Extended Fasting: Best Way to Break the Fast

  • FDA Disclaimer
    The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body. We do not aim to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease. Information is shared for educational purposes only. Learn More
  • Affliliate Disclosure
    In compliance with the FTC guidelines, please assume the following about links and posts on this site: Many of the links on DrJockers.com are affiliate links of which I receive a small commission from sales of certain items, but the price is the same for you. If I post an affiliate link to a product, it is something that I personally use, support and would recommend without an affiliate link. Learn More
  • Privacy Policy
    Please read the Privacy Policy carefully before you start to use DrJockers.com. By using DrJockers.com or by clicking to accept or agree to Terms of Use when this option is made available to you, you accept and agree to be bound and abide by the Privacy Policy. Learn More
Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the FastExtended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Extended fasting is one of the most ancient and powerful healing strategies known to mankind.  Our scientific literature is demonstrating how this reduces inflammation, stimulates autophagy for cellular cleansing and initiates the production of stem cells to regenerate new tissue.  In this article, I will go over the best strategies for breaking an extended fasting regimen and how to reintroduce foods appropriately.

When you do an extended fast it can be dangerous to add too much foods and certain types of foods back into your diet right away.  There is a potentially fatal medical condition called refeeding syndrome that may occur if food is not reintroduced properly.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

What is Extended Fasting:

My definition of an extended fasting regimen is any sort of fast with less than 25% of your normal calorie load for more than 48 hours.

This may include doing a strictly water fast, a water and salt fast, a bone broth fast or juice fast.  I believe you get the best results from a water and salt fast, but any sort of extended fast where you are consuming less than 25% of your normal calories and doing it in a liquid form will have tremendous healing benefits.

Anyone who has done a 7-day green juice fast will tell you how great they felt through the process.  So even if it doesn’t stimulate as much autophagy and stem cell development as a water fast, there is no doubt it is doing tremendous good for the body.

I encourage my patients and followers to engage is some sort of an extended fast of 3 or more days at least one time per year to clean up bad cells, take stress off of the digestive system and rebuild the body.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

What is Refeeding Syndrome:

Refeeding syndrome is a potentially fatal condition that results from the shifts in fluids and electrolytes that occur when people who are malnourished from long-term calorie restriction receive too much food to quickly.  These shifts result from metabolic and hormonal changes that impact electrolyte balance and fluid movement in the body (1).

The hallmark biochemical feature is hypophosphataemia where phosphorus levels in the blood drop dangerously low.  In addition, sodium, potassium and magnesium can drop very low and their can be major abnormalities in glucose, protein and fat metabolism.

In order to avoid experiencing refeeding syndrome, it is critical to add the proper foods back in the right amounts over time.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

What Happens to Your Digestive System When Fasting

After roughly 48-72 hours of fasting, the digestive system goes into a sort of hibernation where you stop producing digestive juices.  It takes a lot of energy for the body to produce stomach acid, bile and pancreatic enzymes.

When we go on an extended fast the body shifts its metabolic system to preserve as much energy as possible and since we aren’t needing digestive juices, we shut down this continuous production of these elements.  If we reintroduce foods too quickly without warming the body up it can be really challenging on our gut and cause pain and discomfort.

This is why it is so important to reintroduce liquid calories and foods that are very easy on the digestive system such as broths, soups, smoothies, certain fruits and veggies, fermented foods, etc.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Food ReIntroduction:

The general principle I use is for every 2-3 fasting days, you should have at least one recovery day.  On your recovery days, you should aim to gradually increase your calories from foods that are very easy on the digestive system.

So, if you do a 5 day fast, you should take 3 days to get back to your normal food and calorie consumption.  If you do a 10 day fast, you should take 5 days to get back to your normal food and calorie consumption.

I like the following schedule for adding back calories for a 5 day fast.  Day 1 should be roughly 30-40% of normal calorie load.  Day 2 should be about 50% of the normal calorie load.  Here is a chart with more details.  This takes into account the average basal metabolic rate (BMR) for a man and a woman.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

10 Day Water Fast

If we are doing a 10-day water fast than you would want to follow a 5-day transition period where the first 4 days are very gentle food reintroduction.  This is a very conservative refeed schedule that caters to individuals who are more sensitive and have suffered with compromised health prior to beginning the fast.

You may notice that by day 4 you are ready for your normal calorie load.  If you have been healthy before beginning the fast, then it is probably fine for you to increase calorie intake.  But be sure to listen to your body and be in a relaxed state when you consume larger meals so your body can focus all its energy on producing the digestive juices needed for effective digestion.

