Around this time every year, I get a weekly reminder of a human experience that we Westerners seldom have.
That's because it's Lent, the forty days in the Christian calendar leading up to Easter. On Fridays in Lent, Catholics and other Christian denominations fast (reduce food intake) and abstain from (don't eat) meat on Fridays.
The exact formula for how much and when we eat is more technical than I want to deal with here. Suffice it to say that if you're fasting, you should feel some hunger pains on Fridays. And that's a good thing. It helps us understand what most people in the world experience daily and most generations have experienced throughout human history.
But while some mild hunger may be good, when you're fasting, you don't want to give the impression you're starving or let your hunger affect your productivity.
So here are some tips for maintaining high energy and vibrancy until you break the fast.
GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
Studies have shown that short sleep duration may be associated with increased appetite. While I'm not concerned with your BMI (in this post), you should be aware that sleeping less may inhibit leptin (satiety hormone) production while promoting ghrelin (hunger hormone).
In short, maintaining an optimal sleep duration during fasting periods may also help moderate your hunger, keeping you productive and focused even with a semi-empty stomach.
EAT LOTS OF FAT
Lots of people associate high protein with hunger suppression, thinking adding bacon to their oatmeal or toast breakfast will keep them full throughout the day.
This could be true, but what do you do on a day when there's no bacon allowed?
Instead of just eating the oatmeal sans bacon, try cutting out the oatmeal, too. Replace it with some healthy fat. In my experience, one cup of Bulletproof Coffee with grass fed butter and Brain Octane oil can completely satisfy hunger well into the afternoon, making it the ideal breakfast. (For me, this is breakfast all the time, not just on fasting days.)
MORE THAN A MEAT FAST
Typically, Fridays are my low protein days even when I'm not abstaining from meat during Lent. According to Dave Asprey, periodically lowering protein intake to about 10-15g for the day may be a healthy way to detox your cells, stimulate fat burning, and improve sleep quality.
To achieve near zero protein intake while consuming small meals, try eating fats and starchy vegetables. During Lent, this substitution should be moderate, since the spirit of the fast is to feel some hunger. Half a sweet potato with grass fed butter can make a great small meal for Friday lunch. You don't have to suffer through canned tuna on salad if you don't want to.
DRINK MORE WATER, NOT MORE COFFEE
If you implement the above recommendations and still feel like you want to pass out at 2pm, try not to rush for the coffee pot prematurely. You may just be dehydrated because you normally drink when you eat. Since you're eating less, make sure you're taking in extra H2O. This will also help moderate hunger.
On the other hand, for me drinking afternoon coffee on a relatively empty stomach while fasting makes me jittery and moody, instead of providing the smooth, high energy boost I get from the full fat morning Bulletproof Coffee.
MAINTAIN A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Regardless of your physical precautions, you're still likely to feel some hunger. And that's the point. Fasting is mainly a spiritual and mental exercise to train your mind and soul to accept slight discomfort with joy, peace, and gratitude.
Jesus, the Bruce Lee of fasting, said this: "When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward" (Mt. 6:16-18).
As much as I encourage trying to optimize your nutrition while fasting, I believe it's even more important to smile genuinely and maintain authentic happiness, even when you think you're starving.
How do you get through those long Fridays in Lent? Do you have any high energy food choices that make good Lenten meals? Do you fast at any other times during the year?