How I Felt During and After
When I mention to friends and colleagues that I fasted, or am fasting for 48 hours, the reaction is almost always the same. Firstly they ask “why”, like it’s the craziest thing to do. And when I explain the benefits of such an extended fasting period, the next reaction is usually something like, “there’s no way I could do that”.
I thought it would therefore be worthwhile writing about the experience from beginning to end, and the results thereafter.
Extended fasting has nothing to do with weight loss. For reference, as far as weight is concerned, over the 48 hours I did lose 2kgs. But this obviously (and sadly) is not 2kgs of fat. If it was, I think extended fasting would be a much easier sell for people to try. It’s 2kgs of water weight, glycogen depletion, and a little bit of fat.
The reason I fast for these extended periods is for longevity, as studies seem to show that cells and mitochondria regenerate and heal. The other reason is for a spiritual challenge to myself in this world of excessive food at your fingertips.
I also want to know what it feels like to be hungry. Really hungry. Not a craving, but real hunger. Arguably 48 hours is not enough to feel true hunger. But it is long enough to feel the difference between cravings and hunger.
The Last Meal
My last meal before I began this fast was on Thursday lunch time. This was my one and only meal of the day to set my body up for the expectation or possibility of reduced meals. As I regularly eat just one meal per day, usually dinner, this was not at all difficult. Particularly because I knew this lunch meal would be my last for 48 hours, I wanted to be sure I gave myself the most nutritious dense meal possible.
Which is why I opted for a beautiful grass fed ribeye steak at La Vache. Yes, the fries which come with it are not the healthiest. But as a final meal, what could be better than steak & fries followed by ice cream.
A fallacy many people think about me and my “healthiness” is I don’t eat tasty food, or even enough food. But this could not be further from the truth. My diet is wide and varied, which allows me to indulge in my favourite foods almost every single day. It’s all about balance (ensuring plenty of fruit and veg), consistency (nutrient dense daily foods) and planning (a blowout buffet one day. A calorie deficit the next).
I had finished my ice cream by 2.30pm. So this was when the clock began ticking on the next 48 hours.
Not Eating for 48 Hours
Water is always important. But it is even more important during a fast. Furthermore, sodium levels also decline when you do not eat as you are not ingesting salt that’s in most foods. So I drink my water with sachets of LMNT to ensure sodium, magnesium and potassium levels are kept in line. Two to three packs of LMNT per day is good enough.
Thursday evening without dinner was quite easy. My belly grumbled a little bit, but after such a large lunch time feast, it was quite easy to pass the grumbling and sleep through the night.
No Food For a Full Day
The most challenging part of an extended fast, is there is always one whole 24 hour day where you do not eat. The hunger hormone ghrelin appears three or four times per day to tell you it’s time to eat. Fortunately, because I regularly only eat once per day, I have become practiced at ignoring the ghrelin gremlins until they go away.
Ghrelin does not stay with you for long. It is a natural human response to tell your body to eat. To tell you you are hungry. To tell you your body needs nourishment. But if you ignore it, it does eventually go away after around 30 minutes.
I approach not eating much in the same way I eventually stopped smoking. When I finally managed to quit the tobacco habit, I did it in such a simple manner it didn’t feel right. Recalling one of my favourite comedy shows, The Peep Show, with Mark’s advice to Jez how to stop doing drugs was “well Jeremy, you see I find the best way to not do drugs, is to not do the drugs”.
Taking that incredibly simplistic message towards my smoking. I found the best way to not smoke, was to not put a cigarette in my mouth ever again. In the very same way I fast for extended periods. I simply do not put food in my mouth.
At its core this is as basic as it gets. But sometimes we try to be too clever. When in fact the very best solution is the simplest and most basic one. My Occam’s Razor philosophy to any habit, whether that’s good or bad, is to use the most simple and obvious method.
Sleeping on an Empty Stomach
Our brain is the most powerful tool in our bodies. If it tells you something, that something will be. If you think you can’t do something, you will not be able to do it.
It is a common misconception that it’s difficult to sleep without food. Yes it is difficult to sleep when you are incredibly hungry, let’s call that true starving in the third world. But after just 36 hours of no food, I found sleeping on an empty stomach incredibly easy and somehow quite peaceful.
I practiced a few breathing techniques before sleeping. Literally five or six breaths, and then fell asleep like I usually would. So don’t worry about your sleep if you try something like this. Tell yourself you can sleep, it’s really ok. And you will be able to.
What Happens to Your Thoughts During a Fast
The most challenging part of extended fasting is controlling your mind. You hear about starving people around the world, real starving people. And we are told all they think about all day is food. They simply cannot control that basic human need, and with nothing else to focus on, starving people all day just think about food.
Imagine how horrible that must be. You are starving. Proper starving. And your brain only makes you think about food.
Well, I can confirm for me this was a fact. And I was by no means starving. I was just really hungry and hadn’t eaten for 36 hours by the time Saturday morning came. And all my brain would do was think about food. It was extremely humbling as I imagined people who were truly starving. Trying to think about their pain. In no way is a 48 hour fast even remotely comparable, but it does allow you a small level of comparison.
This constant thinking of food is the biggest challenge with extended fasts. But again I had it easy. By the time Saturday morning came around, I was only hours away from being able to eat again. And there was no way I was going to fail after coming so far. A bigger challenge will be 72 hours and above, but I will leave that for another time.
My Break Fast
Breaking the fast is obviously the most pleasurable part of a fast. I knew exactly what I was going to have. Some simple freshly baked bread with eggs and tuna and ham. That’s not a combo, that’s individual.
There’s something about eating the most basic foods when you are hungry to make them taste like the most amazing food in the world.
Before I started my bread, I had a box of Kettle & Fire bone broth to wake my digestive system up, and feed my body the most nourishing simple food possible.
I do not pray as such. I am thankful and practice gratitude. So as I knelt before my bone broth, I bowed my head and thanked everyone who meant something to me. You become thankful for the most basic things when your mind is clear and your stomach is empty.
I have noticed this on previous extended fasts so it must be real. Something happens to my mobility and joints around 48 hours after the fast. I feel much looser and more mobile. It literally feels like my joints have been oiled with WD40. I don’t know how else to explain it. Maybe there is some scientific proof or reasoning for this which I am yet to discover. But anecdotally it is a fact, and it’s another liberating factor for wanting to repeat these fasts on a more regular basis.
I am yet to work out exactly what it is or why. All I know is, there is a clarity of mind. An inner peace. A spiritual uplifting to extended fasting. It’s something non tangible, but still very real. And it’s one of the reasons I will repeat this 48 hour fast on a monthly basis for one year to see if that brings any further results to report.
Try something new, something challenging, something you can do. Because if you try new things, you might truly astound yourself what you can achieve.