Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Preparing for a Day of Fasting

From sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow night, I will be observing Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. One of the main requirements of the day is to not eat or drink. We are to spend most of the day in synagogue acknowledging our tansgressions and asking G-D for forgiveness.

A question I hear over and over again from co-workers and others who have never fasted for 25 hours is "how do you prepare for a fast?" Over the years, I've figured out what and how to eat the day before the fast. Now that I'm a runner, I've noticed many similarities between the way I prepare for a fast and the way I prepare for a long run or marathon.

It may come as no surpirse that the main component of a pre fast meal is is complex carbohydrates. A group of Israeli doctors studied 5 men and 8 women between the ages of 19 and 64, all healthy. All spent their fasts indoors and staying mostly in air-conditioned rooms. The researchers wanted to know whether the discomfort of a food-and-water fast could be influenced by the composition of the pre-fast meal, and if so, what basic nutritional components would promote the easiest fasting. Their findings, summarized below, were published in the September issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal.

They found that the protein-rich meal created most discomfort and side effects during the fast. Weight and blood pressure decreased at the end of the fasts that followed each of the three types of meals, and heart rates increased after the high-fat and high-carbohydrate meals but not after the protein meal. There was a 40 percent increase in blood urea nitrogen and more excretion of sodium and creatinine after the high-fat meal and least after the high-carbohydrate meal.
Water is better conserved when one eats a meal high in complex carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, beans, and other pulses. When protein breaks down, however, more water is excreted as urine to eliminate nitrogenous metabolic products from the body. (source article: Jerusalem Post, September 25, 2001)

Now that I've mentioned some scientific findings, here is how I will be preparing for the fast:

During the day:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  • I ate a substantial breakfast of cereal , fruit, and whole wheat toast
  • I will eat a light lunch in order to save my appetite for the pre fast meal
Pre Fast Meal:
  • Challah bread
  • Chicken soup (a Jewish meal would be incomplete without Mom's chicken soup :) ). Soup is also very hydrating and fills you up.
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Small Chicken breast
  • Assorted steamed veggies
  • I will finish the meal off with a small piece of mom's angel food or sponge cake
Since I am not a coffee drinker, I do not have to worry about caffeine withdrawal. If you do drink coffee, you should start cutting back a few days before the fast. Also, do not drink alcohol with your pre fast meal since alcohol causes your body to get rid of water.

Lastly, I wanted to briefly mention the post fast meal. The key here is not to eat too quickly. I usually start with a glass of orange juice. The tradition in my family is to eat cold noodles with cottage cheese. My dad and wife like to include to cinnamon.

May 5769 be a year of peace, prosperity, and good health.

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