Can someone help me with planning a safe 40 day fast for Lent? How much food/drink should I include? I’m thinking that I should eat 1-2 pieces of fruit/veggies per day and maybe something simple like a small amount of rice and beans. My intent (prayerfully aligned with God’s intent) is to live in (close to) poverty for 40 days. I will have many more comforts than our poor, but I’m eliminating any unnecessary spending and I plan on fasting.

Any ideas/suggestions? Thank you for the help and I’d appreciate prayers because this is going to be difficult.


There are various equations you can find online to determine your basic daily caloric needs, but generally if you’re a guy you should multiply your weight by a factor of 11; this is (very, very roughly) the number of kcal you’ll need per day to maintain your current physical condition given your current lifestyle. That said, this assumes that you get a reasonable amount of physical activity; if you are sedentary or a lumberjack, all bets are off. Bear in mind, too, that consuming less than 3/4 of your normal intake will also slow your metabolism a good bit, so you’ll find yourself getting sluggish - not necessarily what you’d want for a serious Lenten devotion.

If I might humbly suggest, you should consider a varietal fast. I take it that you’re attempting both to live close to Christ’s experience, and to express sympathy for our poor brothers and sisters the world over who go hungry everyday. I applaud your fortitude and you will be in my prayers. At the same time, you need to make sure that this does not either impact your health, or on a more simple level, just become too difficult to maintain for forty days. If you set the bar too high (or low, as it were) you run a greater risk of not being able to stick to your pledge, and you’ll end up feeling that you’ve let down God, yourself, etc., and you’ll hate the food you eventually do eat.

A varietal fast simply consists of removing choices from your diet. Find a balanced but very simple meal plan that meets your minimum caloric needs, or just below, and that gives you the basic essentials you need to survive: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals. What you’ll be fasting from is both variety and taste, and you will miss both of these more than you’ll ever miss quantity. After five weeks of brown rice, steamed vegetables, cottage cheese, and salt, every day, even at your caloric intake, I’d imagine you’ll gain a very intimate knowledge of privation.

Let me also state with no reservations that I am NOT a nutritionist, just a guy on the internet. Please consult a doctor or dietician before embarking on this. Best of luck!


You should “google” Catholic Lenten fasting. I think the formula is that everything eaten in one day should not equal three complete meals. For instance, toast for breakfast, sandwich & salad for lunch, fruit for dinner.
I cut out flesh meat last Lent and I’m going to do the same this time and perhaps every Lent. Instead of not eating meat only on Wednesdays and Fridays, it’s cut out entirely. (can’t make a mistake that way either) I allow myself seafood, vegetables and fruit. Treats are also cut out. I admire your sentiments and share them to a certain extent. I’m at an age where fasting isn’t required, but I want to do it anyway. You should be careful in your ardor. The Church guidelines for fasting insure proper nutrition. Extreme fasting was done by some of the saints. St. Francis apologized for neglecting his body, which he called “brother donkey” (the synonym he actually used was not printable here but it means donkey). I’m also going to give more in the weekly envelope to my parish and try to give more to the poor. Hope this helps.:slight_smile:


Your plan sounds good as it is.

Generally it is easier to eat very little to nothing than a moderately small amount.

Depending on your health and constitution, and daily physical activity, what fasting is manageable for each individual varies you will learn what you can bear. However, you should for the most part not base ‘what you can bear’ on how you feel about the fasting in the first 3-4 days you start it, there is generally a ‘hill’ to get over at the start of fasting of resistance to it that then overcome, allows one to continue more easily.

In general fasting is a battle vs. the temptation to eat, and so it is one of the best ways to learn to overcome temptation from all three sources and often combined: the devil, the flesh and the world.

Fasting is one of the keys to spiritual perfection.

The body can go without food for a long time. Water however is more important.

I prefer a bread and water fast. It is less healthy but unless one has a serious health problem, it is not a problem for a normal person who is not doing heavy physical labor. The more variety of foods I have during a fast the harder it is to fast for me. Retaining the simplest and most unchanging of regimens works best.

When one fasts, one must do one’s best not to think about or care about food, nor to even when one eats take pleasure in it, which would reawaken the temptation to eat or to eat improperly. So it’s best to have some food that one does not particularly love or like while fasting rather than one that encourages one to be ravenous. Eating the same food over and over again can have this effect too.

