66 hour fast.
Caution: I am not advising you to follow suit, fasting for this period of time. However, should you choose to, there is value to be had from sharing my experience - as someone who’s been fasting for over 8 years, published a book about fasting, and has a lot of experience with prolonged fasting. 4 times a year I like to fast for 36 hours or more. Usually a lot more. My goal here is not weight loss, and if you’re looking to do an extended fast I don’t beleive it should be your goal either. My goals were strictly health related: Digestive health, metabolic health, cleansing/detoxification, shedding the dead weight (a process called cellular autophagy, which is the death and recycling of weaker cells and proteins in your body), and more - as well as a period of mental clarity and presence (if you’re into meditation or yin yoga, you should try it 50 hours into a fast - it’s pretty magical).
So… how did I go about it. Step 1: I didn’t plan it. Personally I find that excessive pre-planning and build up to a long fast makes it 10x harder. You go to sleep at night knowing you’re not going to eat for a few days, and you wake up more hungry than you would be otherwise because you fall victim to psychological warfare. Plan on a rough period of time where you want to fast, then strike when the moment is most fitting. I tested the water last Friday by ending the day with a low-carb high-fat meal (resembling the ketogenic diet) before fasting the next day until 2 pm, then 3 pm, then 4 pm. Oh and I went for a 6 km jog that morning too. [This meal was steak, an avocado, and feta cheese] Meaning… by the time I made the decision to keep going I was already 20 hours in, which is one of the hardest periods done and dusted, and I hadn't eaten carbs in closer to 24 hours. Between not eating carbs the night before and going for a job, I had a head-start using up my limitedly stored carbohydrates - meaning I was one step closer to by body converting to fat as a fuel source (which is when the fast gets easier). At this point I had made the commitment to fast through to the next day so I had one job: stay busy and think about food as little as possible. I worked until 9 pm - which is past the time I usually eat dinner - and since ghrelin (the hunger hormone) spikes before your usual expected meal times then falls back down again after - I wasn’t that hungry (because I passed my usual meal time). What I would consider to be the hardest part of a long fast came after, the first nights sleep after a day without food. Put the odds in your favour… I dimmed all the lights from 9 pm, put blue light glasses on, and took my magnesium supplement (a relaxant that improves sleep quality), before staying off screens and finally meditating for 45 minutes which took me to just after midnight. Personally, staying up relatively late to ensure a proper sleep is worth it. It was a light sleep I will admit. In the lighter period of your '90 minute sleep cycle’ you feel more awake than normal - drifting back into consciousness - but if you can stay relaxed you’ll be into the next deep sleep cycle before you know it. If you mentally panic and overthink, you will wake up. 8 hours later I woke up and started the day as if it where any other. You wouldn’t think it, but during an extended fast the longer you go the less hungry you get (and this is supported by research which I reference in my book); until eventually hunger dissipates entirely. At this point it becomes purely psychological (your mind telling you it wants food). To some degree eating is just like any other habit, because you don’t need 3 meals a day with snacks in-between to survive, you’re just used to eating that way. I was planning on breaking my fast that evening, so I gave myself the feeling of “closing in on the finish line” - a bit of a tactic I use - and cracked on with the days work. About half way through I decided to do a salt water flush, which is where you drink 1 litre of warm salt water in under 5 minutes, then wait for roughly 30 minutes (lying down on each side + front + back and massaging your stomach), at which point... let’s just say you won’t struggle to use the toilet, and you should probably stay by one for the rest of the day. About an hour and a half after I consumed my regular supplements - including a broad spectrum synbiotic (which is a blend of probiotics and prebiotic fibre) to replenish my beneficial gut bacteria. I’ll be taking that in the coming days also. Later on in the day I had some broth which contains sodium (for hydration), collagen/gelatin/glutamine (supports the gut lining), boabab powder (a prebiotic fibre that feeds your beneficial bactera), and a few other ingredients like turmeric and ginger.
Since I was planning on breaking the fast that evening, I also had a black coffee and some coconut oil at around 3 pm to give myself an afternoon of mental clarity and focus which was a resounding success. In-fact it was such a success, and I got so much done, that I was still working by 8:30pm… “Might as well just go again whilst we’re here…” See what I'm doing here: I used the fact that I was “closing in on the finish line” to get me through the day, then almost said “Haha sucker, I lied”, but the time had already passed and the prospect of the fast felt less daunting. I repeated a similar wind down routine before hitting the sack at around 11pm, with this nights sleep being quite blissful. I woke up at around 7:30 am for my first call at 8 (so barely had time to think) and just got cracking with the day, having some more broth and coconut oil mid-morning. At this point I think the broth and coconut oil massively played in my favour because I was working like a machine - if I just had water in those two days it wouldn’t be the case. (I’ve tried this many times: far less of the fun stuff like mental clarity and increased productivity) I also did a bodyweight workout in an outdoor gym nearby, because fasting preserves muscle (specifically by increasing human growth hormone (HGH)), BUT... if you cease to train it's almost you giving your body the indication that the muscle isn't as essential. Hence, training at a low intensity can help maintain what you've got! Then, I’ll be honest, at this point I didn’t really have the urge to stop. It was a case of figuring out the best and most convienient time to stop. I was functioning at a high level during the fast, but that can’t be maintained once you break it (unless you go straight into the ketogenic diet) - so I caught a break in my work at around 2 pm and broke it with my first meal on my new meal plan following The Gut Reset. A smoked salmon and egg bowl (easily digestible, lots of healthy fat, a little bit of fibre). Smoked salmon Avocado Eggs Cucumber Fried spinach Coconut oil It felt nice to just be eating again, but it’s really important to note that after a period of fasting this long you loose a lot of attachment to food - the first meal (to me) feels like an ice breaker. I waited a couple of hours and snacked on some nut butter, berries, a banana, some cashews… all nice and easy to digest. Then I had a decent sized meal at around 7 pm - a chicken stir fry (mainly comprised of chicken, rice, easily digestible veggies, chickpeas, cashews, and seasoning). This went down a treat, and kept me full well into the next day. The next day: back to normal. And that's it! 3/4 long fasts down for me this year, thanks for joining me on this one!