Friday, October 30, 2009

What can you expect during a fast? A 60-hour breakdown.

I'm often asked what it feels like during a 24-hour fast.  Misconceptions and myths permeate beliefs regarding fasting.

Aren't you starving?  Doesn't your energy drop?  I could never do that...I'd starve.  There's no way I could workout with no food in my system.  Aren't you worried about muscle loss?  What about low blood sugar?

These are just a few of the questions that I receive on a weekly basis when discussing my intermittent fasting lifestyle.  The guys over at fitness spotlight like to call it intermittent feeding; I like that term.  For more answers about IF, check out Eat Stop Eat by Brad Pilon.  Brad is regarded as an expert in the health and fitness field, specifically IF. 

With that said, I thought I'd document a recent 60-hour fast.  Before that I'll note a few tidbits and observations.  I don't make it a routine to initiate such a long fast, but I think it's beneficial (for many reasons) every once in a while.  There are numerous studies and anecdotal 'research' that bunk the myths that are commonly associated with fasting.  Take a look at Martin Berkhan's website, Lean Gains.  He posted a great IF Q & A this past Thursday.

When deciding to start a 24-hour fast, I'd suggest eating your final pre-fast meal at night; a 7PM meal always seems to work well.  By 7AM, you are already through the first 12 hours.  Mix in work, the busyness of life, a workout and 24 hours will fly by.  Additionally, if you are just starting to try IF, be realistic; you'll likely be hungry.  You can thank 'social programming' and the hormone ghrelin for that hunger.  Your body must re-train itself and its habits.  Each fast thereafter will get easier.

My 60-hour fast:
  • Tuesday, 10/27, 11PM: Final pre-fast meal mixed with some 'junk' food (thus prompting a fast).  If you overindulge or simply indulge, a fast is a great way to balance your indulgence and you'll keep your weekly calorie intake in check.
  • Wednesday, 10/28, 6AM (7 hrs): Not hungry at all.  I have a couple of waters throughout the day.  I even skip my morning Americano coffee for some odd reason.
  • Wednesday, 10/28, 12PM (13 hrs): Lunch-time for millions.  My fast is only 13 hours in.  Still not hungry at all.
  • Wednesday, 10/28, 5PM (18 hrs):  All of the kids are home from school and I'm home from work.  A tinge of hunger, but not really.  When you don't plan to eat and have no intentions of eating, it's amazingly easy for your mind to 'rest' from the thought of food.  Plus the added benefit of burning body fat for energy especially from the 16-hr point and beyond.  Americano for me.  A famous Sterbucks latte for my wife (Sterling -- Sterbucks, not Starbucks...get it?)
  • Wednesday, 10/28, 6:30PM (19.5 hrs): P90X shoulders & arms workout with my 7 year-old (don't worry, he's not lifting weights and if he is they are 3 lbers).  I heavy up the weight, quicken the pace with no rest, and cut the workout in half.  Done in 35 minutes.  I do have a pre-workout BCAA (Purple Wraath) drink but it contains no calories, thus leaving me in a fasted state.  A minimal increase in insulin due to the amino acids, but still fasted.
  • Wednesday, 10/28, 8PM (21 hrs): A little 2-on-2 FIFA 2010 Xbox 360 soccer with my 3 youngest.  No food thoughts here.  I want to WIN!  My little girl & I dominate...well, half the games anyway.  I also drink a fair amount of water and take my daily Omega-3s and Mulit-vitamins.
  • Wednesday, 10/28, 11PM (24 hrs): After catching up on work email, blog email, daily health and fitness reading, and my college football call-in show fix it's off to bed.  I'm not really hungry at all, but I'm starting to pee a alot.  Hmmm...sign of some junk food the night before?  My insulin levels have dropped and my body is thanking me; more than normal urination is a sign of your body and muscles releasing water that increased carbohydrate consumption prompted your body to hold onto.
  • Thursday, 10/29, 5:50 AM (31 hrs): I didn't forego my Americano.  Double-shot and a little water.
  • Thursday, 10/29, 10AM (35 hrs): As I'm working, I see some people who should probably think about fasting.  Just a thought.
  • Thursday, 10/29, 1:15 (38.25 hrs): Black coffee from a local coffee house (PJ's).  Remarkably, I'm not that hungry.  I know I'm doing my body good so it's made easier knowing the facts about IF.  A cardio session of sorts this afternoon; I'm not sure what I'll do.  I've decided I'll break my fast around noon tomorrow (61 hrs) with a Whole Foods' ribeye steak and a pile of veggies.
  • Thursday, 10/29, 8PM (45 hrs): I decided on 30 minutes of moderately high-intensity cardio followed by 30 minutes of low-intensity cardio on my stationary bike.  My body relies on body fat and ketones for energy.  The 6PM workout was not too terribly hard, but I'm starting to feel a bit of hunger.  However, I'm extremely clear-minded and I've worked on several blog posts and material for a future e-book.  The workout was followed by a nice, long shower and some Thursday night college football.
  • Friday, 10/30, 4:30AM (51.5 hrs): As is common in fasts beyond 48 hrs, I awoke at 4:30 and could not sleep.  My mind was racing and clear so I worked again on additional blog material.  I'm waiting for my 15-year old to get up to enjoy a cup of coffee with him.  The thought of that steak is really, really starting to sound good; I can already smell it cooking on the grill.  My agenda today: coffee, 15-year old off to school, 12-year old to school, 7 & 9-year old to school, work, meal @ noonish - fast is broken, back to work, welcome weekend.
  • Friday, 10/30, 5:45AM (52.75 hrs): Coffee with my 15-year old.  Always fun to visit.
  • Friday, 10/30, 12PM (61 hrs): Time to break the fast.  Ribeye, veggies, and bacon.  I'm pretty dang hungry.  The meal was superb.  I put some spices on both the steak and veggies.  You'll see two pats of butter on the veggies -- butter and salt really bring out a full taste of the veggies.  Medium rare is how I like my ribeye.

So there's my 60-hour fast; a rare activity for me.  I'll eat a normal meal around 7 and it's back to my normal routine tomorrow.  Eating normally after a fast is important, especially after a 24-hour fast.  If you break a 24-hour fast with a huge meal you've just consumed the calories that you were avoiding in the first place.  You'll still benefit from the hormonal 'reset', but one of the key roles of IF is to 'free you up' on other days.  I had a normal meal even after a 60-hour fast and I'm full & satisfied.

It's back to work for me.  Please feel free to ask questions or comment on your own fasting experience.

Until next time...   


  1. I thought fasts that exceed 48 hours should only be broken with fruit?

  2. Nice article! I'm 30 hrs into a 60 hr fast. It's my first one ever. I've done plenty of 24 hr ones.

  3. What are your thought on incorporating exogenous ketones during these?

  4. Excellent post. I am very happy to read. Thanks for providing great information. Thanks.