I’m a fasting failure.
I took a four day retreat a couple of weeks ago (I’ll document that in another blog post) and as a part of that, planned a 48 hour fast. Why fast? A couple of reasons:
- To help me focus. In many religions, including my own, fasting is a way of prioritizing the task at hand, giving it the serious consideration it deserves.
- For digestive reasons. I have some chronic digestive issues. I was hoping a 48 our fast would help me reset my digestion. I would then re-introduce foods slowly, hopefully identifying some of the sensitive foods.
- Plain ‘ole discipline. I hear guys talk about 3 day, 4 day, 5 day fasts and wanted to see if I had the discipline to at least complete a 2 day fast.
I did make it 40 hours, though, just 8 hours short of my target, and far longer than I’ve ever gone without food before.
Notes From My Fast Washout
I took notes during my fast: how I was feeling, if I was hungry, bowel habits, what I did consume, how I broke my fast. Here are a few things I tracked while fasting:
- Preparation – I prepared a couple of days in advance by trying to transition to primarily fat as an energy source. I cut my carbs back in favor of bulletproof coffee, avocados, fatty meats, and nuts. I also decreased fiber and decreased caffeine.
- NOTE – after 3 days of prep, I found that I had lost about 5 pounds.
- My last meal was 9 pm the night before. First day of the fast I started with a cup of water with a multivitamin, then one cup of coffee.
- I can’t tell you how many bottles of water I drank, but next time I’ll just insert a catheter.
- I lifted weights (chest / shoulder / triceps) for one hour. I backed off my normal weight a bit, but not much. Had plenty of energy for the workout.
- Around noon my stomach was screaming, but an hour or so later I was fine.
- I took a very long walk late in the afternoon.
- The only time I really wanted food was when I cleaned out my backpack for my hike and found a dark chocolate bar in a pocket. Once I knew it was present, it was hard to get it out of my mind.
- I heard that Peter Attia sleeps amazingly well when he fasts. I did not. I had a horrible night’s sleep. Some of it was due to noise in the campground where I was staying, but mainly it was because I had to get up to pee so many times. Yep. Gonna get a catheter next time.
- Absolutely starving in the morning.
- Really tired (did I say that already?)
- Started the day with green tea instead of coffee, then back to water, water and more water.
- Very difficult to concentrate. Super foggy.
- Tried my usual 20 minute HIIT workout. Had to settle for 10 minutes. Just didn’t have the stamina.
- Again, lots of pee, but no bowl movement since the day before I started the fast (it would be more than 3 days before I had a BM again).
- Broke my fast at 1 pm, 8 hours shy of my target.
I broke my fast with…beef brisket, which I know is weird for lots of reasons, but mainly because I live in Memphis and pork BBQ is king.
I ordered a pound of beef brisket with no sauce, and ate only a few strips. First of all, I wanted to introduce as little fiber into my belly as possible. I also wanted to keep running on fat as fuel, and brisket is a pretty fatty meat. I like lean meat, and would normally trim the fat, but not this time; I gobbled it all down. My second meal was at 6:30 pm and it was…beef brisket. Just a few more pieces. My breakfast on day 3? More brisket.
Finally had a BM at 10 am.
That night I had an amazing dinner with my wife of steak, lobster, asparagus and a zucchini/squash medley with a bloody Cabernet to drink.
Pros of Fasting
Reading through my notes, it all sounds negative. But there was at least one positive. Although I’ve blown it since, my digestive system really felt on point coming out of the fast. I generally have a lot of gas along with frequent BMs throughout the day. Though hungry, not having a rolling supply of gas in my belly and the irritation of my colon blowing up was a welcome change. The problem has been introducing too much, too soon. I’m currently trying to trim back some of the variety in my diet and simplify my choices, without a full-on fast. Another couple of days should get me where I want to be.
I’m sure I’ll attempt this again. There are a couple of things I’ll do differently, however. First, I won’t pair an attempt at fasting with a reflective retreat. I had to give in to hunger because it was taking my focus away from the very serious work I had to do. Next time I’ll simply pick a couple of days – maybe Friday and Saturday – and dedicate them to not eating. But I definitely won’t pair them with another serious mental and emotional task.
Second, I’ll cut back on the friggin’ water. I really couldn’t stop peeing. I’m sure I was flushing plenty of electrolytes as well, which probably helped contribute to the fogginess.
Third, I’ll provide a better sleep environment. I was camping during the fast, in early Memphis summer. It’s hot, it’s noisy, and it’s full of bugs. Between the camping environment and the frequent urination, I couldn’t get any rest. Getting better sleep would probably help my mental function and energy level.
I’ll probably try another fast in the fall. Stay tuned for updates. In the mean time, have you tried an extended fast? If so, how long? Would you consider it a success? Why or why not? Chime in below, in the comments.