Fasting is not easy, but it is simple. It’s also FREE. No more recipe planning, shopping, cooking. No more dishes. No more wondering what I should eat or at a certain time. No more counting and weighing food. It does take some planning on when to do a fast, so take into consideration some of these facts that I have personally faced when doing an extended fast of 3 or more days.
My very first water fast was 4 days. I felt like hell the first 1-2 days. I thought, I could never do this again. But after day 4 I had so much energy.
The second fast I did was 5 days, and day 1 and 2 were still tough, but SO much better than my first fast.
The last fast I did was 7 days. Yep. I got up to a week. I told myself I would aim for one week and if my body would go for longer I would aim for 10. If I could do 10, I would aim for 2 weeks and then start eating no matter what. After 7 days I started getting a headache, my blood sugar was hitting the low 60s and I knew it was time to eat. Your body will let you know when it’s truly ready!
Remember, talk to your doctor about fasting. Certain medications can only be taken with food and overtime, they might need to be adjusted when your body is starting to “turn on” certain metabolic functions.
It’s all mental. The first two days are the roughest. Headaches, lethargy, dizziness, muscle cramping, slightly edgy. This too shall pass. Knowing that I am not going to eat and wrapping my head around it takes some courage. I remember heading to a local hot springs resort for my first fast. I was planning on doing 3 days, but miraculously I reached 4. It was so weird to just pack a cooler full of water and no food. When I hit the road I was like, “OMG, what did I just do? No food. Alright Jen. There is food a few miles away. You will be fine.” After sleeping a lot and resting, no exerting exercises, 4 days was over in no time. And I lost 10 pounds! (Half of that was water weight.)
Weight loss. The average person will drop a half pound per day with water fasting. Don’t let this fool you into thinking that water and other fluids are alike. Water fasting only allows autophagy to set in. Autophagy is the cellular self-cleansing process that breaks down and recycles damaged molecules and cellular organelles. Your body breaks down the old and excretes while able to create new. This only happens when we are not consuming calories. Weight loss can be dramatic the longer you do your fasts. The world record fast was 382 days in 1965. An extremely obese 27-year-old weighing in at 456 pounds fasted for over a year and lost 275.5 pounds. The interesting thing about fasting and weight loss, is that most people do not have lose skin afterwards. Their body “ate” up the resources. Keep in mind this man was under medical supervision and was on electrolytes and vitamins.
Balanced blood sugar. You don’ have to buy a glucometer or a blood ketone monitor, but I highly suggest it. I like KetoMojo because you can take your blood and ketones on the same device. You don’t need as much blood like other competitors and the strips are cheaper as well. My fasting blood sugar ranged from 70-80. I hit a day of 93 post workout. (My body created its own sugar to fuel). A few days when I was feeling awful, I was in the 60s. I recommend a monitor because you can keep track of what number makes you feel good. Ideally your fasting blood sugar should be between 70-90. To be in ketosis, the range is 1.5-3 mml. The higher the number, the more ketosis you are in. I do not recommend pee strips to find your ketone value.
Electrolytes. When we eat high insulin foods such as sugar, processed carbs, and refined foods, we hamper our blood sugar system. Insulin causes salt and water to retain in the kidneys. After a few days of depleting the stores in your system and peeing a lot, you will notice that it’s way easier to suffer muscle cramps. Cramping is caused by too low of electrolytes: sodium, potassium and magnesium. DO NOT use table salt. That is just pure sodium and stripped of other essential minerals. Supplement everyday with a teaspoon of water per liter of Real Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt. Add more if you are still cramping up. For the purists out there, on the onset of a cramp, sprinkle sea salt on your tongue. It literally dissipates the cramp in seconds.
More energy and happier. Once you tap into those pesky “Fort Knox” fat stores after about 36 hours of no food, you will start using your adipose for energy called ketones. This is the body’s preferred energy source. Red blood cells still prefer glucose, but your body actually makes its own form of glucose to keep the engine running. When we are not bonking from the daily sugar roller coaster, ketones are being used. Being in ketosis (I use the KetoMojo glucometer to check) is a great source of energy. Our brain loves it, giving us more energy and an overall more euphoric feeling throughout the day.
Improved sleep. I was always one to need a lot of sleep. Like 9-10 hours, but I also realized during fasting I wasn’t waking as much during the night. My blood sugar was stable causing deeper sleeps. Be sure to read about sleep hygiene in my other blog post.
Detoxing. You might notice more acne, a white coated tongue, and/or headaches. This is all part of the process of detoxing. Consuming food takes a ton of energy and when your body is fasting, the garbage trucks start cleaning the system, called autophagy. A white coated tongue can mean candida from your gut is starting to be drained of their precious sugar, or a vitamin B12 deficiency. Or both. Supplementing with B12 during a fast is perfectly fine.
Social events. This is where planning for a fast comes into play. You definitely don’t want to plan a fast around events that you have been looking forward to, especially if food is the main focus. Make it easy on yourself. The question of people telling you that you will starve to death during a fast will come up. Plan your answer ahead of time. Tell them to check out Dr. Fung’s Fasting book, give them resources such as these blogs, or just show them in a week or two that you lost inches and you have never felt better. Either way, this is your journey, not theirs.
Lower body temperature. As it’s approaching 90’ outside, I am sitting in my air conditioned office with a warm neck wrap around me. I have always run on the cold side, but I have noticed that during my fasts, I do tend to be a little colder. So if you are going to run a fast in the middle of winter, be prepared.
Foods are more flavorful. After reintroducing foods, my taste buds had a heightened awareness of different flavors. I lean towards strong flavors, hot sauce, rich coffee, dark beer and like a lot of herbs and spices. Fruits taste sweeter and regular foods definitely have more flavor. Fasting is a great way to reset your palate.
Bad breath. When we are fasting, your body is detoxing. A lot of gut cleanup happens, and some of it is through your breath. Ketones are also excreted through breath. Do not chew gum or mints during a fast, since these stimulate digestion. You want your body to not think it will be having foods. Just know this is part of autophagy.
Working out. You have to go off how you feel on this one. If you need rest and sleep, then follow that que. I couldn’t work out the first time I fasted. The second and third fasts, I definitely had more energy, but I still couldn’t go as strong as I usually do. And that’s okay! a little of lifting weights, cardio, plyometrics, walking and hiking are better than nothing and they do help speed up the process of burning fat. But do not force your body here. Be sure to drink electrolytes before, during and after!