Fasting can be an effective way to detoxify the body and, subsequently, improve energy levels. It works by giving the organs and cells of the body a rest from some of the metabolic functions they perform every second of the day. This rest allows the body to expel toxins and cleanse the tissues.

During the first day of a fast, the body burns stored sugar, known as glycogen The cells also begin to burn fat for fuel, while the brain continues to burn glucose (blood sugar).

During the second day of a fast, muscle tissue may be broken down into amino acids, which are then converted by the liver into glucose to feed the brain.

On the third day, the fasting body goes into ketosis. During this state, the liver converts stored fat into chemicals called ketones, which can be used by the brain and muscles, including the heart, to sustain energy levels.

Around the third day of the fast, most people lose their hunger pains and notice increased energy and a heightened sense of awareness and clarity of mind. People may lose up to two pounds per day during this stage

There are many different types of fasts. A water-only fast (80 ounces of water daily for one to three days) is the most aggressive type and should be used only by people in good health.

Juice fasts (80 to 100 ounces of juice daily for two to five days) are also common and are especially useful for boosting energy. These fasts often include the fresh juice of carrots, lemons, apples, beets and celery. Wheatgrass juice, which helps detoxify the liver and kidneys, and other greens can also be added.

For a modified type of fast, you can eat homemade broths and soups (three to four bowls a day, containing carrots, celery chicken broth, potatoes and spices)...or drink 30 to 40 ounces daily of detoxification meal-replacement drinks (containing rice or pea-protein, added vitamins and minerals, and detoxifying herbs, such as milk thistle and green tea extract), plus 32 ounces of water. Meal-replacement drinks are commonly available from natural health-care practitioners and at health-food stores.

People who have diabetes should avoid fasts. And, if you have a chronic health condition, you should fast only under the supervision of a medical professional.

People who do not react well to fasts often do better on the modified versions, such as those that use meal-replacement drinks.

If you have little experience in fasting, work with a nutrition-oriented doctor for guidance.

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