As I am writing this post, I am on day three of a 3 day fast. I have never attempted a fast this long before and it has taught me a lot, so I thought I would share my experience in case anyone is interested.
I usually intermittent fast most days, meaning that I skip breakfast and don’t start eating until the midday meal. My husband and I both do this and we like it pretty well most of the time. Some of the benefits gained from IF according to studies are:
- Boosting the secretion of HGH (Human Growth Hormone)and Insulin sensitivity. The combination of increased HGH and insulin sensitivity make a good team for fat loss and muscle gain.
- Combatting neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia
- Greater mental clarity and focus
The reason that a longer fast piqued my interest was some articles I read and podcasts I listened to by leaders in the field about how fasting for 72 hours has a lot of health benefits and some experts promote doing it quarterly (4 times per year). As someone who has struggled with gut issues and autoimmune disease, I was intrigued by the potential benefits to gut health in particular. The benefits included were similar to the ones for IF, but heightened:
- Killing precancerous cells
- Re-setting insulin sensitivity
- Improving immunity by regenerating immune cells
- Increasing muscle mass/ promoting fat loss
- Longevity through autophagy (the process of cells getting rid of waste to promote anti-aging)
- Spiritual benefits
- Training the mind to be more disciplined
- Developing the ability to fast if needed
- Becoming fat-adapted (using fat for main source of fuel)
- Giving the Digestive System organs a rest
- Activating stem cells
- Jumpstarting the micro biome (improving gut flora diversity)
This all sounded pretty good to me, and as someone who enjoys doing experiments in the name of health and wellness, I thought I’d give it a try. Seeing as it was my first time doing 3 days, I decided to make it a little bit easier on myself and include 2 cups of bone broth with Redmond’s Real Salt on each day. This supplied me with nutrients, warmth, and helped to satiate me before going to bed at night.
There were some surprising differences between what I assumed it would be like and the reality:
- For instance, I wasn’t super hungry. There was a constant feeling of, I could eat something right now; but not the ravenous, starving feeling I had expected.
- My energy for getting things done was actually higher than usual. Without having to stop projects in order to facilitate meals, it was easier to be more productive and see projects through. There comes a clarity and focus with fasting that is quite inexplicable.
- As others have noted while fasting for longer amounts of time; my will power seemed to be higher while I was in a fasted state.
- Falling asleep was harder for me than usual due to two things that I noticed: My brain seemed to be abuzz with ideas, and my tummy was protesting to its emptiness by rumbling rather loudly even though the sensation of hunger was not all that strong.
- It surprised me that making food for my husband and kids throughout the process did not bother me at all.
It was a highly interesting experience mostly from the standpoint of what it taught me psychologically. The most difficult part of fasting for me was not the physical symptoms of not eating, but rather the missing out on rituals, socialization around mealtimes and well-ingrained habits. It did give me a lot of time to reflect on how much my habits around food and mealtimes are not always about true hunger. I found myself wanting food to accompany certain activities, just because when not fasting, it had become a habit to do so. But I realized that I could focus on and enjoy the activity even more without the food. As a spiritual person, I also felt it was easier to focus on prayer throughout the fasting period.
Breaking the fast
One of the trickier parts about fasting is actually getting out of it gracefully. To break a 3 day fast, you need to go easy on your digestive system and slowly ramp up food consumption again. Breaking the fast with small portions of fruits, vegetables and more broth is advised. This should be kept up for at least a couple days until you are ready to add a bit more substantial food into the mix.
Would I do it again?
Yes, I would. It was overall a highly positive, albeit challenging experience. I think that doing a 3 day fast once a quarter, or seasonally, is a good goal to aim for in my case.
Should you try this?
That depends on a lot of factors. Of course you would want to have a discussion with your Doctor before attempting fasts longer than 24 hours. Moderate fasts (3-5 days) are safe for most people as long as there is supervision from a partner, roommate, family member etc…
If you are interested in the benefits of fasting, but have never tried it before; a good place to start would be trying Intermittent Fasting. Beginning with a 12 hour overnight fast is best. Another thing to keep in mind…the less nutrient dense your current diet is, the more cravings and flu-like symptoms you may encounter when you begin to fast.
Have you tried fasting? What benefits did you notice?