I just completed my first 5-day fast.
Think about that…5 DAYS without consuming a single calorie or having one bite of solid food.
Now if you’re new to my blog or have never heard about fasting, then you probably think I’m crazy.
Or have an eating disorder.
Or lost all my muscle mass.
Or just enjoy being miserable.
But the truth is – none of those things is the case. In fact, by going five whole days without food, I burned pounds of body fat by entering ketosis, stimulated the process of autophagy and cellular cleanup, and primed my body to live longer and healthier than I ever though was possible.
Now fasting for this long definitely wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t overly difficult either. During these 5 days, I kept a journal of my experience, and some of what I learned definitely surprised me.
Here are the top seven things I learned during my extended fast:
1. The beginning is the easiest (duh)
Now if you’ve been practicing some form of intermittent fasting (which you should be before jumping into an extended fast), the first 24 to 36 hours should be a breeze. This was definitely the case for myself; however, it extended beyond hunger levels.
While I wasn’t terribly hungry right in to beginning, I was also revved-up and ready to take the challenge head-on. This almost creates a fun, exciting atmosphere that allows you to power through the first day and a half quite easily.
Unfortunately, at least for me, this feeling doesn’t last. When hunger peaks between hour 48 and 60, and you begin craving different types of food, that’s when the challenge truly sets in, as you’ll see from the second thing I learned.
2. The mental grind outweighs the physical symptoms
Don’t get me wrong – fasting for this long is difficult at times and you definitely will be hungry, hangry, or ravenous at moments. On top of that, sleeping on an empty stomach was definitely difficult for me, making bedtime rather unpleasant at times, especially in the beginning.
Having said all that, the physical symptoms are only temporary. In addition, once you’re past the three-day mark and your body has fully entered ketosis, feelings of hunger almost completely diminished for me. If I ever did feel hungry, a glass of water with pink Himalayan salt, a black coffee, or an herbal tea always did the trick.
The real challenge was just the day-to-day mental grind, not necessarily “needing” food but “wanting” food. It’s difficult to explain the difference unless you’ve experienced it, but I found myself just thinking about what kind of food I was craving, wanting to eat out of boredom, and becoming mentally drained during parts of the process.
This feeling would come in waves depending on what I was doing, and at one point, it hit me. I knew why this was more of a mental grind and not a battle against hunger…which brings us to number three.
3. The food we eat is often tied to emotion
It seems obvious, but I never truly realized this until I went through this 5-day fast. Not only does the food I eat satisfy my hunger, but also it’s inherently connected to how I feel throughout the day.
That feeling you get from dinner after a long day of hard work or rewarding yourself with a tasty treat after a killer workout…all these good, warm, and satisfying feelings are associated with food. During an extended fast, those “food feelings” are no longer an option.
I found myself wanting to just sit down on the couch, throw on my favorite show or movie, and order a pizza. I realized this is why changing your diet, eating healthier, and overall changing your habits can be so difficult.
Food, especially unhealthy food, triggers these emotions and feelings when we consume them. In addition, when we don’t have them, we tend to crave and obsess even knowing that it may not be the best choice for you or your body.
The extended fast taught me that food should be appreciated and loved, but not necessarily be in control of how you feel or live your life. It’s perfectly fine to be excited to eat your favorite dish or try something new, but when it leads to debilitating health issues or depression, that’s when a change is needed.
Fasting can help with that.
4. I had plenty of energy (surprisingly)
Yes, all your keto friends are right – ketones provide you with a focused and sustained source of energy. I was just surprised how well it worked with virtually nothing in my stomach. Now, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments of fatigue, but for the most part, I felt great and was able to have an incredibly productive week.
The experience has definitely made me intrigued to continue experimenting with a ketogenic diet; however, my number one goal is trying to find a sustainable “system” or lifestyle that I can follow on a daily basis, not necessarily a new diet for a few months out of the year.
Despite that, being in ketosis felt great and I was able to shed a few stubborn pounds of fat before I go onto a lean bulking program for the next 4-6 months.
5. Planning your days and schedule is essential
Listen, the last thing you want to be during an extended fast is bored with nothing to do. That is fasting-killer, because as soon as you’re sitting around doing nothing, you’re inevitably going to think about food and breaking your fast early.
This is why I tried to plan my days as much as possible, but looking back, I should have been even more extreme. I’m talking, get yourself a planner and write stuff down hour by hour – trust me.
Even if that means scheduling a time to watch your favorite movie while you sip on some calming, herbal tea. Just write it all down on paper and plan it out, because you’re not going to want to think about it four days into a fast.
You’ll also be surprised by just how much extra time you really have. We may think that eating a meal only takes 20 to 30 minutes, but the preparation, eating, relaxing afterwards…all of that time really adds up during the day and when suddenly that’s all gone or unnecessary, you feel like you have TONS of extra time.
Use it to your advantage and get sh*t done!
6. Have a support group beforehand
Having people or a group to help support me through my fast was something I didn’t even consider when I started, but it ended up being critical to me getting through the 5 days successfully.
Unless you’re a very experienced with extended fasting, going this long without food is going to have its struggles. On top of that, the majority of people in your – whether it’s friends, family, or work colleagues – will most likely not understand what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. Some may even tell you what you’re doing is unsafe and that you should stop immediately.
That is why it’s crucial to find people, who not only believe in what you are doing, but will provide encouragement and support along the way.
Even if your friends and family aren’t on board, there are tons of Facebook groups, forums online, and other outlets where you can share your experience with like-minded people. Now it helped in my case that I was participating in challenge put on by Kion, but just sharing my experience on social media, communicating with other friends participating, and asking questions at certain forums and live streams made the experience incredibly rewarding in a way that I hadn’t expected.
7. It’s a roller coaster – enjoy the ride
The last 5 days had some high points and some low points, but overall, I loved the experience and the feeling I have right now of accomplishing a goal that I set out to do. Not only have I improved my health and longevity, but I learned a lot about myself and what I’m truly capable of – something that I will be forever grateful for.
If you’re interested in trying and extended fast, make sure you read this article and this article beforehand, along with additional research on your own. Additionally, if you’re new to fasting, but not quite ready for an extended fast – make sure you download my free beginner’s guide for everything you need to know to get started.