Rishi Sunak's Fasting Ritual: Everything We Know, Including 'The Odd Nut'

Everything you need to know abut the prime minister's approach to intermittent fasting.
Rishi Sunak uses intermittent fasting as a “reset” and a “detox” after an “indulgent weekend”.
via Associated Press
Rishi Sunak uses intermittent fasting as a “reset” and a “detox” after an “indulgent weekend”.

Details of Rishi Sunak’s fasting regime have prompted much food for thought as the early-rising, Peloton-loving prime minister has admitted he uses a 36-hour weekly fast as a “reset” and a “detox” after an “indulgent weekend”. Here’s everything we know about his diet discipline as the PM concedes it might not be as strict as first reported.

What does Rishi Sunak abide by?

The 43-year-old has spoken before about fasting, which is an integral part of his Hindu religion, but the Sunday Times reported for the first time details of how he observes the practice.

The newspaper said the prime minister does not eat anything for 36 hours at the start of each week. Specifically, he does not eat from 5pm on a Sunday until 5am on a Tuesday, friends of the prime minister said. He does, however, allow himself water and black coffee within those times.

A source close to the PM said: “It’s true, he doesn’t eat anything at all on a Monday. It’s remarkable really given that he is often on visits or doing PMQ prep on a Monday. It’s a real testament to the discipline, focus and determination that he shows in all aspects of his life and work.”

How did the PM explain it?

Sunak added more on Monday, telling the BBC: “I tend to try and do some fasting at the beginning of every week as part of a general balanced lifestyle but everyone will do this differently.”

He admitted he also has “a weakness for sugary things”. “It means that I can then indulge myself in all the sugary treats I like for the rest of the week,” he added.

Sunak has previously described himself as a “Coca-Cola addict”, revealing he prefers Mexican Coke because it is made with “cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup”.

What is intermittent fasting?

There are various forms of this intermittent fasting, which holds that you should only eat during a specific time period so that your body is given a break from digesting food. A weekly one-day fast, similar to Sunak’s method, is known as the eat-stop-eat diet.

Popular variations include the 16:8 plan, where people only eat during an eight-hour window but fast for the remaining 16 hours, then only drinking water, milk, tea or coffee for the remaining time.

The 5:2 diet is based on only consuming 500 to 600 calories for two days each week, and then eating a normal, balanced diet on the other days.

What do experts say about fasting?

The potential benefits of intermittent fasting include weight loss and increased muscle mass. Intermittent fasting can also enhance metabolism, allowing you to more efficiently utilise food for energy.

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can decrease inflammation in the body and improve blood pressure and heart rate. It’s also been claimed that intermittent fasting can lead to improved brain function and decreased risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s, but these claims have less evidence backing them up.

But research has found time-restricted eating is no more effective than non-time restricted eating – also known as calorie counting – for weight loss. Also, if intermittent fasting is carried out without paying proper attention to adequate nutrition, deficiency in micronutrients could occur.

Experts warn that people should always get medical advice before trying intermittent fasting, and it is not advisable for children, teenagers, anyone with a history of eating disorders, with diabetes or who is breastfeeding or pregnant.

But there was more ...

By Tuesday, the PM’s diet was still the subject of much discussion as he was interviewed on ITV’s This Morning. During the appearance, the prime minister tucked into chicken Milanese and admitted he had already had his “second pastry” of the day.

He told the show: “I wish I was as disciplined as has been reported, is the first thing to say.

“So, 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 a Monday, after an indulgent weekend, to try and have a day of fasting.

“It’s not totally nothing but largely nothing. I do have the odd nut, that kind of thing.

“I start with the best of intentions… we all do, right? And then things happen.”

He added: “My problem is I love sugary things. I eat a lot of sugary pastries, and all the rest of it, the rest of the week. And I like my food.

“I don’t exercise as much as I used to because of the job. So a little reset at the beginning of the week, a little detox.”