Why Would You Do Something Like This!?
Whenever I would tell people that I was planning on water fasting, I would get the same response: “WHY!? HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SURVIVE 5 DAYS!”. There were many reasons behind why I decided to do this. First of all I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of information that I’ve been reading and listening to (on podcasts) about just how toxic our lives have become. I could tell you about the higher levels of arsenic that we get from eating poorly raised chickens, the hormone enriched chicken eggs that we eat on a daily basis, the tuna that swims in mercury contaminated waters, the rice that’s been absorbing more and more arsenic from pesticides being sprayed over the years, the overuse of antibiotics to treat minor ailments or wrong diagnoses, the unreported genetically modified foods that we consume regularly, the list goes on and on. In my case, there hasn’t been a day in the past year, where I haven’t eaten chicken breast. The chicken breast that I would buy was always massive! I always questioned whether a naturally raised chicken could ever actually grow that big. I was becoming uncomfortable with my meat eating habits as I was learning more about how immoral the industry really is.
On top of this, I’ve been through a couple rounds of strong antibiotics. In my last 2 visits to my home country of Lebanon, I have become very sick. In both visits I have went to the same doctor and been prescribed the same 3 boxes of medication (2 of which are antibiotics), not to mention the IV bag that he had sent me home with as well. It would be inserted into my arm and I would just hang it on the car’s back seat handlebar coat hanger for the ride home. It’s almost like the doctor had no idea what the problem was, so he just gave me everything to ensure that whatever it was, it would be gone. Unfortunately, he probably destroyed some good things in my body as well. There are some extremely talented and well educated doctors in Lebanon but clearly, not every medical professional is held to the same standard. Not until about 2 weeks ago did I look back through some old photos and find a picture of the antibiotics that I was on.
After a quick Google of “ciproloxacin gut flora” I found studies pertaining to the harm that this medication inflicts on ones gut microbiome. This explained a lot! I had felt for a while that I was unable to properly digest most of my meals but I would always write it off as being normal. I needed something to restore my normal state.
My Experience With Fasting
I’m no stranger to fasting. Intermittent fasting is a regular tool that I use to feel good and lose body fat. Usually I fast for 16 hours and then eat between 1200-2000 Calories within an 8 hour feeding window depending on what my goal is. Although 16 hour fasts are great, I was out for a bigger challenge. 120 hours of fasting!
Fasting has allowed to me to gain control over my impulses. It’s basically a form of meditation. In meditation, one is supposed to focus on their breath. As soon as the mind drifts to random thoughts, the attention is brought back to the breath. Whenever I would think about food or have hunger pains, I would have to bring my attention back to the task at hand. This has made me mentally stronger. When I discuss fasting with people that have never tried it, I almost always get the same response: “I couldn’t do that” or “I get really grumpy when I don’t eat”. This response always bothers me. Doesn’t it bother you that you can’t say no to your impulses? If you’re not in control of the impulses that you feel, then how can you have any sort of control over your life? Are we so privileged as a society that we can’t give up food for 16 hours, even when there are enormous amounts of health benefits? It saddens me to see people around the world starving yet we’re here drowning in food and unable to turn away from the impulse for just a short period of time.
Some Benefits of Fasting
- Reduction of inflammation
- Immune system reset
- Clearer skin
- Clearing of senescent cells (cells that are not alive but release toxins into the blood)
- Weight loss
- Digestive system reset
- Spiritual awareness
The Diet Leading Up To The Fast
Two years ago I told myself that by the time I got to University convocation I would have a 6 pack. I have been trying to find effective ways to lose fat since but have had troubles. About 3 months ago (following a mass gaining run), I started laying down a workout schedule and meal plan that I would follow leading up to convocation. I chose Kris Gethin’s 4 weeks 2 shred. Week 1 I ate 1500 Calories (P: 177g , F: 22g, C: 100g), week 2 I dropped carbs to reach 1300 Calories, week 3 I dropped to 1150. I decided to veer off of the nutrition plan that this program suggested on the final week. The program advocated for low carb/low fat and week 4 was supposed to be even lower Calorie! This diet plan had me feeling miserable and out of energy all the time. For this purpose, I decided to switch to a keto style diet for week 4. It just so happened that around that time I was also starting to listen to a lot of experts speak on the effectiveness of ketosis.
Method To My Madness: Ketosis
I’ve recently been listening to health and wellness podcasts regularly. These podcasts include: Some episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show, Found my Fitness by Dr. Rhonda Patrick and some episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience. A common guest between the Found my Fitness podcast and the Tim Ferriss Show was Dr. Dominic D’Agostino. Dr. D’Agostino is an expert in the field of ketosis and is performing cutting edge research. In listening to these conversations I picked up on the idea of ketosis and fasting. He brought up the fact that there have been studies in which people have water fasted for 40 days! I knew that 5 days wouldn’t be an issue for me.
Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your body begins to rely on body fat as a main fuel source rather than glucose. The diet requires that you almost completely eliminate carbohydrates from your diet (below 20 g net carbs which you calculate by subtracting fiber from your total carb count). Protein must be reduced to a moderate level and fat must be taken to a high level. The purpose here is to reduce insulin levels and to have the body get used to metabolizing fatty acids from your diet. As your body’s glycogen stores decrease (taken from your muscle cells and liver), your blood sugar drops lower and lower. Unfortunately, your brain cannot utilize stored fat or most dietary fat for energy directly so among starting this diet, you feel groggy for a few days. In these few days, people experience headaches, short tempers, insane cravings and many other things. These symptoms are very similar to that of someone giving up smoking or drugs. Some may consider it to be the withdrawal symptoms of our modern day carbohydrate addiction! Eventually however, your liver begins to take your stored fat and convert it to a new molecule called a ketone. All of the withdrawal symptoms go away. These ketones can be used by the brain and the body for energy. After an extended period of time (that varies depending on the person), the body adapts to this metabolic state. At this point, you feel amazing! On top of this Dr. D’Agostino has stated that ketones are actually anti-catabolic. This means that muscle is ultimately preserved!
