Abstract Standardized protocols for patient preparation for laboratory testing are currently lacking. Moreover, a great heterogeneity exists in the definitions of “fasting” currently being used among healthcare workers and in the literature. Marked metabolic and hormonal changes occur after food ingestion, mainly due to the absorption of fluids, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates and other food constituents. This postprandial response varies markedly in response to numerous factors, such as eating behavior, food composition, fasting duration, time of the day, chronic and acute smoking, coffee and alcohol consumption. It is therefore crucial to minimize the total variability by controlling as many of these modifying factors as possible. Control of the abovementioned effects on postprandial response can only be achieved by standardizing the way patients are prepared for laboratory testing, i.e. by defining the fasting duration, as well as what is and what is not allowed (e.g., coffee, tea, smoking, water) during the period of fasting prior to sample collection. The aim of this article is to describe the range of effects of different approaches to fasting on laboratory tests, and to provide a framework for the harmonization of definitions for fasting requirements for laboratory tests.