I fasted for 3 days as a personal experiment. Here?s my stick-figure depiction of what happened.
Why fast for 3 days?
Here are the reasons I told myself:
- To stop being obsessed with food.
- To repair my gut.
- To face my fear of starvation.
- To enter ketosis.
- To make more time for other things.
Let me quickly explain those, and then we?ll see what actually happened during the fast.
1. To stop being obsessed with food
I like food. I like food a lot.
Here?s a graph of how much I like food over the course of a day:
Not surprisingly, it?s the exact inverse of my willpower over the day:
A few weeks ago, that graph was getting worse. I?m not sure why, but I was feeling my willpower becoming weaker. I wasn?t eating until I felt full; I was eating until my fridge ran out of food.
So that was reason 1 for a fast. To stop being so obsessed with food.
2. To repair my gut.
I?ve already shared, probably in too much detail, how my gut has had problems this year. Here?s a QS talk I gave on it and an article I wrote from SXSW about it.
At the Bulletproof Conference, Ariane Resnik said that a 3-day bone broth fast has helped some of her clients. Since my stomach has been angrier than usual, I was motivated to give it a shot.
So that was reason 2 for a fast. To fix my gut.
3. To face my fear of starvation.
I?ve been thinking a lot recently about fear. While binging on my roommate?s holiday leftovers one night, I realized I?m afraid of not eating. My crazy labrador brain is convinced it will wither and die without food. Like this:
I?m trying to listen to my fears and confront them. So that was reason 3 for a fast. To prove to my labrador brain I can live without food.
4. To enter ketosis.
I?ve always been intrigued by the science of ketosis. In 2012, I followed a ketogenic diet with great results. Here?s a Powerpoint of my experience.
Here are slides from a QS talk I gave on my 2012 Keto experiment
I had more energy and less hunger cravings when in ketosis. That experiment only lasted a few weeks, though, and I haven?t tried it again since.
We recently wrote a Factor 75 blog post about Ketosis and, while I was reviewing it, I realized I should experience ketosis again to better understand it.
So that was reason 4 for a fast. To switch my body into ketosis.
5. To make more time for other things.
When I get home from work most evenings, I always think I?ll have lots of productive time available. However, I end up cooking, eating, thinking about food, cleaning a bit, circling my kitchen like a vulture looking for prey, cooking some more, eating some more, cleaning again, and then my evening is mostly gone and I?m too full to do any work.
I spend a shocking amount of time on food.
So that was reason 5 for a fast. To make more time.
I planned to do a 1-day bone broth fast. Start with that, I thought, and then graduate to a 3-day fast later. That?s probably the reason I was able to overcome the mental barrier to even begin.
Here is what happened though:
On Dec 23, I finished dinner around 8pm. I ate two Factor 75 meals with extra butter (wanted to load up before the fast). I went to bed that night knowing I wouldn?t eat solid food the next day. Already my mind was pissed at me. It mostly whispered that I would lose muscle mass and sacrifice all the strength gains I?ve made in recent months. I tried ignoring them and went to sleep.
I woke up and my stomach was already grumbling. It had only been 12 hours and my body was already hangry.
I was going to do a bone broth fast, so I went to my kitchen to heat some up. Sadly, I didn?t plan this well and only had one small cup?s worth of broth left. One cup it is. I drank it slowly that morning.
The rest of the day went fine. I was hungry, but it wasn?t too difficult. I did feel weak and lethargic by late afternoon. Maybe it was my body switching into ketosis? More likely it was psychological. The fear of not eating is strong.
My stomach grumbled a lot during the day. It could have been from the stomach issues or just the transition to fasting. Empty stomachs sometimes grumble.
As I was getting ready for bed, I wondered if I should continue the fast for another day? I was already one day in. I might as well continue now that I have momentum. It made sense logically but my mind was pretty strongly against it.
I decided to wait and see how I felt in the morning.
I journaled on day 2. Here are those entries:
My mind is being a real pain in the @$$ this morning. I want to extend the fast and do a full 3-days, but it?s flipping its shit. I woke up needing to decide whether to continue and it whispered so many reasons not to.
?You?re losing muscle. You?re being unhealthy. You?re being anti-social. Not eating is boring. You?re getting weaker. You don?t know if this is safe. Not eating is just not cool. Don?t you want to be cool!?!? Be cool dammit and start eating again? sorry, got emotional there. Feed me please??