If you have struggled with digestive issues in the past, I would recommend doing this gradual process that I have outlined below so you don’t overwhelm your system too quickly.  There is no real downside to taking your time on the refeeding schedule.  Even if you are underweight, once you get back to your normal calorie load you will begin putting weight back on.

Here is a schedule to follow

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Longer Fasts

If you are doing longer than 10-day fasts, remember the ratio of 1 recovery day for every 2-3 fasting days.  So, if you do a 20 day fast, you want a 7-10 day food reintroduction and you would stay at the refeed phases for 3-4 days each.

If you have a history of digestive issues, it is best to stay conservative at the 1 recovery day for every 2 fasting days.  If you were experiencing good digestive health prior to the fast, you should be fine with doing 1 recovery day for every 3 fasting days.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Best Foods to Use When Breaking a Fast:

The foods you want to use when breaking a fast must be easy on the digestive system.  On phase I of the refeeding, I only recommend consuming liquid foods such as bone broth or vegetable broth, protein smoothies and green juices, fermented drinks, fermented veggies, fruit and well steamed veggies.

On phase II, you can add in raw vegetables and healthy fats like avocado, coconut fats and olives.  You can also do well cooked vegetable soups and stews in bone broth or vegetable broth.  I hold off on meat, eggs, dairy and starches until you get to your normal eating days.

Here are some things I am a big fan of including in your refeeding process.  If you have had issues in the past with any of these, I would recommend avoiding them.  No reason to try something you didn’t tolerate well in the past back during the refeeding process.  You want this to be as minimally stressful as possible on the body.

Do your best to get organic ingredients as you don’t want to bring toxic chemicals into the system after undergoing this extended fast.  If you can’t find organic produce, at least wash it off real good before consuming.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Green Juices

Green juices contain high doses of vitamins, minerals, and live enzymes in their most bioavailable form. Juicing greens helps to remove the fibers and allows the body to consume micronutrients and enzymes without having to use much energy in the digestive process.

This is a great way to get valuable nutrients into the body and gently rev up the digestive system so it will adapt faster to consuming other foods.  The image below will give you a basic guide for making green juice and you can find other recipes in this article

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Fermented Drinks

Fermented drinks provide organic acids, B vitamins, enzymes and probiotics.  Some good drinks here include coconut water kefir, kombucha and water kefir.  These all contain natural sugars that will help to refuel your glycogen stores and powerful compounds that will help to reset your microbiome.

Other fermented drinks you could do that have little to no calories include sauerkraut juice, pickle juice and apple cider vinegar.  The minerals and organic acids in these are great for giving your microbiome and cellular energy systems a boost.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Fermented Foods

This would include things like saurkraut, pickles, kimchii and other fermented vegetables.  These are fantastic for providing probiotics and prebiotic fibers to get the gut microbiome some nourishment as it recolonizes your gut lining.

Other fermented foods would include coconut milk yogurt or kefir.  I would be very careful adding this in on phase I of the refeed.  You may just add a little at a time since these are very calorie dense with healthy fats.  Your body may struggle with producing the bile needed on phase I to digest these and that can leave you with nausea and acid reflux.  By phase II of the refeeding phase, adding in coconut fats in moderation is typically well tolerated.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Protein Shakes

Protein shakes are a fantastic thing to bring into the body during phase I and II refeeding after extended fasting.  You can do something simple like taking a carton almond or coconut milk and combining it with a good organic bone broth collagen protein or a vegan protein such as pea, rice or hemp protein.

It is important to not put too much coconut fats into your shake too quickly.  I would recommend less than 10 grams of coconut fats per meal as too much too quickly can cause unwanted digestive disturbances.  Most carton variety brands have around 5 grams of fat in each cup.  So if you use 1 cup or so you should be fine.

If you want to add organic berries to this shake that is great as they are rich in polyphenol compounds and prebiotics.  I would limit it to 1/2 cup of berries per meal so you don’t get too much fruit sugar all at once.

I like using the Gut Healing Protein powder, which is a vegan powder that contains a full multi-vitamin and a ton of anti-inflammatory compounds that improve phase I-III liver detoxification.  It also contains healthy prebiotic fibers and gut healing nutrients.  This is a fantastic product to use for to support the recolonization of the microbiome.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Bone Broth:

Bone broth can be made from any animal with bones and the most popular soup bones include those of fish, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb and venison.  The bones house a variety of powerful nutrients that become released when they are slowly simmered in water for a few hours.  These nutrients include bone marrow which helps provide the raw materials for healthy blood cells and immune development.

