72 Hour Fast – My Experience
After many months of waiting to try a 72 hour fast, this week I finally got the chance to push my body to a new limit that it has never reached before. Unable to attempt an extended fast previously as i was breastfeeding my daughter, i made the decision to wait until feeding had finished, in case it affected milk production.
Listening to a series of podcasts that discussed the therapeutic benefits of cycling periods of extended fasting into a ketogenic lifestyle made me curious – a few days of no food (72 hour fast) could help to reset my immune system with the potential to purge the body of precancerous cells. For me, it was a complete no brainer. I was excited to give it a try!
My husband has done two 3 day fasts, allowing me to witness first hand the experience from start to finish. I saw the ups and downs and it gave me a valuable insight into what I was about to put my body and mind through – enabling me to mentally prepare for the challenges ahead – crucially enabling me to stay focused once the fast had begun. I adapted his learnings and experiences to make my own fasting journey as comfortable as possible. The 3 key pointers being:
- Salt – I drank a glass of salted water each day to help prevent headaches and replace the salts that my body was rapidly losing. It certainly did the trick!
- Multivitamin – I took a daily multivitamin to ensure my body was still getting the vital nutrients it needed whilst I wasn’t consuming food.
- I drank plenty of water to keep hydrated, prevent headaches and fight off hunger pangs.
I ate my last meal on Sunday evening. Being a creature of habit, I found it tough at first to break my daily intermittent fasting routine. I look forward to delicious keto meals and enjoy experimenting with new flavours and recipes. This usually keeps me focused: a yummy meal twice a day to look forward to normally prevents me from being controlled by my inner ‘hungry ant’. Now this was gone I had a daunting wait of 3 days to endure rather than 18 hours! I remained focused and positive, shaking off the negative thoughts and pushed through the hunger pangs!
Keeping my mind occupied was the best distraction tool ever, especially around meal times when my stomach was expecting to be fed. Drinking plenty of water at the onset of a hunger pang helped to dampen them and settle my belly monster!
The most noticeable shift in my body was how cold i felt! By the late afternoon of day 1 I was shivering. i slept in my pyjamas, a pair of thick socks and a very thick knitted woolly jumper! The coldness never subsided and throughout the whole 3 days, I felt cold to the bone. It was particularly noticeable at night time when whilst i lay still and was settling to sleep – it was very difficult to drift off on day 1!
Day 2 started really positively. I awoke with heaps of energy and bounced downstairs to make my family breakfast. No groggy feeling, I just felt really alert and on the ball! So full of energy in fact that I decided to do a brutal HIIT workout that morning. I had so much energy it actually really surprised me! I didn’t struggle to push myself during the workout, in fact i found myself to be ‘in the zone’ much quicker than usual. I’m not going to pretend, it did hurt like hell and it always does. I’m a bit of a strange one though, i love that feeling. In fact, i thrive on it! Dig deep and push even harder is how i work out! My body was turbo charged on ketones, it felt great!
One of the challenges of day 2 was preparing my husband’s evening meal of lamb chops. The smell of them frying made me drool and my belly was rumbling badly! I had a BIG glass of water and powered on through. I even managed to sit at the dinner table whilst he ate it without caving in!
One the biggest challenges that i have struggled with throughout my entire life is emotional eating. I have always turned to food for comfort as far back as i can remember. It feels almost impossible to undo a lifelong habit at times and prior to beginning this fast i found that my old nasty habit had begun to creep back into my life. Yes, it was all keto friendly foods – a tablespoon of almond butter here, a nibble of cheese there, but it all adds up and it’s all unnecessary because my body wasn’t wanting the food for its nutrient density. It was just to satisfy my my emotions – I wasn’t hungry, just emotional!. In the evening on day 2 I was presented with a test. One that would have often seen me reaching for the almond butter as a temporary fix. Instead, I dug deep and resisted. I had come so far and didn’t want to break the fast just to make myself ‘feel better’ for a few minutes. The fast gave me a reason to stay focused and it enabled me to regain control over my comfort eating once again! For this reason alone, the 3 days of pain was well worth it. I’m hoping that I have managed to ‘reset my batteries’ and the next time i am faced with an emotional challenge, i will remain as strong as on day 2.
Surprisingly, i found it really easy to fall asleep. How much of that was down to the fast remains unknown. The bedtime routine in a household with two little ones can be very tiring so this may have been a factor! That being said, I had some seriously crazy nightmares on the night of day 2. I usually have the same type of nightmares that evolve around recurring themes. These however, were completely different and felt very real. I woke up in a cold sweat and was thankful that they were just bad dreams. Although I can run pretty fast, my chances of outrunning a chainsaw wielding monster that flies is very slim.
I woke on day 3 feeling very positive and energetic and by now had begun to experience great mental clarity. I was able to think faster and clearer and everything seemed to make more sense. It’s a difficult feeling to try and explain, the only thing I can compare it to is probably how Bradley Cooper’s character is portrayed to feel in the film Limitless after he takes the magic pills! Who needs a magic pill to feel great – our bodies can do it with our own magic biochemistry and ketones!
By the time I reached lunchtime I really started to struggle. I knew that I was getting closer to having food for the first time in 3 days – that was all i could think about. I didn’t feel hungry, i just wanted to eat really badly! Finally I was able to distinguish the difference between thinking of food and wanting to enjoy the taste of it, rather than eating to satisfy hunger.
I made a huge mistake at lunchtime! One i strongly suggest that you take note of if you are considering a fast yourself. I went to a supermarket! Not only did I step through the doors and torment myself by walking down all the aisles of delicious food, I made it a million times worse by going at a time when my tummy was expecting food! A huge double whammy and one that I instantly regretted! It triggered really strong hunger pangs instantly, which despite all my best efforts remained with me until I broke my fast that evening.
When the time came to break my fast, I opted for something quick to cook and really tasty! Rare ribeye steak with spinach (mixed with olive oil and French’s mustard – it’s amazing!), purple sprouting broccoli (covered in butter) a fried egg and mushrooms! Although it’s a very quick meal to cook, I couldn’t cook it quick enough! I reached into the fridge, pulled out the cheese and without even pausing to cut off a slice, bit straight into the block. WOW! My taste buds awoken to each and every single microscopic flavour in the cheese and it tasted so good – like the best cheese ever! The fast definitely woke my taste buds up, giving flavour a whole new dimension! The steak tasted delicious and even the broccoli tasted amazing too (I choose to eat this for the nutrients rather than flavour normally!).
I had a great night’s sleep that evening. I felt warm again for the first time in 3 days and my belly was no longer shouting at me!
I found that not eating and having to cook saved me a whole lot of time, which, in turn made my days more productive. The extra release of energy that i had allowed me to stay focused and i felt like i was able to act and respond much quicker generally throughout the 3 days
Blood ketone levels throughout the fast sat consistently around 4.2 mmol/L. Fasting blood sugar was 3.2 mmol/L.
My body just ticked over nicely and I was able to go about my days without feeling wide eyed and anxious. This was a concern for me prior to beginning the fast – having struggled through a few days of deep ketosis previously when my ketone levels went sky high and the rushy feeling got too much for me and my body to handle, resulting in me power puking! Perhaps the fasting allowed my body to adapt to using the ketones more effectively than before, it actually felt very calming which was a surprise.
Looking back on the mental struggle I faced towards the end of day 3, In hindsight it would have been better to begin the 72 hour fast at lunch time, that way you don’t have to battle through an entire day on the last day! Next time I fast, I will 100% adopt this approach!
In all, my 72 hour fast experience was very positive and one that i look forward to replicating again in a few months time.