What to Eat Before a Fast
First things first: if you are reading these tips without a cup of water in your hand, go grab one and start sipping!
1. Hydration is the major factor in preparing for a fast and the culprit behind most of your symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, nausea and dry mouth. Aside from doing the obvious of drinking H20 (and A LOT of it!), you can also help by grabbing at the chance to eat lots of fruits and veggies with a high water content like cucumbers, bell peppers, celery, watermelon and strawberries.
2. Fruits and vegetables not only help us get in more water, but they also help with our step number two, increase quality carbohydrate intake. Before you grab at the first pasta dish to cross your eyes at the dinner table, think quality, not quantity. Piling up on plates of refined starches like white pasta, is not fully getting you closer to your pre-fast goal which is: to fill your carbohydrate stores to maximum capacity. Complex carbs, or whole grain sources, are made up of our best friend, “fiber”. Fiber keeps you full. What that means is it allows the sugars in the carbohydrate to be released more slowly in the bloodstream. In other words, it will give you a more steady stream of sugar as your body’s source of energy, instead of gushing throughout your body and being gone within an hour into the fast.
If there was a time to get over any personal issues with whole grains, it is before a fast. Not an option? I would opt for the starchy vegetables like a healthy sized sweet potato as my starch of choice, which would deliver tons of fiber and potassium (which is one electrolyte we lose during a fast and it helps to regulate blood pressure, which drops while fasting).
Aside from just providing us with energy, carbohydrates need water to be stored. Therefore, we are getting an added benefit of not only increasing our energy storage, but also filling up our fluid capacity to as high as possible.
3. As much as we can try to do to fill our carb stores, they inevitably will be depleted within a few hours. But don’t worry. G-d put in place a lot of survival mechanisms to keep our bodies going (including making our own sugar for energy!). The next nutrient to be ripped through are your protein stores. That is why it is important to include quality protein in your dinner meal, along with a helping of healthy fat, the last nutrient to be used for energy.
4. Decrease the caffeine. I hate to admit this one, but it is true. Coffee is an addiction. And with any addiction, it will lead to withdrawals. Ideally, you minimized the caffeine over a few days. If the time has past, just be sure to hydrate yourself as much as possible to help ward off some of the headache severity.
So, a lot of information, but let’s put it on a plate. You may be surprised that it does not look different than how most other nights should be. Remember: quality, not quantity:
Meal Ideas (accompanied with water):
1. 1.5 cups of brown rice and lentils (mujedre) with 4-6 ounces non-fat plain Greek yogurt, 1 sweet potato and salad.
2. 4-6 oz of salmon with 1⁄2-1 cup bulgur and chickpeas, 1 cup of fruit and 2 cups broccoli.
3. 1.5 cups oatmeal (yes, I said it) made in 1 cup almond milk, with 1 cup blueberries, 2 tbsp chia seeds and 2 tbsp walnuts.
4. Large piece of spanach gibbon (see recipe on my blog) with 1 cup black rice and avocado salad, large salad and 1 cup of fruit.
5. 4-6 oz of fish with 1 cup wild rice and Israeli salad with 1 cup fruit.
**These tips are a general guide to what to eat before a fast. They do not take into account any specific medical conditions. Consult your physician before trying any new dietary changes.**