Other valuable nutrients include collagen, gelatin, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, glycosamino glycans, proline, glycine, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium.  These all help with the development of a healthy intestinal lining, strong joints, bones, ligaments and tendons as well as beautiful hair and skin (2345)

You can either make your own bone broth or you can buy it in many grocery and health food stores. Premade bone broth comes in both liquid and powdered forms. My favorite brand of liquid premade bone broth is Kettle & Fire (here) while my favorite powdered form is the organic bone broth collagen protein that you can use in smoothies and shakes to get more of these key nutrients.  We carry this product in a sugar-free vanillachocolate and pure flavor.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Steamed Veggies:

Steamed veggies are a fantastic thing to bring into the body during both phase I and II of the refeed.  We want to steam the veggies in order to break down the outer cellulose fibers that are challenging on the body to digest.  As an example, many people suffer with gas and bloating after eating raw broccoli or cauliflower.  This is in part, due to the challenges in breaking down these outer fibers.

In phase I of refeeding from extended fasting, I recommend deeply steaming veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peas, green beans, etc.  These should be steamed to the point where they can easily be mashed up like baby food.  The more your food resembles what a baby would consume the easier it is on your digestive system.  In phase I, I recommend adding in 1/2 tsp of olive oil and in phase II you can do 1-2 tsps of olive oil on your steamed veggies.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Sprouts

One of the most bioenergetic and micronutrient rich foods on the planet are plant sprouts.  They also have little to no calories and are very easy on the digestive system.  Consider getting some broccoli, kale or radish sprouts which are all high in glucosinolates that help boost up glutathione to enhance cellular protection and detoxification.

Other good sprouts to get would include Mung Bean sprouts and alfalfa sprouts which often easily available at most health food stores.  You can often find these sprouts at a local health food store.Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Berries and Other Fruit

You can absolutely enjoy some terrific fruit as you come off of your extended fasting experience.  Fruit in moderation is easy on the digestive system and is full of enzymes, prebiotics and polyphenols to help support the developing microbiome.

I wouldn’t recommend consuming a huge load of fruit as the fructose sugar can overwhelm the liver.  My favorite fruits to use would include granny smith apples and organic blueberries, raspberries, cranberries or blackberries.  These are the lowest in sugar and the richest in anti-oxidant compounds.

Other great fruits that are rich in nutrients include kiwi, papaya, pineapple and cherries.  These are high in sugar so be sure to keep your consumption to roughly 1/2 cup per meal and no more in the refeed phase.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Avocados

Avocados are a great food to add in in phase II as they are nutrient dense and fairly easy on the digestive system as long as you don’t take in too much at once.  I typically recommend starting with 1/4 to 1/2 of an avocado at a sitting.  The long chain fatty acids do depend upon bile for digestion and so you want to limit the amount you get at first and than gradually increase each day.

Avocados are a terrific complement to a vegetable based meal.  Most vegetables contain a high amount of carotenoid based anti-oxidants.  Studies have shown that these anti-oxidants are lipophilic (fat-loving) and are absorbed best in the body when combined with a healthy fat such as oleic acid.

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in March 2005 showed that adding avocados to salad increased absorption of alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and lutein 7.2, 15.3, and 5.1 times higher, respectively, than the average amount of these carotenoids absorbed when avocado-free salad was eaten. (6)

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Olives & Olive Oil

Olives and olive oil fall in the same category as avocados in that they are healthy long-chain fats that are fairly easy on the digestive system.  However, caution should be warranted on adding too many of these too quickly.  I recommend starting with about 8-10 olives or 1 tsp of olive oil in a sitting.

Again, using these with raw or cooked vegetables is a great idea to help improve the nutrient absorption of the veggies.  Olives are also a great source of trace minerals, polyphenols and prebiotic fiber to support the recolonization of the microbiome.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Conclusion:

Extended fasting has tremendous health benefits but certain precautions need to be taken before reintroducing foods.  A very serious condition called refeeding syndrome can occur if you go back to your normal calorie load too quickly.  In addition, your digestive tract needs time to turn back on before giving it foods that take more digestive juices to metabolize.

Breaking a fast of more than 3-5 days should be done gently with at least 2 phases before getting back to your normal diet.  Following the instructions in this article will help you prevent refeeding syndrome and digestive distress and allow you recover well from an extended fasting experience.

