On A Longer Fast
As I mentioned in my Lenten 2015 post, I kicked things off with a 48 hour fast, my longest one yet. I had previously done a 24 and a 36 hour fast but most of the studies out there point to the minimum necessary as 48 hours (and the stem cell regeneration stuff is saying at least 72). My last meal pre-fast was Tuesday night at around 9:30 after Master Naturalist class. Before starting, I did a little research on longer fasts and as with anything on the Internet, advice was conflicting at best. This site seemed the most informative but also made it sound like fasting bestowed super human powers on you. In my previous 36 hour fast, I did not turn into Superman but after day 1, I did notice an increased ability to focus up until about the time I ate. I don’t think this was observer bias since I wasn’t aware of the possible benefits.
For this fast, day 1 was definitely the hardest though nothing terrible. I had my first temporary hunger pains around noon on Wednesday. In my limited experience, these are almost always minor and can be mitigated with coffee and substantial water. The more difficult hunger happens for me around 20-24 hours. In the article linked above, the author says this is your body trying to stay in homeostasis. This makes a lot of sense in our modern world where for most of us (at least the ones reading my blog), hunger is a very abstract concept. Our bodies are used to eating every 6 hours and when we miss a couple of cycles, minor panic sets in at a nutritional level. But in the grand scheme of things, long term homeostasis without any stress to the system results in frailty. Think about sitting on your couch for a week. Your body doesn’t like that. There is some evidence that exposure to cold brings the body out of homeostasis and increases metabolism. A regular feeding cycle conditions your body to never feel hunger and therefore never activate important mechanisms like attacking free radicals which happens during fasts. What I did to make the 20 hour hunger pains easier was drink more water and imagine my body destroying cancer causing free radical cells. Obviously this is likely a stretch but it helped with will power.
On day 2, I found it much easier to ignore being on a fast. I was never actually hungry in a physical sense. What I did encounter was my brain trying to convince me to stuff something in my mouth. Again, I think this was as much habit/homeostasis as anything. We have a cat that if you don’t feed her every 6 hours, she turns into a meowing kitchen timer. The thing is, she’s probably 3 pounds overweight and could go 4 days without food just fine. That’s what I thought about my brain on day 2. Of course, it didn’t help that someone brought fresh fruit and donut holes for breakfast to work along with a working lunch that would have included free sandwiches if I had partaken. Temptations aside, the real struggle was just making the realization that my hunger seemed to be largely psychological mental panic and not true “I may die” hunger.
Midday, I started taking half a teaspoon of glutamine in my water every 4 hours or so. This came on the recommendation of the site linked above. I’m not sure if it helped but I’ll definitely use it more consistently on future fasts, especially since I have 8 ounces of the stuff. He suggests daily use and I’ve heard other people talk about amino acid usage during intermittent fasting. I’ll probably play around with it and report back.
My goal was a 48 hour fast but I was kind of hoping to make it 60 hours into Friday morning. However, eventually the mental hunger panic won out at the 47 hour mark. I ate pretty healthy starting out with an orange and then lean turkey. Having a little more experience with fasting helps avoid going crazy coming off of it. Not to mention, most sources say to go easy coming off longer fasts.
In the end, I didn’t achieve Super powers. However, I did notice that getting out of bed this morning with only 6.5 hours of sleep was pretty easy. One of the supposed benefits of fasting is less sleep is necessary though that’s entirely anecdotal. I don’t have anything measurable at this point. I’m 45 days into a 90 day reset hoping to vastly improve my lipid panels so that will be the first measurable moment. The proof will be in the pudding. Now I want pudding.