For the last 2 years I’ve been adding intermittent fasting to my own health regimen as well as coaching many of my clients through it.
I’m a huge fan! Both from what I’ve seen in my own life and that of my clients.
From the moment I started even simply extending my overnight fast to 12+ hours I saw immediate benefits…better sleep, better digestion (in my case less loose BMs), and easier weight management.
Then my husband and I started playing around with 16 hour fasts several times a week followed by the addition of a 24 hour fast once a week.
This was so much easier than I thought it would be. For the 16 hour fasts we would simply replace breakfast with a Coffee Elevated and then eat a normal meal at lunch time.
And for the 24 hour fast we would have a big meal at lunch on Sunday, skip dinner, replace breakfast the following day with a Coffee Elevated, and then a normal meal at lunch.
I truly believe that this strategy helped both of us easily maintain our weight despite having moved to France and significantly changing the way we ate. We also were able to sail through winter with no colds or flu. Maybe that was a coincidence but based on the research around fasting we may in fact have gained some immune benefit.
What I had not tried yet was an extended fast!
What Is An Extended Fast
Although 24 hours was really not that hard I couldn’t imagine going beyond that.
But in all of my research around fasting the 72+ hour fast seemed to offer the biggest potential for health benefits:
- Regenerate & supercharge the immune system
- Clean up mutated cells, viruses, bacteria, & parasites from the body
- Boost cellular repair
- Promote longevity
And particularly when it comes to cancer recovery and prevention this seems to be a critical piece to the puzzle.
I bet you can guess where I’m going with this, right?!
It is my practice to always test things on myself before I start coaching clients on it. I need to have first-hand experience with a new practice, supplement, food, or eating pattern before I tell others to give it a go.
My Personal Experiment
So…I did it!!
Actually my husband (Marc) did it with me too and thank god because I’m not sure I could have stuck with it without his support and help. I won’t lie there was a moment where I almost gave in at the end of Day 2 and he talked me out of it.
We made a plan to do it after the holidays to help us kick off the new year. And decided on a Friday – Sunday since we didn’t know how we would feel we didn’t want to have to juggle work too.
I even had Marc go out and buy us a scale that would measure body fat percent and BMR, in addition to weight. (crazy, I know, that we didn’t already have a scale…I’m just not a huge fan of tracking weight outside of how I feel and how my clothes are fitting) But I was really curious in how my body would respond to this experiment and I wanted to gather as much data as possible.
Last Thursday night, after dinner, our fast officially started. The following 3 days looked like this plus a morning recording of our weight & measurements.
- Breakfast: Coffee Elevated
- Lemon Water & Herbal Tea
- Lunch: Mineral Rich Bone Broth
- Green Tea & Lemon Water
- Dinner: Bone Broth
- Herbal Tea
- (+) plain water in between whenever we felt thirsty (or hungry)
On Sunday evening we broke our fast with eggs, creme fraiche, & cheese. The goal was to keep it ketogenic so the benefits would continue longer.
The next morning I had plain whole milk yogurt with almond butter and cinnamon. And by lunch time I had added in some carbohydrates with fruit & a piece of whole grain bread.
Here’s What We Learned
It was hard!! But it was also really interesting. And by the end of it Marc and I were both pretty proud of ourselves for actually doing it! Mind over matter, right?!
Day 1 was not that hard. I’m used to doing 24 hour fasts so this wasn’t much of a stretch. I physically felt fine and not that hungry until dinner time, when I had to feed my kids. That wasn’t too fun.
Day 2 was harder. I woke up feeling fine and not that hungry but by lunch time I was having hunger pangs. Again feeding my kids was probably the hardest part. I also felt a pretty big dip in both my energy and my motivation level. I ended up taking a nap for part of the afternoon.
Day 3 was interesting. I really wasn’t physically hungry anymore but definitely “missing” food. I couldn’t wait to eat again simply to taste & enjoy food. My energy & motivation were still low and I was feeling weak; my muscles were even a bit shaky. I also noticed a light rash on my abdomen and back.
Overall Marc had a similar experience except he woke up on Day 2 with a raging headache and he never gets headaches. On Day 3 he also had a headache but not as bad and felt nauseous pretty much the whole day. He didn’t notice any rashes. And although his energy was also low he managed to be much more productive than me.
- Me: lost 2.4 kg (~5 lbs)
- Marc: lost 3.1 kg (~7 lbs)
- Body Fat
- Me: lost 0.7%
- Marc: lost 1.5%
- BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate = how many calories your body burns at resting, it’s a crude measure of metabolism)
- Me: dropped 51 calories
- Marc: dropped 64 calories
I wish we would have been able to collect more measurements like blood sugar, ketones, insulin, and inflammatory markers. But that’s just because I like to geek out over things like this.
What’s also interesting is that I took our measurements after a full day of eating normally again and not surprisingly both of our weights climbed back up a bit (0.4 kg for me & 0.7 kg for Marc) but both of our body fat percentages continued to drop. Our BMR started to climb back up again as well.
- The hardest part (honestly) was having to feed my kids.
- The lack of energy & motivation was also kind of a bummer. I definitely don’t think I could have done this while working. One benefit though of feeling this way was that I didn’t go grocery shopping on Saturday like I normally would (simply because I couldn’t imagine leaving my house) and I honestly think that not having much food in the house helped us not cheat.
- For Marc the headaches & nausea were hard.
- For me the most surprising benefit was that I also happened to be menstruating over this same time period (serious cleansing, right!) and I didn’t have any physical discomfort. Usually I will have some achiness in my abdomen and at some point I always get a headache. I couldn’t believe that didn’t happen this time.
- For Marc he has been dealing with a painful tendonitis in his elbow off and on for several months but worse for the last few weeks. He noticed that it immediately started to feel better and by the end of the 3 days wasn’t really bothering him anymore.
Although I was optimistically hoping it wouldn’t be that hard…it was hard! Yet it was also a super interesting experiment. If anything just to see how deep our willpower went.
I expected to see a drop in our weight, body fat, and BMR (metabolism), which all happened. Although we both felt low energy, I was surprised how my detox symptoms were different from Marc’s (rash versus headache & nausea for him). I was also surprised to see how the inflammatory benefits played out (no menstrual headache for me & improved tendonitis for Marc).
The coffee elevated & bone broth were key…for both of us. They really took the edge off the hunger and gave us a short boost of energy. I’m not sure if I could have stuck with it if I was doing a water-only fast.
The research suggests that we include a 3-5 Day Fast one or more times each year. After having successfully completed 3 days I can say with confidence that I could definitely do it again. Pushing it to 4 or 5 days would be a challenge but also one I’m curious about as many people report that once you get past 2-3 days it gets surprisingly easier and you start to feel better and better. I think I’m just too curious of a person to not see for myself.
Give It A Try
I’d love to hear from you. Have you tried extended fasting before? If so, what was your experience like?
The potential benefits of fasting are too great to not give it a try. I will definitely continue to coach clients on adding this into their health regimens. And I will continue to play with it myself.
Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in doing as a community?! It could be fun to try it together plus the social support would be super helpful.