrients without consuming extra calories or following complicated recipes. 

When you are coming out of a fasting period, it’s best to ease your body gently into eating rather than consuming a lot of rich food at once and risk upsetting your digestive system. Start with blended drinks, soups, and soft vegetables.

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