On the 4th and final week of 4 weeks 2 shred, I reverted to a ketogenic diet (P: 80g, C: 17g, F: 120g, Cal: 1470) and stayed with this diet until I began my fast (May 16 till June 6). My thinking on this was that if I could get myself into nutritional ketosis for a few weeks and become keto adapted, I might be able to maintain my energy levels when fasting for long term.
Supplements during 4 weeks 2 shred
- Kaged Muscle Clean Burn
- GNC 200 mg Caffiene Pills
- Cobra Lab The Ripper Pre Workout
- Arnold Iron Pack
In order to know where I was at, I purchased Easy@Home Areta 10 Parameter Urinalysis Reagent Test Strips. These urinalysis strips allowed me to test my urine to ensure that I was entering ketosis before the fast. I also ordered a FreeStyle Neo glucose/ketone meter online for free. It arrived the day before my fast. All I had to do was purchase ketone test strips for the meter. My progress has been plotted and shown below. I started the fast at 730 am on June 2nd and then went to work for the day. I also worked on the June 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th.
I work in a hot kitchen which made it hard to stay hydrated. Since I wasn’t in taking electrolytes or any carbohydrates, my body was unable to retain water. This made things slightly harder. Energy was not available as readily as when I was fed. Instead, it came to me in times that I needed it. I found this really cool. It shows just how resilient and adaptive the human body is.Since carbohydrates were so low, my sleep was also affected. I had troubles falling asleep and I never did feel like I was in a deep sleep. Remarkably however, I was not very tired the next mornings. I was still willing to go out and complete the tasks that I had to complete. Hunger pains were the strongest near the beginning but I was used to this from my shorter fasts so that wasn’t an issue for me. I found that I actually really wanted to cook while on this fast. Something about cooking felt so exhilarating.
I didn’t go to the gym at all during the 5 day fast. My last day at the gym was the day before I started the fast. This may have been wrong to do. Throughout the fast, I felt that my legs were sore most of the time. I attribute this to improper recovery. I should have stopped going to the gym earlier than I did. Near the end of day 4 and day 5, I did experience a drop in energy. I would feel light headed when standing up, my extremities would start tingling randomly and I would be short of breathe from the slightest exertion. This made me start to wonder how my body was utilizing ketones and whether I was actually keto adapted yet. As shown in the graph above, my ketones were very high. I started to hypothesize that maybe because I haven’t been eating properly for the majority of my life, my body required more time to be able to understand how to utilize ketones more efficiently. All that my body knows is how to handle carbohydrates since that’s what I’ve over eaten throughout my youth. This may also explain why I was never able to lose fat as easily as most people that do the same programs that I do. This idea now nags at me. For this reason, I will probably perform an extended ketogenic diet in the future to see what happens. This may train my body to burn fat more optimally.
Although there were some negative side effects, I was calmer than I have ever been. Time was moving unbelievably slow! I couldn’t believe how slow the clock was ticking regardless of what I was working on. I was driving and appreciating the beauty of the sky and the clouds like never before. All I could think was: “if someone cut me off in traffic right now, I wouldn’t even be angry.”. I was calm, cool and collected.
On the final night of the fast, I was packing some of the food that I was going to break my fast with. I scooped a handful of raspberries into a small container and covered it. I noticed that on the end of my finger, a small piece of raspberry was hanging off. Being that I was so close to breaking the fast I decided to put it in my mouth. The flavor bomb that followed almost reduced me to tears. In being so saturated with food all the time, we sometimes forget about just how flavorful and beautiful these foods are. It really made me realize how blessed I am to have food available to me.
This experience was amazing. I feel refreshed and stronger than ever. It’s made me understand that it’s important to question everything. Most nutritionists around the world would say that fasting for extended periods of time is unhealthy. I have some problems with this mentality. We trust our health experts to tell us what’s best for our health but ego is getting in the way. Since this is a technique that goes against everything that is traditionally taught, professionals in the field are quick to write it off when they haven’t even looked into the topic. Obviously this isn’t for someone who has a serious health condition but we need to stop looking at the human body as a machine that only works one way. A car engine works one way. If I pour diesel into a gasoline tank, the car will not operate. The human body however, has thousands of modes of operation. It’s time to question whether we are taking advantage of all of our possible modes of operation in order to optimize our health and longevity.
As I write this (4 days after breaking the fast) I sit at 135 lbs. It has been very challenging to slowly reintroduce calories. A little bit of snacking here and there has made it impossible to slowly bring my calories back up. What’s amazing about the fasting experience is that you don’t notice how much fat you have lost until you reintroduce carbs and have your muscles reabsorb water and puff up again.
My next project is to gain lean mass and strength. I am going to do this using a high fat vegetarian diet. I’ve also started taking one of the strongest probiotics on the market, VSL#3, paired with Progressive HCP Support prebiotic in order to bring my digestive system back to it’s best.
So if I can leave you with one thing, it’s that you should challenge all of the nutritional advice you’ve been given in pursuit of what makes YOU feel as good as you can feel. Continuously try new things in your diet and active life. You might come out of it happier then you’ve ever been.