The focus of intermittent fasting is largely on when you eat, not what you eat — a principle that makes fasting both incredibly simple and extremely effective for weight management, glucose control, and metabolic health. Still, if you want to get the most out of every fast, some meals are better than others when it’s time to break your fast.
Why Is the Fast Breaker So Important?
What you eat immediately after a fast actually does matter more than what you eat a little later in your eating window. (Although you’ll want to properly plan your final pre-fast meal — it’s very important!) That’s because, thanks to your fast, your body has shifted away from using glucose (which it typically gets from food) to burning stored fat for energy. When you end your fast with a meal, your body needs to shift from handling fat back to handling glucose, and the shift is not instantaneous. This can make you particularly sensitive to glucose in the hours immediately following your fast.
In other words, it’s much easier to accidentally spike your blood sugar with your Fast Breaker. However, by avoiding high-carbohydrate and simple-sugar foods, like white bread or donuts, and enjoying a more balanced meal that’s rich in protein, (cooked!) fiber, and healthy fats, you can prevent a glucose spike and even amplify the benefits of your fast.
5 Tenets of the Perfect Fast Breaker
To double down on the positive effects of fasting, build your Fast Breaker by following these five simple principles.
#1) Prioritize Protein
Because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, getting enough protein is critical to building and maintaining lean body mass and ensuring that your metabolism stays revved. There is a limit to the amount of protein your body can use for muscle building within a given meal (usually 30–40 grams or less), so you want to try to get that full amount when you break your fast!
#2) Go Easy on Extra-Fibrous Vegetables
Giving your digestive tract a rest is a key benefit of intermittent fasting. However, while it’s resting, your gut will often reduce its output of digestive enzymes, which can limit its ability to break down certain foods. In particular, the compound raffinose (largely found in cruciferous vegetables) can be difficult to break down, especially if you are new to fasting. While broccoli, cabbage, and other high-fiber foods are cornerstones of a healthy diet, you may feel better if you limit your consumption and/or cook these foods in your Fast Breaker.
#3) Delay Carb Consumption
It’s fine to eat foods containing carbs after a fast — just eat your protein, healthy fats, and veggies first! One study examining the impact of food order on glucose levels showed that when subjects ate protein-rich chicken and fiber-rich veggies 15 minutes prior to higher-glycemic bread and juice, they experienced less-blood sugar fluctuation compared to when they consumed the carbs first. Plus, by eating your protein early, you not only help manage your post-fat blood sugar but you also ensure you’ll get that 30–40 grams of protein before you start feeling too full!
#4) Support Your Gut Microbiome
Studies show that fasting can improve the composition of your gut microbiome by reducing harmful strains of bacteria and boosting the activity of beneficial ones. In tandem, this shift in gut microbes has been shown to reduce blood pressure and encourage weight loss. Your Fast Breaker provides the perfect opportunity to improve the composition of your gut microbiome even further by repopulating it with beneficial microbes from fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi, and kefir.
#5) Eat Slowly
Especially if you break your fast midday, it’s often tempting to shovel in food and get on with your day. However, if you take the time to slow down and eat mindfully, your body’s natural cues will indicate how much it’s actually ready to eat. Eating slowly helps signal to your body’s digestive tract that food is on the way and allows enough time for these fullness signals to register. When you chew slowly, you’ll release higher levels of satiety hormones GLP-1 and peptide YY, curbing appetite and naturally preventing you from overeating.
Putting It All Together
So, what does a “good” Fast Breaker look like? It can vary based on your diet type, taste preferences, what produce is in season, and even what you’re craving on a given day. Here are some examples to get you started.
Spinach, bell peppers, and snow peas (or other favorite veggies) sautéed in bone broth and ghee with eggs, fish, cashews, or tofu.
A mix of phytonutrient-rich veggies with a side of protein can be the perfect fast Fast Breaker. Cooking the vegetables helps to ease digestion, while the mix of fiber, protein, and fats can help satiate you as you ease into your eating window.
Greek yogurt mixed with nut butter, chia seeds, and wild blueberries.
Greek yogurt provides not only protein but also strains of bacteria that can support your microbiome health. Paired with healthy fats from chia seeds and your favorite nut butter plus antioxidant-rich blueberries, this is a delicious and satiating way to break your fast.
Conclusion: Extend the Benefits of Your Fast with the Right Fast Breaker
Ending your fast with a healthy Fast Breaker sets you up to reap the full benefits of your fast. It can also help you effortlessly make healthier choices throughout your eating window by keeping you more satiated and stopping your blood sugar (and, consequently, your mood) from swinging wildly. You might not hit all five tenets in a given Fast Breaker, but the more you practice incorporating these guidelines, the easier it will be — and the better you’ll feel.