With Yom Kippur approaching, I think it’s safe to assume that you’re looking for ways to make your fast go by faster. Here are some fasting tips and clarifications that will help you focus on your prayers rather than your stomach!
Prepare Your Body Early
Though the fast is only one day long, the longer you spend preparing for it, the better you will feel on Yom Kippur. Make sure to stay hydrated and eat regular, balanced meals and snacks throughout the week before Yom Kippur – and ideally even longer.
It can take time for our bodies to adjust to dietary changes that we make, so the sooner you start focusing on meeting your body’s nutritional needs, the easier your fast will be.
What is regular, balanced eating?
It is ideal to eat three meals per day, with healthful snacks between meals, especially in the days leading up to Yom Kippur.
Snacks are important because they will help you meet your nutritional needs and feel satisfied. It is very hard to meet your body’s requirements without eating between meals, and pre-Yom Kippur is not the time to experiment with this!
Meals should include at least three out of the five food groups – specifically, protein, fruits and/or vegetables and carbohydrates. The other two foods groups – dairy and healthy fats – can be included in the form of snacks (think: a smoothie with milk and peanut butter, Greek yogurt with shredded almonds, etc.).
Alternatively, you can seek to include all five food groups at meals, though this can often be difficult to accomplish, which is why snacks are recommended.
How much should I eat?
According to the MyPlate model established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it is ideal for half of your plate to contain fruit and/or vegetables, a quarter carbohydrates and a quarter protein.
Eating foods in these ratios promotes satisfaction and helps conquer cravings. It’s also the best way to energize yourself (caffeine will only work for so long…).
I know I’m not the first person telling you that it’s important to drink up before the fast, but do you know how much water you need? Hydration needs differ by the individual, though most people need 30 milliliters of fluid per kilogram of body weight.
Stay with me through some (very simple, journalist-approved) math to figure out your fluid needs:
Step #1: Divide your body weight in pounds by 2.2 to get your body weight in kilograms.
Step #2: Multiply your weight in kilograms by 30. The resulting value is the amount of fluid (in milliliters) that most healthy individuals of your weight need for adequate hydration.
Keep in mind that this equation only tells you your fluid needs for an average day. Since you will not be drinking over Yom Kippur, it’s a good idea to drink a little extra in the days leading up to the fast.
What’s the deal with electrolytes and sports drinks?
Electrolytes, which include minerals like sodium and potassium, help your bodily reactions run smoothly. Since our survival depends on these reactions, you can understand why electrolytes are important.
Though sports drinks contain electrolytes, food is also an excellent source of electrolytes! So, if you eat balanced meals before the fast, there is no need to spend money on sports drinks, as they will not deliver anything that food can’t provide.
In fact, sports drinks are often loaded with sugar, which can have adverse effects when it comes to preparing for fasting. Sugar highs lead to sugar crashes, which manifest as hunger – definitely something that you want to avoid on Yom Kippur!
That being said, what’s most important is that you’re taking fluid into your body. Though water works best when it comes to hydration, any fluid is better than insufficient fluid. If sports drinks help you meet your fluid requirements, then, of course, it is nutritionally preferred to drink them rather than to leave your body dehydrated!
Another option is to drink water with added electrolytes; however, as discussed, there is no need to drink electrolyte-filled beverages if you’re eating enough food.
A note about caffeinated beverages
Caffeinated beverages, like teas, sodas and coffee, are diuretics, which means that they speed up urination. Beverages like these can dehydrate your body by causing it to lose water faster.
If you’re drinking caffeinated beverages before Yom Kippur, make sure to also have one cup of water for every caffeinated cup to replace your lost fluids.
In my 22 years, I’ve attended many pre-fast carb fests. I’m talking multiple pasta dishes, bagels in numerous varieties, challah rolls, kugels and potatoes prepared in every way imaginable. If you’re lucky, you can find some lox or tuna salad, but the spread (and crowd) is generally carb-focused.
To clarify, carbohydrates are not “bad” – that’s definitely not the case! Carbs are actually very healthy and necessary in order for our bodies to function optimally, as I wrote about in this blog post.
However, giving carbs too much attention pre-fasting can actually have adverse effects. Our bodies break carbs down into sugars, so overloading on carbs can lead to a sugar high and eventual crash, resulting in hunger and fatigue, among other symptoms. However, balancing out your meals by including foods from all food groups will stabilize your blood sugar, thereby prolonging feelings of hunger!
Protein-rich foods and fiber-filled fruits and vegetables are just as nutritionally necessary as carbs, especially before fasting! Protein is the main macronutrient responsible for satiation, and, likewise, the fiber in fruits and vegetables will also work to help you feel fuller for longer. Healthy fats, like those found in avocados, nuts, hummus, tahini and olive oil, also promote satisfaction.
When it comes to fueling your body for fasting, no single food group is more important than the next.
Just so we’re clear: You need carbs just like you need everything else!
To feel your best on Yom Kippur, make your pre-fast meals a healthful balance of the major food groups – carbohydrates, fruits and/or vegetables and protein.
Which carbohydrates are nutritionally best?
Seek to make all of the grains you eat whole grains, as they contain more fiber than their white counterparts. The fiber found in foods like whole wheat bread and brown rice will stay in your digestive tract for longer, helping you feel satisfied. Fiber also works to help regulate blood sugar!
Plan It Out
The pre-Yom Kippur rush of completing projects and assignments and commuting home from school or work leaves little time for thinking about which foods will best fuel your body for fasting. Planning, preparing and even thinking about foods that you want to eat in advance can make the pre-holiday rush less stressful – and your fast a lot easier! By reading this article, you’re already a step ahead!