I decided to continue fasting.
I wanted to make more bone broth, so I went to CVS to get filtered water. While I was there, I had to walk the food aisles and thought again about breaking the fast.
Whenever the whispers encourage me to eat and I say no, they push back more fiercely. I hope that eventually stops.
My body feels lethargic as I write this. I?m going to do a short workout.
My stomach isn?t grumbling anymore. I don?t have the feeling of needing food. I still want to eat food, but it?s not a craving. It?s just my mind still holding to that idea that it?s better to eat all the time.
The workout earlier felt awesome. It was about an hour of bodyweight exercises. I had much more energy afterward. All the lethargy from the earlier entry is gone.
I?ve been working for the last 3 hours with good focus. I just got up to take a short break and found myself shadow-boxing in front of a mirror. This fasting thing ain?t so bad.
A few surprising things happened today.
Surprising thing #1
I didn?t feel tired at all today. Even though I slept poorly, I felt fine.
Surprising thing #2
I wasn?t hungry at all today. I drank one cup of bone broth around 8pm. However, I didn?t need it. I only drank it because I hoped it would help repair my gut, like Ariane had suggested.
Surprising thing #3
WARNING: this is 100% a n=1 observation, I have very limited and unreliable data, and it is most likely just a coincidence. < ? seriously, it?s probably a coincidence.
That said, I?m including this because it DID surprise me. I have an irregular heartbeat. I?ve always had it. Last night, I used an AliveCor device on my phone to take an ECG reading and saw zero irregular beats. That never happens. So I took another sample and still zero. I tested again in the morning and they were back, but at a lower frequency than usual ? only 1?2 in each minute sample. Again, this is probably related to other confounding factors, but it surprised me and I?m curious to research it more. If anyone knows of research on fasting and the heart, please share in the comments!
Surprising thing #4
This is the MOST surprising thing of all. I decided to work out with my brother around 6pm on day 3. We did a Crossfit workout ? heavy back squats and then a WOD. I thought I?d be weaker after 3 days of fasting, but the exact opposite happened. I set a new personal record for my 1 rep max on my back squat.
I?ve always thought fasting would make me weak, tired, and unhappy.
And yet, 3 days in, I wasn?t craving food, I had more energy than usual, and I lifted more weight than I ever have before.
Take that you fearful labrador brain!
Benefits of the Fast
Of my five reasons for doing the fast experiment, all were at least moderately successful.
I felt less food obsessed after the fast
I broke the fast on Dec 27. Even though I started eating again, I didn?t have food cravings. It?s a difficult thing to explain. You have to feel it yourself to understand it. For example, I had two containers of Paleo granola in my cabinet and no cravings to eat them. Pre-fast, I would have eaten both in one sitting. I had sweet potato mash in one of my Factor meals, and it tasted sweet to the point that I didn?t want to eat it. I finished everything else and left that behind. I?ve never done that.
I got into Ketosis
Most likely, this decrease in food obsession was due to being in ketosis, just like I experienced in my 2012 keto experiment. This time, I didn?t use any devices for measuring ketone levels. I will for my next fast.
My gut felt better
My stomach is feeling subjectively better now than it was pre-fast. It?s hard to quantify, but observationally I don?t have the same morning aches or bloating symptoms that I was experiencing before.
I had more time
As expected, when you don?t eat, you also stop planning, prepping, cooking, and cleaning for meals. That left a lot of extra time in my days. I used that time to reflect on 2015 and start thinking about goals for 2016.
I learned that fasting is not as scary as I thought
Most importantly, I?m happy to have confronted my fear of fasting. It?s not so scary anymore. I did another one-day fast last week. My mind still objected, but I now know I won?t starve, wither, and die. Based on this experience, the opposite is more likely true. It?ll make me stronger and healthier.
As I write this, I?m no longer in ketosis. I ate a whole bag of KIND Granola tonight. I?m apparently back to being obsessed with food.
That?s okay! An experiment?s conclusion is only valid if it?s repeatable, right? I?ll just have to do another fast. I?ll use a keto blood meter to measure my ketone levels this time and I?ll definitely attempt another 1 RM back squat.
If that?s also repeatable, I might just stop eating food entirely.