UK PM Rishi Sunak’s 36-hour monk fasting: Healthy for you or not?

UK PM Rishi Sunak follows monk fasting every week. A nutrition expert shares the benefits and side effects of fasting for 36 hours.

The very idea of skipping all three meals of the day on a Monday morning is enough to make anyone swoon. Or for some, weekends are all about binging and so-called cheat days. But if we ask you to stick to a long 36-hour long fast on a much-awaited weekend, that will sound next to impossible for most of us. But the opposite is true for British PM Rishi Sunak who follows this fasting regime while running a country.

In a recent interview, Rishi Sunak revealed that he undertook a 36-hour fast at the beginning of every week, while consuming only water, tea, or black coffee starting from 5 pm on Sunday and lasting till 5 am on Tuesday.

Is Rishi Sunak’s 36-hour intermittent fasting healthy?

As per nutritionists and experts globally, Rishi Sunak’s fasting approach resembles a more stringent version of the renowned 5:2 diet. This type of intermittent fasting involves eating normal food as per your routine for five days per week and then limiting your calorie intake to 300-500 calories for the remaining two days.

The minimal energy that is needed during these days of starvation comes from low-calorie beverages and fluids he partakes during this window. When the body faces such a calorie deficit, it starts breaking its fat tissue reserves to fuel itself during those days, and that might lead to weight loss. Also, this is an ideal time to give rest to the constant digestion process and recuperate. This healing phase also improves insulin sensitivity, helping those who are overweight and in their pre-diabetes stage.

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However, the results vary from person to person, and people following this should stay mindful of their food consumption on non-fasting days.

Sunak loves sugary treats, as he revealed, but this type of fasting will be more effective with mindful eating coupled with mild strength training. Also, one should not immediately binge after fasting.

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“I love sugary treats, so I eat a lot of sugary pastries the rest of the week. I love my food, I don’t exercise as much as I used to because of my job. It’s a little reset and a detox at the start of the week,” the PM shared during the interview.

In another BBC interview, Sunak also commented, “I wish I was as disciplined as has been reported.”

“Like all of us, I start the week with the best of intentions and then you hit contact with reality at some point. I try on Monday after an indulgent weekend to try and have a day of fasting. But it’s not totally nothing, but largely nothing,” he added.

Is monk fasting for everyone?

Nutritionist Kavita Devgan shares the right way to approach what is called “monk fasting”.

“Monk fasting is a very difficult way to fast, and it’s not for everybody. Unless you have a good history of fasting while trying out different ways of fasting, a newbie will find this stern 36-hour fast difficult. If you have been fasting in the past, this means your body is ready to indulge in this form of fasting. It’s not just about having willpower, it’s also about seeing if your body is prepared to pull it off,” the expert tells Health Shots.

Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting has multiple health benefits. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

If you are planning to try this form of fast, here are some tips!

Before the fast

1. Before the fast, make sure you partake in a very calorie-dense meal which has a good combination of carbohydrates and protein and good fats so that there is a slow release of energy, and it will last you for a slightly longer period.

After the fast

2. While breaking the fast, the right way is again extremely important. For some time, our body is not making the optimum enzymes required for digestion, so always break your fast by consuming an easily digestible food. This will initiate your digestive system to get back into the process. Eat a small portion of an easily digestible food to kick-start your digestive process. You can have soup with vegetables or khichadi.

What are the benefits of monk fasting?

The benefits of this fast somewhere resemble any other type of fasting. It can give rest to digestion “Just like any other fast, monk fasting gives rest to our constant digestion process and also gives rest to other organs. This lowers inflammation in the body while building your immunity,” says Kavita Devgan.

Apart from just helping your body, fasting has some metaphysical benefits as well. This means fasting can stretch your willpower, make you a more disciplined person, and make you a stronger decision-maker.

Monk fasting
Monk fasting must be practiced with caution. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Side effects of monk fasting

If weight loss is your goal, then this fasting might not benefit you in a good way. “Our body is smarter than us, so if you go on a low-calorie beverage diet such as this one, your body tries to put up its defences. Your body might end up holding the fat while breaking the muscle or protein of the body,” adds the expert.

Other likely drawbacks include nausea, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and dehydration.

Alongside, people suffering from certain conditions such as diabetes, low blood pressure, or low blood sugar issues, or people on certain medications can face more drawbacks of this fasting.