What to eat (and drink) when you’re ready to gobble up after a fast

Hard-boiled eggs
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Fasting has been a common practice for thousands of years in many cultures. Over the past decade, knowledge about how to break fast intermittent fasting has become more widely known and used. Some people practice time-restricted eating. This involves limiting how many hours a day you can eat.

For example, 18/6 intermittent fasting would involve fasting for 18 hours a day, typically overnight, then eating it all during a six-hour window during daylight hours. In this scenario, you could have your first meal of the day at noon, finish your last meal at 6pm, and then fast overnight until the next day at noon.

Other people practice alternate-day fasting, which essentially involves a 24-hour water fast followed by a full day of regular eating in a cyclical pattern. Others only do an occasional 24-hour fast when they feel comfortable doing so. As the name suggests, that means you won’t eat for an entire 24-hour window. Keeping yourself hydrated with water intake is always allowed in any safe fasting program.

When you practice intermittent fasting or engage in occasional fasts, the goal is typically to get through the fasting window until it’s time to eat again rather than what you’ll actually eat when the fast is over.

What are the best foods to break a fast? Read on to find out.

Bowls of bone broth on a platter
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Bone broth

Bone broth isn’t particularly filling, so it may not be the most satisfying food for breaking a fast, but it’s often a great place to start. It’s extremely easy to digest and packed with a few key nutrients your body needs after fasting.

For example, it is rich in electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium. Electrolytes are minerals that are important for all kinds of vital physiological processes, such as maintaining water balance, conducting nerve impulses, and initiating muscle contraction and relaxation. They also improve hydration and are needed for the digestion and absorption of nutrients such as carbohydrates.

After fasting, the main macronutrient the body needs is protein. Although there are storable forms of carbohydrates and fats in the body in muscle and liver glycogen and adipose (fat) tissue, the only protein store is skeletal muscle. Prolonged fasting can break down muscle tissue because the body is in constant need of protein for many basic functionsif biochemical processes. When you fast and don’t eat protein, your body has to break down muscle tissue to access the protein it needs to support normal life functions.

Many protein-rich foods, especially animal meat, are quite difficult to digest because proteins have complex three-dimensional structures that require a lot of work to digest and absorb individual amino acids. Bone broth is great for breaking a fast because protein is already partially broken down, reducing the work the body has to do on its own. The protein here is absorbed easily, especially compared to the protein found in animal flesh; the lengthy cooking process of bone broth partially degrades the protein into a more digestible form.

Also, a large part of the protein in bone broth is collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and forms a structural component in everything from teeth and skin to muscles, cartilage and tendons. The body can synthesize collagen by combining the amino acids proline and glycine in a synthesis process that requires vitamin C, zinc and copper. However, eating collagen-rich foods negates the need for this process, allowing the protein to be readily available for use.

Try eating natural, organic bone broth; homemade is best. Otherwise, look for prepackaged organic bone broth without added cream, fat, or excessive salt. You can also simmer it with veggies like carrots, broccoli, and dark leafy greens to add more vitamins and minerals.

Soft boiled eggs
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Egg

As another high protein food, eggs are one of the best foods to eat after fasting. Eggs are a complete source of protein, meaning they contain all nine essential amino acids. They also contain several important vitamins and minerals.

According to USDA FoodData Centralone large, whole, hard-boiled chicken egg contains 78 calories, 6.3 grams of protein, 5.34 grams of fat, carbohydrates, and negligible sugars, and small amounts of sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and selenium.

Eggs also contain a decent amount of vitamin A, vitamin D, folate, and the antioxidants choline, lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health. Antioxidants can reduce inflammation, so breaking a fast with eggs can help boost the potential anti-inflammatory benefits of fasting.

Wedges of fresh watermelon.
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Fruit

Fruits are high in water, so they can rehydrate after a fast. While you should drink throughout your entire fast, most people end up a little dehydrated after fasting because it can be difficult to keep up with your fluid needs just by drinking.

