Aren’t you starving? It’s the question I get most when I am fasting, but I don’t believe it’s the question people actually want answered (if it really is then the answer’s no). I believe what people really want to know is what fasting is like, how it feels, and how it is done. It’s a pretty broad question but here I give you my notes on a 64-hour fast. It is the longest fast I have done. I tend to stick to 16-hour and 24-hour fasts, but every now and then I like a challenge.
Monday 8pm – 0 hours fasting
I stopped eating at 8pm. In the morning I skipped breakfast. I ate only a small chicken salad with olive oil for lunch. The evening called for indulgence. I had sausages (high pork content), bacon, fried eggs and stir fried vegetables (mushrooms, broccoli and mangetout) cooked in coconut oil. I followed this with two squares 85% dark chocolate, Lindt naturally. As a final treat before 8pm I ate six oatcakes with butter, cheese and peanut butter plus a handful of macadamia and cashew nuts in full fat greek yoghurt. Normally I don’t overindulge before a fast, I just stop eating, but this was my first 64-hour long fast so what the heck.
I was anxious and excited. Anxious because it was a new frontier for me. Excited because I knew then that I tend to feel great fasting. However there was a sense of worry, as if I might get hungry during the fast and give up.
I started the fast with a 30 minute meditation, not a bad way to kick off. I watched a little TV before heading to bed. I read in bed for a bit then rolled over to sleep, my stomach churning comfortably with my filling evening of nosh.
Tuesday 8:30am – 12.5 hours fasting
Normal morning. It takes me a while to get out of bed but that’s typical of the winter. It’s the cold and the darkness. I should probably get one of those alarm clocks that mimic sunrise with light but I’d rather not disturb the mrs. I’ll stick with the Casio.
I regularly skip breakfast so there was no sense of hunger. When I got into work I noticed a slight metallic taste to the mouth, which again, is normal. It’s acetone in the mouth, likely caused by increased ketone secretion in the liver. A cup of black coffee or just tap water quickly washes the taste away, not that it’s a bad taste.
Overall feeling fine, if anything I feel a little heavy from last nights eating. I know that as a fast goes on I start feel lighter. Let’s see.
Tuesday 12pm – 16.5 hours fasting
Feeling good. I always do around this time. I get this settled and comfortable sensation where I feel lighter and more focused. I feel like I have a lot more energy. Hard to explain but it’s all good.
Tuesday 7:30pm – 23.5 hours fasting
Mouth is very metallic at the moment, just need to drink a bit more. I’m not feeling much hunger. My head feels very clear which I like. It’s also nice meditating in this state.
The one thing I worry about is not sleeping well. The habit of having dinner and winding down before bed is well ingrained. Without dinner I tend to find it slightly more difficult to sleep. However right now I feel tired so I reckon it will be OK.
The fasting itself is harder because I am writing about it, which means I need to think about it. I have to think about how I feel, about what I have been doing, about what it might be like if I were eating. If I think about food it’s harder to fast. So I will avoid thinking or writing about food here.
Wednesday 11:30am – 39.5 hours fasting
I went to the fridge earlier. I opened it. I closed it. I noticed I wasn’t hungry at all and I had just opened the fridge out of pure habit. Very unusual.
I rarely am hungry in the mornings and this morning was no different. I had 2 coffees. The second I didn’t finish, which is very unlike me. I also took ~7g BCAAs after 6 sets of 30 second sprints doing 20kg Kettlebell swings, just to ensure preservation of muscle mass. I don’t normally take BCAAs during in a fast.
So far today I have been working and tidying. Keeping active and busy would help with ignoring any hunger or food cravings, but luckily I haven’t had any. I have noticed my heart pounding harder, it’s a feeling I quite like. It’s not racing or beating quicker, it just feels like it’s pounding harder. This may be due to electrolyte imbalances. I manage this possibility with a cup of bouillon.
Now I feel like I have a lot of energy. My head feels remarkably clear and calm. The mouth feels quite dry and metallic again, I take a swig of water and that’s fixed. I also take a multivitamin and vitamin D.
Wednesday 8pm – 48 hours fasting
Interesting afternoon. I had to take my car for an MOT, which it failed, so I decided to leave the car with the shop to fix, which meant I had to walk home. The walk took about 40 minutes and it was fairly cold. Cold enough to require a coat and to mean that despite walking briskly, I barely broke a sweat. As I walked home I began to crave dinner. It’s a habitual craving as dinner is the one meal I rarely skip. When I got home I had things to do so the cravings passed easily. A part of me expected to be more hungry due to the walk but this wasn’t the case.
To relax before bed I had a very hot soaking bath with Himalayan salts. Fasting can make you lose salt from the body, which can lead to lightheadedness. To combat this you can drink a glass of salty water. The bath really made me sweat due to the heat, so prior to the bath I had my glass of salty water, just to ensure I didn’t get light-headed in the bath. In hindsight this was probably overkill as the bath had salts in anyway, which I soaked up.
I relaxed in the bath then I watched some TV and read my book in bed before sleeping. I actually felt better going to bed this night than the night before. I thought about eating a little but dozed off quickly.
Thursday 7:30am – 59.5 hours fasting
I woke up early this morning. Excuse my repetition by I don’t get hungry in the morning. If anything I feel unwell if I eat too early. I had a black coffee and some water. Nothing much else to report. Feeling good.
Thursday 12pm – 64 hours fasting
In my mind I finish the fast now, but I am not feeling too hungry so will have lunch in a bit. To wrap up, I enjoyed the fast a lot. Dinner is the hardest for me, primarily due to socially-ingrained habit rather than hunger. I also struggle a little with sleep. What I don’t struggle with is hunger, energy and sense of wellbeing. Energy and wellbeing tend to be higher when fasted.
All in all the fast was relatively easy for me, I have two explanations why:
- I have done regular 16 hour fasts for a long time. I have done several 24 hour fasts and I have done a 48 hour fast before. This may have been my longest fast but I was used to it. That said, I doubt it would be too difficult for someone who hasn’t fasted before. The initial hunger is all tied to habit and boredom, but nothing to do with physiology. It’s enlightening to experience this.
- It was easier for me because I had distractions such as work and chores to do. It was also easier because I wasn’t with or meeting anyone, so I didn’t have any social pressures affecting my fast. This was by design. I saved this fast for a time when it would suit me. If I had fasted when I had planned to meet friends or family then it would likely be much more difficult.
So there you have it. Another challenge done to see how I feel fasting, and proof yet again that I feel good fasting and don’t find it difficult. I will now likely dial back to intermittent 16-24 hour fasts. Fasts like these provide much of benefits of a long-term fast but make compliance easier.
One final note on the experience that I don’t think came across in the daily notes is how my mind felt on the fast. I have been racking up a good few hours meditating since the new year, but the addition of fasting seems to improve my mood and mental state. It is difficult to describe how it feels. This is probably why I didn’t write about it my notes. The best I can do is this. I felt clear, relaxed and calm. I felt like it was much easier to step back from the thoughts in my head and just be in the moment, embrace it and enjoy it.
It seems I’m starting to agree with the founder of toxicology, Paracelsus (1493-1541): “Fasting is the greatest remedy – the physician within.” and Benjamin Franklin: “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting”.