Since it is a battle vs. temptation do not be overly concerned about your body’s adjustments to fasting, nor give into any strange fears or dwelling on cravings. As long as you are a normally healthy individual doing normal activities, and keeping watch over your health you should be fine. I am however not a doctor and take no medical responsibility for the advice I have given you. :slight_smile:

You will discover through practice how to fast best in your own way as you discern your temperament regarding it and what challenges you have to face.

I pray you have success!


Frankly, you should ask a doctor and not us.


I’m not a doctor… but have studied nutrition and read a lot on health/fitness… plus i have my own experiences, observations…

I m not sure you could continue on fruit/veg for very long, especially if you deprive yourself - only give yourself 2 servings a day. This may work for 1 or 2 days but then you would get weak &/or worse, esp if you have work to do, running around to get done…

I have been on liquid fasts and they seem to work fairly well, if at least some of the liquid has calories & fat in it… like espresso with cream/honey… :slight_smile: That is waht i drink… not saying it is perfect, but gives me energy and keeps me feeling OK…(Caffeine is an anti-depressant, though not sure if it is officially…). Liquids are easily digested/processed by the body, giving the body the energy it needs and no excess… to turn into fat.

When the body digests food, it needs energy to do that. Digestion is very complicated, involves all the organs of the body… So when you eat just veg, for example… well, the stomach juices and various hormones used in digestion (bile, etc) are made of fat and protein and you use all that up… and it is not good for the body to do that often… (eat veg w/o protein/fat)… I tend to think this should NEVER be done…

One time i didn’t eat much all day and at the end of the day, ate a carrot. I got a headache and felt terrible… will never do tht again…

I have heard a raw milk -only diet is good… but havne’t tried it for more than 1/2 a day… i am thinking of doing so… (though it should not be store-bought milk, which is not healthy… plugs your arteries) Again, i like the one where you do nothing but liquids… it gives the body a break… etc… (There are dairies where you can get sterile raw milk… i had to go through internet to find one in my area…).

I havne’t eaten anything today except Jesus :slight_smile: and i feel really good…although i do need to eat soon…i can feel it.

I feel closer to God when i fast… way!! i guess that’s why wer’e supposed to do it…

I think everyone should fast at least once a week… i know a man who did that and he lived to be 100…

God bless… :slight_smile:


other than the classic advise of spiritual direction, do not undertake drastic penitential practices w/o the advice and permission of your spiritual director or confessor, no I have no advice if your plans call for going beyond the traditional fasting practice of either the Latin or Eastern rites.


actually, if you fast for 24 hrs, it will usually kill your appetite (not eating anything, drinking water only)… or at least it does me…

I prefer a bread and water fast. It is less healthy but unless one has a serious health problem,

I’ve studied health/nutrition, took a college course once… got an A… didnt’ always agree w/ the teacher. For one she was a vegetarian and had cancer… but anyway… i digress…)…

Bread and water is pretty healthy if the bread is whole grain and it doesn’t have white sugar in it… I always put real butter on mine but don’t know if you would consider that a fast or not??

I don’t think OP should eat only raw veggies and nothing else… don’t feel this is healthy… Read my other post…


Thank you (and others) for your responses. I understand nutrition, I’m not a dietitian, but I work in the field and I’m aware of what my caloric intake needs to be.

I’m less curious about the nutritional aspect and more curious about the spiritual aspect of fasting. I will drink plenty of water (and maybe some 100% fruit juices). I think I may eat a simple “soup kitchen” type of meal midday and another small meal in the evening (something from the Operation Rice Bowl list of recipes). My plan is not to starve myself in a way that would negatively impact my health, but rather to have a spiritual connection with the world’s hungry. I realize that I will have many more comforts than our poor and access to food that they do not have. But I believe that a prayerful fast, done for the right reasons and not just the self, is appropriate for spiritual growth.

Thank you all again for the advice.


i read somewhere that drinking straight fruit juice is not good because it spikes the blood sugar too rapidly and then the blood sugar falls just as rapidly. It will leave you tired and probably hungry within minutes… and i am not sure it is good for the pancreas (& other organs) to do that a lot.

I make an herb tea (with a bunch of different herbs i can’t even recall th names off right now)… with lemon and honey, hot, but not boiling water (don’t want to ruin the vit C)… the little pieces of lemon that end up in the tea tend to slow down the “glycemic effect” somewhat and honey is just all-around good for the body… (too much heat will kill the enzymes in it , though…)

personally, i think a liquid fast is best both physically and spiritually… but some of the liquid should have fat in it (chicken broth, egg drop soup)…

i gues it depends on how long you plan on doing this…


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