Also, fruit contains vitamins and minerals. The carbohydrates in them are easy to digest, however the fiber slows down digestion somewhat so that your system isn’t suddenly flooded with huge amounts of sugar.

Eating processed foods or foods high in simple carbohydrates, particularly if you consume too much too quickly after a prolonged fast, can lead to refeeding syndrome, which is when fluid imbalances occur after a period of fasting. The water and fiber content of fruit helps release a slow, steady flow of glucose into the bloodstream to help limit the chance of refeeding syndrome.

The best fruits to eat after a fast are those that are low in sugar such as berries, melons and grapefruit. These fruits are rich in vitamin C and water.

Salmon fillet
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Fish

Compared to most other animal proteins, fish is quite easy to digest, making it one of the best foods to eat after fasting. Fish is high in protein and other nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin D and healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Low sodium vegetarian kebabs.
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Cooked vegetables

Although raw, fibrous vegetables can cause digestive upset after fasting because they are high in fiber, cooked vegetables, especially stewed or sauteed vegetables, may be among the best foods to eat after fasting.

The cooking process breaks down some of the cellulose, making vegetables much easier to digest without destroying essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

A spoonful of kefir and two glasses of kefir on a table.
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Fermented foods

Yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and pickled vegetables undergo fermentation. During fermentation, natural bacteria in the food break down sugars and produce lactic acid. This is why fermented foods taste tangy or sour.

Fermented foods are a natural source of probiotics, which are the healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome that help digest food and reduce intestinal and systemic inflammation. When you eat fermented foods, you help fortify your gut microbiome. This can help improve digestion.

Since the digestive system can be a little sluggish or may struggle after fasting, fermented foods are among the best foods to eat after fasting to get things going again. They can also help make everything you eat more easily digestible.

One sliced ‚Äč‚Äčavocado and one whole avocado with a knife on a wooden cutting board
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Avocado

Although foods high in fat and fiber are inherently difficult to digest and may therefore be among the worst foods to eat after fasting, avocados are an exception. Avocado is high in monounsaturated fat, dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, and copper, and vitamins B, C, E, and K. All of these are essential nutrients after fasting.

Also, avocados it can be very filling. This can help prevent overeating after a fast; people tend to overeat too fast after fasting, particularly if they consume processed foods and high glycemic index carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, bagels, breakfast cereals, cookies, pastries, and jelly.

As a general rule, the best foods to eat to break a fast are the same as any healthy diet. Focus on natural, unprocessed foods. Eat slowly, chew your food and let your digestive system guide you towards what is filling but tolerable. After all, there’s no point in going through a hard fast and then undoing all your hard work by freaking out over a huge, highly processed, calorie-laden meal.

Espresso cup with saucer
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Does coffee break the fast?

Many wonder how many calories break a fast and whether coffee breaks a fast. Although fasting technically involves abstaining from calorie intake, most people consider black coffee good to drink without breaking the fast.

One cup (240 mL) of black coffee contains only about three calories and trace amounts of protein, fat and minerals. Therefore, drink one or two cups of black coffee while fasting it won’t actually induce any metabolic changes or take you out of a fasted state. However, adding caloric sweeteners or cream, MCT oil, milk or grass-fed butter to your coffee will break your fast because these add-ons contain an appreciable number of calories.

There’s no scientific research or consensus among the medical community on how many calories break a fast, but if you’re looking to be rigorous in your fast, try to consume virtually no calories aside from a trace number in black coffee and herbal tea.

Some intermittent fasting gurus claim that you can consume as many as 50 calories and still keep your body in the fasted state, although there is no readily available scientific evidence to confirm or refute this idea.

Person holding up an apple and donut.
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What are the benefits of fasting?

While fasting may not be for everyone, it can potentially offer great benefits if you’re consistent! Check out the following benefits of fasting:

  • Weight loss
  • Reduction of inflammation
  • Improved blood sugar control
  • Better athletic performance
  • Normalizes insulin sensitivity

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