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Sources For This Article Include:

1. Mehanna HM, Moledina J, Travis J. Refeeding syndrome: what it is, and how to prevent and treat it. BMJ. 2008; 336 (7659):1495-8. PMCID: 2440847
2. Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, Deitch JR, Sherbondy PS, Albert A. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 May;24(5):1485-96. PMID: 18416885
3. Deal CL, Moskowitz RW. Nutraceuticals as therapeutic agents in osteoarthritis. The role of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and collagen hydrolysate. Rheum Dis Clin North Am. 1999 May;25(2):379-95. PMID: 10356424
4. Choi SY, Kim WG, Ko EJ, Lee YH, Kim BG, Shin HJ, Choi YS, Ahn JY, Kim BJ, Lee HJ. Effect of high advanced-collagen tripeptide on wound healing and skin recovery after fractional photothermolysis treatment. Clin Exp Dermatol. 2014 Dec;39(8):874-80. PMID: 25283252
5. Choi SY, Ko EJ, Lee YH, Kim BG, Shin HJ, Seo DB, Lee SJ, Kim BJ, Kim MN. Effects of collagen tripeptide supplement on skin properties: a prospective, randomized, controlled study. J Cosmet Laser Ther. 2014 Jun;16(3):132-7. PMID: 24131075
6. Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J Nutr. 2005 Mar;135(3):431-6. PMID: 15735074

Extended Fasting, Extended Fasting:  Best Way to Break the Fast

Was this article helpful?
YesNo
AvatarDr. Jockers

Dr. David Jockers is a doctor of natural medicine, functional nutritionist and corrective care chiropractor. He currently owns and operates Exodus Health Center in Kennesaw, Georgia. He has developed 6 revolutionary online programs with thousands of participants.

Categories

Fasting

Let's Improve Your Health Today!

Get instant access to 2 FREE eBooks when you subscribe to Dr. Jockers’ newsletter.

ebooks

"Join my tribe today to discover hidden strategies to improve your energy, brain, digestion & metabolism."

— Dr. David Jockers
Dr Jockers

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. I just have a simple question.
    I’m about to do a 7 days fast.
    Will drinking herbal teas during the fast give me the same benefits as drinking water only.
    I just love herbal teas

  2. Can I use homemade bone broth for breaking a 40-day fast in Phase I, even though it has bits of bone marrow and still has some fat and collagen in it?

      1. Thank you for the reply. How about consuming raw eggs in Phase I of breaking a 40-day fast, of course, free-range and organic?

        And for the Phase I soups, would greatly steamed broccoli and pureed into a soup be ok?

        Thanks again. I’m ending my 40-day fast on 8/31, so I want to be prepared and super cautious.

    1. No, the digestive system dosn’t shut down until around the 48 hour mark. You are typically fine before that. The gray area would be between 36-48 hours and it may be best to break the fast with a protein shake or bone broth, etc and then have a larger meal a few hours later.

  3. Really liked the article. I did wrong things when breaking a five day fast — and suffered pain because of my errant choices. So, for everyone, the article is ‘spot on’ regarding caution when reintroducing food after days of not eating.

    I am in a four day fast now–no real end has been set. Trying to get less insulin resistant.

    Will absolutely follow the guidelines here.

  4. Thank you for all this great information. I just finish my day 11 water fasting and wanting to go back and stay healthy. I am just courteous as how long phase I and II lasts? Thank you again.

  5. Great article, it was very informative! I’ve ended an 18 day water fast 3 days ago. I’ve collected that I’m planning to recover for 6 days assuming my body doesn’t tell me I need to do anything differently. Anyway, I’ve been in phase 1 for 3 days mainly drinking bone broth, eating watermelon, and eating steamed spinach. Today would be the start of phase 2 where I’d begin incorporating smaller meals and low carb smoothies into my diet right? Are there any smaller meals that you’d recommend? I might’ve just repeated a lot of what you’ve gone over but I want to make sure I’m not missing any crucial details.

  6. Fantastic article exactly what I was looking for. I’m preparing to break my 40 day water fast, and wanted to know how many days do you recommend to re-feed?

  7. Hi Doc! I’ve been keto for over two years now with 9 months OMAD. I was wondering, I notice that I don’t have any digestive issues after 5 day fasts.. is this normal? The first one I ever did I broke the fast completely the wrong way (a selection of curries from our local takeaway!) but I still had no issues. I suppose it’s also to do with re-filling the nutrients? Many thanks for reading 🙂

  8. Hi Doctor,

    I’ve just completed a 5 day fast, and stupidly not knowingly had a big meal (1 avocado, 2 bananas, some nuts and half a small tub of hummus. What was i thinking!

    That first day was horrible, and i’m on day two and feeling a bit better but still feeling some symptoms of refeeding syndrome (confusion, went for a long walk and found it slightly hard to breath)

    For the third day should i monitor and slow down eating dramatically? or should i keep steady and increase my food?

    Any advice recommended!

