Yes, I know, Ryan and I have tried a lot of different things with regard to our nutrition (from a regular western diet to vegetarian to vegan to paleo to fat adapted and currently settled on a more zone-ish diet with emphasis on as much fresh and unprocessed produce as possible/convenient), but his latest suggestion really was the most crazy: stop eating for 5 full days. Seriously? Yes.
I’m expecting you to wonder why. The theory (in short and simplified) is this: don’t eat for 5 days (and don’t cheat by getting in any calories through drinking juice etc) and you body will re-use whatever it can find, recycling whatever floats around the cells unused and cleans up old, damaged cells, reusing the components - something called autophagy. This is meant to be good for you because old and damaged cells are the ones that can become cancer precursors. In addition, it does something to the immune system, somehow helping it to reset and rejuvenate - although I don’t think we quite know how or why. Some more information can be found here. Well, whatever, it’s meant to be good for you and since I finished my last race at the Track Cycling World Champs in March, I got sick one time after another (and I rarely was ever sick during my cycling career). And I thought it was an interesting challenge - could I really manage to not eat for a full 5 days (and nights - in case you were wondering)?
I chose the starting point somewhat spontaneously: I wanted to do it over a weekend, because I didn’t want to loose any time working. Thus, when on one Thursday evening I got a dinner invitation for next Wednesday, I decided to stop eating that evening, to fast until Tuesday evening. I would get through Friday OK (I’ve fasted for 24+ hrs several times before) and was hoping to have gotten through the worst by Monday and Tuesday. That was the amount of planning and preparation that went into it. The only thing that I was allowed was about a table spoonfull of MCT oil and only water and herbal teas.
Here’s my diary:
Thursday evening dinner: - this should have been my last meal, but I was sad having to give up food for the next five days, so I had a good-bye snickers and a yoghurt with blueberries as my last enjoyment after dinner.
Friday (Day 1): I started with a spoon of MCT oil for breakfast. I got hungry for about half an hour before lunch, but I was very busy in work, so once the hunger died down I barely noticed I hadn’t eaten until the evening. Ryan got me some nice mineral waters and they kept me going during work. I got hungry again in the evening when dinner was cooking, but I distracted myself from it with gardening and watched some netflix in the evening. I was tired when I went to bed, so I fell asleep easily despite the empty stomach. I slept reasonably well.
Saturday (Day 2): Again I started the day with MTC oil. Today I was hungry and started feeling weaker. Standing up too quickly made me dizzy. And I was hungry. Not hungry in a craving type of way, but actually hungry with your stomach cramping and making noises. I tried to distract myself with some gardening and watched a lot of netflix because I couldn’t concentrate very well on anything else. Ryan noted a strong ketone breath that day…..
Sunday (Day 3): MCT oil was my breakfast again. I decided to distract myself from the ever growing hunger by going on a VERY easy bike ride. It was so easy you could have walked faster. I actually didn’t feel too bad today at all, but I by body was getting weaker. I watched more netflix that day.
Monday (Day 4): I had MTC oil for starters and also ate some pink Himalayan sea salt. I never felt that I had to restrain myself from eating, I never felt tempted by food, but the hunger was now always there. And it was settling in deeper. It was starting to get annoying. My brain was also starting to get more foggy, it was hard to concentrate in work. I was starting to feel worse. I had to ration my energy this evening during gardening because I wasn’t feeling so well. It was definitely getting harder. When I went to bed my body felt so empty and my stomach felt like it was going to start to eat itself, it was almost painful. There was no way I could distract myself from that during the night and I barely slept. It was a very long night - I even got up for 2hours to do some work to distract myself. But all I could think about was the end of the fasting and I started counting down the hours.
Tuesday (Day 5): When I got up I felt like a zombie. Half-dead. Wrecked, tired, and weak. I had barely slept. All I could think about was that I will be done by this evening. But I still had a whole day of work ahead of me and I was feeling sh*te. I had MCT oil and Ryan suggested to eat some keto-force to get me through the day. Boy, what a difference it made! It tasted nice and it gave me a boost of energy. I was still super tired and brain foggy, but I knew I could make it now with this little cheat. I didn’t want to get off it - until I had to run to the bathroom really quickly - Ryan just laughed - yeah, it becomes a laxative if you have too much of it! So I kept a fine balance of having some more ketoforce during the day and just suffering. Weird how being hungry like that takes over your life.
Tuesday evening: Finally, at 10pm I had my first meal: I decided to start with something simple: white rice, a sous-vide egg, some wild smoked salmon and avocado - and then I followed up with some salty crackers and some chocolate. The funny thing was that the food actually didn’t taste as nice as I had hoped - it felt like I had lost all of my taste over night. What I liked most where the crackers - it could have been the salt that did it for me. I slept well that night.
Wednesday (1 day after): The next morning I skipped breakfast and had some nice meaty leftovers for lunch and chia pudding for dessert. I felt great, nearly euphoric that day and full of energy. Stomach and digestion were both fine and I really enjoyed my Korean dinner with friends that evening.
Thursday (2 days after): I felt like I never fasted - I’m back to normal and all is good :)
Post-mortem: I didn’t weigh myself before or after because this was not for a weight loss goal, but I’m pretty sure I lost some weight. My appetite has been normal since I stopped fasting, I didn’t overeat (well, except for that amazing pizza dinner in Terun’s maybe ;))
P.S. Ryan tried the same thing a few weeks later - read about his experiences on Ryan's blog.