By Hilary Sheinbaum
For some people, fasting seems impossible (or at the very least, uncomfortable). For others, like Sarah Bowmar, fasting is a daily part of their lifestyles because it yields desired results (we’ll get to perks in a minute). With so many plusses, we asked Bowmar, 31, to answer all of our burning questions about fasting. After all, she isn’t just a participant — she’s a personal trainer, entrepreneur and fitness & nutrition specialist. And, if you haven’t seen her in-person in the midwest (namely Iowa), you may recognize her from Instagram, where she’s amassed 1.2 million followers.
Read on for everything you need to know about fasting — including three tips for first-timers. And, it goes without saying, but we have to say it: consult with your doctor before attempting a fast.
Bowmar says that the majority of those who fast daily do it for 16 hours.
“This means that they do not consume any food during that window except for water, black coffee or tea, which barely have any calories in them,” she explains.
“The rest of the time — 8 hours — you can eat. It’s up to you if you want to still restrict your calorie intake during your eating period or not.”
“Fasting is proven to help lose weight,” says Bowmar. As you can imagine, it’s probably the most popular reason why people try it in the first place. Bowmar explains that this works by first, naturally limiting calorie intake. “Since you only have a limited time to eat, naturally, you’ll be eating less. Second, it also helps boost your metabolism,” she says. “There are also studies that show that it can help regulate blood sugar levels and provide better mental clarity.”
Besides hunger, there are some not-so-sexy drawbacks to fasting. “There are people who tend to experience dizziness caused by hunger, headaches, and fatigue when they start fasting, but those are normal and only last a few days,” Bowmar says. “That is your body’s natural reaction to the restriction. Keep in mind that our body has the ability to adjust to different circumstances.“ Her advice? Keep with it. “The majority of the issues I see with people who fast is the fact that they unknowingly consume liquid calories within their fasting period, which really just breaks the cycle and can cause even more weight gain.”
Absolutely, says Bowmar. “This is one of the best ways to make the most out of your fast and achieve autophagy,” she says. “It will literally change you at a cellular level. Exercising during a fast can also help you gain more strength.“
It should be a small meal that’s high in protein and fiber, says Bowmar. “Protein is the hardest macronutrient to break down while fiber provides you that feeling of fullness.”
Bowmar recommends protein and fat. “You need protein to provide you with energy and continue the body’s repair process,” she says. “Fat will provide you with fatty acids, which your body cannot make by itself. It also helps the body absorb essential fat soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, and E. A lot of people start with collagen or bone broth.”
“Anyone who is looking at losing fat or improving their overall state of health can benefit from fasting,” says Bowmar. “It’s really not just about weight or fat loss. Fasting comes with a wide array of benefits.”
Despite the benefits, fasting isn’t for everyone. “People who have blood sugar or glucose issues should refrain from fasting,” Bowmar says. “While it’s true that there are studies showing that fasting can help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, this is only applicable for people who do not have existing issues.”
So… now we have to ask: who’s in?!