Instead of medicine, fast for a day.
This weekend I completed my first fast ever. The experience was easier than I thought. With nothing but water and 2 cups of bone broth, I broke my fast at hour 57. Here's why I did it, how and some of my best practices.
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Why I Did It
I've been reading a lot of books, articles and watching a few documentaries on fasting and have been fascinated by studies showing it's impact on the body. Mainly the idea that fasting helps the body remove old cells and reduces the odds of them turning cancerous. I've also been thinking a lot about our over consumption. We live in a world of abundance and while I am grateful for these things, I can't help think about how easy it is to over consume and not let our bodies heal, rest and adapt to new environments. For me this was a personal experiment to move my body and mind to a different state. To not be tempted by easy things and to work through some painful moments and learn something.
How I Prepared
Fasting is not to be taken lately. During the fasting period, your body changes the way it uses energy, it changes the digestive enzymes in generates and more importantly it changes the way your mind sees and processes information. As part of my preparation, I practice doing daily intermittent fasting. These daily fasting would last between 13-16 hours. I've been doing this for a few months now and found no issues with it. For this longer fast, I also started moving away from high carb and sugar rich foods. Your body always uses gluclose first as the source of energy so you have to start training it to use other sources of energy. You can watch this quick video here and read the books I mention in this post. I also used Zero to track my fasting time so that I had some quantitative numbers to look at later on.
Disclaimer: Please consult a doctor before you take on long fasting cycles. The body goes through a series of changes and it's important that you recognize what this means and how to best fast in a way that doesn't jeopardize other parts of your health. There are so many variables that will affect how well the fast goes so please keep in mind that every person's results is going to be different.
What I Did During the Fasting Time
I kept my activity light during this time. After the first 16 hours, I had a bit of a headache so I took a nap. For the first day, I was able to do some errands like head to the farmer's market and some light cleaning. For the first day, mostly I stayed home on the couch reading. On the second day I was feeling better, but wanted to do more so I drank a cup of homemade bone broth that I made with some ghee at around Hour 35. (You can opt to purchase bone broth here.) That left me feeling great. We went thrift shopping and hit the boardwalk to get some fresh ocean air for a few hours. That was much needed. No issues. Getting air and being outside is a great "distraction" from any hunger pains you may have. It's also a great idea to get some oxygen circulating in your system. For the 57 hours, you can also guess that I spent a good amount of that sleeping. I didn't venture out of my daily sleep routine, but did take a nap the first day.
For the first day, keep things light and if needed, find activities to distract you that are low impact. Of course, stay away from preparing food or if are joining for dinner and not eating, make sure you have something in front of you like tea or broth to sip on. Sometimes, some of our actions like eating is out of habit so we just automatically pick up food without realizing if we are really hungry for it or not.
What I Tracked
During this first fast, I tracked my ketone levels at certain intervals. This was the easiest way for me to do some quantitative tracking. I used the ketone urine test strips to do so. I know this is not the most accurate, but allowed me to gauge what was happening inside my body. Here are my results at certain hours during the fasting period. The video I linked above explains how ketones are generated and why and how it's used.
What I Did After
After my fast, I started to introduce foods slowly, but made a few key mistakes. I overate. I broke my fast with a handful of grapes. It's good to start with something simple to digest as by this time your body's digestive enzymes have to switch gears to excrete the enzymes need to process larger and heavier foods. I then went with a cup of yogurt. I thought I was feeling fine with my stomach not completely hating me so I had meat a few hours after breaking the fast. While I didn't experience anything major, I felt just slight uneasiness in my stomach post meal.
For me, the next time I do this, I would absolutely go slower re-introducing foods and plan ahead to have a vegetable smoothie for something easier to digest.
Besides ketone levels, I didn't track anything else. I was not trying to lose weight so didn't weigh myself. I learned that as with most things, the mind plays a key role in letting things happen. This is key to learning the reactions of your body instead of the external signals placed in front of you to eat. Just because it's lunch time, doesn't mean you HAVE to eat even if you are not hungry. We need to start listening to those internal cues instead of the ones that have been manufactured in our external environments. Our bodies have evolved so much and can handle a great amount of stress and it has been designed in such a way that it takes full advantage of whatever danger may chance upon it. Our current diet and lifestyle today is making our internal instincts dumber and we need to recognize that. Ultimately too, this was a lesson in reducing consumption. Just because it is in front of us, doesn't mean it is beneficial for us in the end.
- Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Valter Longo
- Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Dr. Satchin Panda
- Dr. Rhonda Patrick and Ruth Patterson, PhD
- The Science of Fasting (Free on Amazon Prime)
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