What I learned from my 5 day water fast:
Once you do 5 days without food, missing a meal is a piece of cake.
You will have some lulls in energy, but for the most part these lulls pass quickly.
I reevaluated my relationship with food and how it is not only the food, but the breaks in your day that play a big role in your daily rhythms. With that in mind mental breaks should be adopted into your day without food.
I think there is a mental clarity that comes with fasting. You are in a weird parallel world that is really interesting and hard to explain.
People think you will die and that you are crazy.
I am going to design a schedule of fasts. These will include 24 hours, 3 days, 5 days and also toying with the idea of an optimized long fast of 2 or 3 days with small windows of eating and then back to fasting to see how my body responds with a bigger overload and what is the resulting super compensation.
You need to look at fasting like exercise. You need recovery after hard exercise and you need recovery after long fasting. I also believe that you can create a periodization for fasting that is similar to exercise and I will be looking into developing something and sharing.
I think there is great value to adding this to your approach to improving performance and health and the science supports this thought.
I have gained back about 6lbs and my strength in the major lifts is at the same level or above my pre-fast levels. I feel amazing.
It is not right for all. You need to check with a physician first. If you have eating issues, or health issues you may not be appropriate to fast.
If you are healthy I found that a fast provides a fascinating window into how your body works and you will be amazed at what we have been gifted.
How I came to trying a 5 day fast.
I was fortunate to listen to a number of interesting presentations during the Upgrade Labs/Bullet Proof conference that I recently participated in as a fitness presenter. Although the technical term is bio-hacking, I believe that most people were there because the medical system has failed a lot of people. I do not think that the doctors have failed as much as the system itself. The system is built more around taking care of you once you are sick. However, the information available to people today allows many to figure out more effective ways to stay healthier. It is called bio-hacking, but I think it is just a lot of frustrated people wanting to take better control of their health so they do not get sick and feel more energetic, proactive and in control.
The normal prescription by the medical community is to exercise more and eat less. This has not been a very effective prescription as the population is getting less and less healthy generation to generation. This does not mean we are not living longer. Drugs can keep you alive.
I have no idea how long I will live. However, I want to live healthy. That means good choices by designing my exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress to support living healthy, not just longer life.
I think fasting has a role in this design. So I want to share some of what I have learned through my research on fasting in a series of posts. This will also be firsthand experience from my fasts.
I have done some short fasts in the past, but wanted to learn more about longer term fasts and do some Dr. Frankenstein self-experimentation. I heard an excellent speaker, Dr. Daniel Pompa lecture on fasting at the conference. He shared much of what he learned and I was also able to get his latest book about fasting. With that I embarked on my first long fast.
Our bodies are amazing organisms. Our bodies are in a constant state of destruction and rebuilding. It is like a photo copy of a photo copy. As you get older the copy is not quite as clear and we see that in our skin and in our body’s ability to perform both physically and mentally. The goal in a healthy lifestyle is to allow the copy to stay as clear as possible as long as possible by lifestyle choices. In other words the cells of your body are in an environment where you regenerate much healthier versions of yourself and you live a healthier life longer.
If you were to search for benefits to fasting you would find some of the following:
Autophagy/Mitophagy: This is the body’s natural destruction of sub optimum cells and mitochondria. It is something that happens naturally, but it is magnified during fasting because of the lower energy availability because of the fast.
Stem Cell stimulation: As people age the ability to regenerate stem cells diminishes. Studies in mice have shown increases in stem cell production as a result of the fasting. It is believed that a metabolic switch is trigger from the fast which aids in this increase.
Fat burning/Insulin Sensitivity/Ghrelin reset: Your body in a long fast will deplete glycogen and glucose in the body and then utilize fat to satisfy the needs for glucose. This is called ketosis. This also improves the use of insulin and the sensitivity to insulin. Ghrelin is a hormone that will stimulate hunger. This hormone is often dysfunctional because of poor eating choices. Fasting has shown to reset this hormone.
Gut repair and reset: By giving the digestive system a break it allows it to reset and repair.
HGH/Testosterone: Increases in hormonal production of HGH and Testosterone.
Food Reset: It resets our relationship to food. You can break old habits and start with a clean slate post fast.
There are a lot of other benefits that are identified, however these are some of the primary ones.
My personal interest was to see if I could help with joint inflammation. I have a lot of joint damage from competitive sports in the past and I wanted to see if fasting would help in repairing some of the damage in my joints. I also wanted to see if I could get a performance boost in my training efforts.
I do not have any weight issues, and I would consider myself pretty fat adapted. In other words I utilize fat in my body and diet very effectively. My diet 95% of the time is organic protein sources, tons of veggies of all colors, fruit seasonally, and good natural fats. I will have an occasional glass of wine with a nice meal, and will have a great slice of pizza from time to time. However, I do not really desire these types of food.
I have fasted in the past, but no more than 36 hours. So the first fast I did was for 3 days. I wanted to see how my body responded and also how it would impact my day as I was not going to stop work or training. Because of my current diet I do not have an over reliance on starches as a fuel source so going without food for a period of time has not been an issue. I got hungry in the 3rd day, but for the most part I was not in major distress. I lost about 5lbs during the 3 day fast. I then decided that I would try a 5 day. I think the thing I would do differently the next time is to not go into the 5 day 4 days after the 3 day. This was a bit much, but the schedule worked with the long weekend over Easter.
I completed the 5 day and trained throughout the entire fast. I only drank water and had 3 cups of coffee during the 5 days when I needed to bridge a lull in energy and had to be able to work. I did intervals on day 2 and lifted on most of the days. On day 5 I rode my bicycle for about 1.5 hours. I had manic energy, for the majority of the fast, and had some crazy REM sleep and dreams. I lost another 5 lbs. in the second fast. I noticed that my knees felt better and my wrists, that bother me from past injuries, felt better.
I will outline in greater details how I broke the fast in a future post. Feel free to hit me up with any questions.
Truth in Fitness,
Jacques DeVore, CSCS