    Sam

    1. Sorry to hear that! Yes, you can start to slowly increase the calories. You may feel better doing more protein shakes, bone broth, fermented foods, etc. rather than big solid food meals.

  9. Hi for a 30 day water cleanse how many days do I need to stay in refeed phase 1 and refeed phase 2 for?

  10. I have been experimenting with 3 36+/- fast days per week and normal eating the other days, within a 6 hour window. I feel great and have lost about 10 pounds this month, but when I break the fast, I get diarrhea for about 12 hours, no matter what I eat. I thought that the digestive system didn’t “shut down” that quickly? What should I be eating to stop this from happening, or is it a normal response?

    1. Hey Ann, it is possible that it is too stressful on your GI system. You may want to try breaking the fast with some bone broth or a smoothie and see if that helps. You also may want to take some activated charcoal about 1 hour before breaking the fast to help grab up toxic bile which is often an issue with diarrhea.

      1. Hello Dr. Jockers,
        I am having the same problem as Ann with the diarrhoea after fasting (water/teas & bone broth during the fast) for 44 hours or longer. Broke the latest fast with bone broth, followed by ACV prior to consuming a WPI protein shake/smoothie with flaxseed meal, banana resistant starch, milk kefir & raw cacao.
        I would like to do much longer fasts, the longest so far was 3 days, ending up in diarrhoea lasting several days after I started eating normally.
        Can you please comment?
        Many thanks 🙂

  11. Dr. Jockers,

    Great information, and perfect timing. I’ll be completing a 40 day water-only season soon. I wanted accurate information and believe I’ve found it here.

    There remain questions, however. I had planned to use watermelon juice (only, no pulp) as the first meal or two, then continue eating whole watermelon for a day but…you’re saying no more than half a cup to avoid liver strain. What other calorie source should one add for the remainder of the watermelon meals with pulp?

    Years ago Jethro Kloss in ‘Back to Eden’ recommended against taking both fruit and vegetable in the same meal…not sure why, but I believe it cuts down on gas. In your opinion it’s okay to mix 1/2 cup of fruits with bone broth and vegetables during refeeding Phases 1 and 2?

    Mr. Kloss also recommended never taking fruit with any form of meat. Care to comment on fruits and meats or meat broths together?

    1. Hey Glenn, you can definitely do watermelon juice and watermelon. That is very easy on the digestive system. The only issue is the amount of sugar in the watermelon, but coming off an extended fast, I wouldn’t worry about that. Yes you can mix fruit, bone broth and vegetables.

      I wouldn’t do a lot of fruit with meat but doing fruit with broth is fine because the broth is easy on the digestive system.

      1. Thanks you!

        (Was thinking in the future with the above fruit/meat question, not while breaking this fast.)

        Did a successful gall bladder flush in 1990 but am diagnosed with cholelithiasis, with one large mass too large to come down through…

        Others here have mentioned beginning to flush upon ending shorter fasts. I’m pretty weak after 26 days water only even after twelve 21 day water only fasts spread over 20 years. Roughly how long–in your estimation–might it take for a 63 year-old male with historically-stressed adrenals to regain strength for whatever it takes to begin the next thing…your recommended cleanses to clear liver and the bile pathways?

        (No weight issues, no meds, very healthy diet 30 years, Hi Intensity Interval Training at the track, weight lifter)

  12. Hi Dr. Jockers,

    I am 3 days in of my 6 month fast. I am trying to get rid of my diabetes and weight. When I get off in March, can I do an alternate-day re-feeding of doing mostly bone broth, vinnegar water, and sauerkraut?

  13. Hi Dr. Jockers,

    I am 3 days in of my 6 month fast. I am trying to get rid of my diabetes and weight. When I get off in March, can I do an alternate-day re-feeding of doing mostly bone broth, vinegar water, and sauerkraut? Also, how long should my re-feeding days be? Is there any danger of staying on a fast this long? I weigh 202 lbs.

    Currently, I am taking supplements every day with 2 tbs of vinegar water. I also drink 2 tbs of sauerkraut juice. Will this affect me getting an effective fast?

    1. Hey Skylar,

      Yes there is a lot of danger of staying on a fast for too long a period of time. Are you doing a 6 month fast – like 180 days? That is way too long. I would advise doing something like a 5-7 day fast each month and then refeed and eat well and do intermittent fasting for the other 23-25 days each month.

  14. Hi Dr. Jockers,

    Would you recommend 2 or 3 recovery days for a 7 day water fast? For 5-6 days, I saw that you recommended two recovery days and for 8-10 days, three recovery days. I know you mentioned it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution, but would two recovery days be okay for 7 days? Thanks for all the great information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.