I just completed a 72 hour fast! It was so different than what I had expected on so many levels. Before I jump into my experience, I want to give you background on why I did it, plus all the amazing health benefits the body can gain from fasting.
** Extended fasting isn’t for everyone. You should always consult with your doctor and healthcare practitioner before fasting. It is not recommended if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking insulin or blood pressure medicine. Everyone will feel different while fasting too because we are all starting from a different place. Please do your own research before jumping into a longer fast and listen to your body.
Fasting is something men and women have been doing since the beginning of time for health and religious reasons. Personally, I’ve been doing time restricted eating off and on for about 5 years now depending on my cycle, current life situations (not while pregnant or breastfeeding) and really how I feel. Most of my windows were 14:10 or 16:8, meaning fast (no food) for 14/16 hours and eat for 10/8. I always felt great doing this and learned a lot about my own body and its food needs.
A quick google search can show you that there’s a lot of research out there about fasting. Health benefits can include:
- Boost in cognitive performance
- Reduced inflammation
- Improved overall fitness
- Decreased risk of metabolic diseases and cancer
- Improved memory
- Better concentration
- Decreases risk for disease
- Reduced blood pressure
- Lower heart rate
- Less fatty liver
- Cancer prevention
- Increased insulin sensitivity
- Increased lipolysis (fat-burning)
- Decreased leptin (better control of hunger)
- Anti-aging effects
- Autophagy aka Cellular clean-up (removal of “trouble-making” cells)
And this is the short list! I love to read and research from experts in the fasting world. At the bottom of my post I’ll share resources from my favorite doctors in the fasting world in case you’d like to check them out along with a couple of great podcasts.
What prompted my 72 hour goal:
After reading up on the benefits of a 3 day fast, I thought why not give it a shot? I was even more intrigued by the different steps of a 72 hour fast as it’s outlined in this post from the Better Me Blog. I loved how the hours are broken down. It turned out that these stages were spot on for me!
At 12 hours, your body starts to use up the rest of its available glucose.
18-24 hours transitions to fat burning. Your body starts using ketones as its primary source of energy. You might experience an enhanced state of focus and energy.
At 24-48 hours, autophagy is happening at its peak level. Autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells
At 48-54 hours, human growth hormone (HGH) and noradrenaline increase dramatically. These play an important role in the growth and improvement of your overall health by preventing heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes and speeding up the repair process for damaged cells. So cool, right!
At 72 hours, cell regeneration may start. Old and defective cells have hopefully been removed from the system.
These hour markers were pretty inspiring. This is why I decided if I’m doing an extended fast, I better go for 72 hours!
My Fasting Experience
During this fast I drank water, coffee, tea, and bone broth (max of 2 cups /day) since I was still working out, running, and teaching fairly intense classes. I had never even done a 24 hour fast before, but I thought I’m just going to go for it and see how far I get.
On Monday night at 8:15pm after a big meal prep day, my husband and I had just gotten the kids down for bed. I decided then, as we were clearing the dishes, that this would be a great week to do a 72 hour fast. YUP, just like that, I decided let’s do it.
On Tuesday morning I had my morning coffee and taught a 10am class warrior sculpt class with normal energy. Since I usually fast through this class, this wasn’t different than normal. I made sure to stay hydrated throughout the day. I added lemon and sea salt to my water and caffeine free tea. I was super productive and could tell I was starting to get into the fat burning state during the late afternoon. I could tell that smells and sounds were becoming heightened throughout the day. Pretty cool!
When food started to cross my mind throughout the day, I would try to remind myself to practice presence. This was quite difficult at the 18 hour mark when I was making homemade spaghetti and meatballs for the family. The sauce smelled so good while it was simmering!
It helped to get fresh air and sunshine on my face. That was an immediate boost to get me through my next 4:30 class.
While the family ate dinner, I had a cup of spicy, salty bone broth. I had a slight headache so I added more salt to my water along with some magnesium to my bath.
Throughout the day I never truly felt hungry, but I definitely missed the ritual of eating and chewing! Overall, the first day was great and easier than I had thought it would be.
On Tuesday night I did not sleep as well as I would have liked. In fact, I tossed and turned a lot and was wide awake at random times throughout the night. That said, I still woke up at 5am ready to run with a friend.
I noticed a few different things on my drive to the run. My mind was very clear and my vision was crisp for so early in the morning. I had no hunger pains upon waking. I hit the 33 hour mark, so I knew I had to be getting into the autophagy phase.
After my run I had my cup of morning coffee and got the kids to school with a sharp focus I haven’t had in a while. From 10am-2pm I was buzzing like a bee! I got so much done and had so much mental energy. I took it easy physically around the house in order to conserve my energy for a hot restorative yoga class in the evening. I ended up having a cup of bone broth and a few cups of hot water with lemon and truffle sea salt in place of a lunch. Even though I was brushing my teeth twice a day, they had a weird film on them from not chewing food. Everything slowed down. I was very sharp in my mind but had a hard time remembering simple dates or words.
At hour 43 I had preschool pickup and finally felt hunger set in. Not like a “break down because I need to eat” hunger, but more my like belly saying “hey I’m here in case you forgot about me!” So I warmed up one more cup of bone broth to have before class and took the littles out for a walk to get sunshine and fresh air. Walks gave me a little energy boost!
After the kids were down for bed Wednesday night, I made it to the 48 hour mark and had time to sit and reflect. At this point the fast was a mental, emotional, and spiritual space to hang out in. Time moved slow. I had never been so in tune with the present moment. Knowing that YOU can control the mind and YOU have the willpower to do something hard. I was surrendering to the number of hours and enjoying where I was at and how I was feeling.
I talked through this space with a good friend who often fasts and she put it perfectly, “Fasting reminds us of our power. It’s purposely doing something hard, and something that we can not get out of. We cannot find a distraction and we must just sit in it. You can absolutely do it. You need to do it. You ought to do it. You set this goal of 72 hours, you’ve put in so much work, and you’ve already made it through the hard part. You’re honoring your body. You’ve got this.”
Sometimes we just need encouragement from others and most importantly to believe in ourselves. So I went to bed that night knowing I’d make it through. I was excited to see what the third day would bring.
Sleep was not great. I had pretty intense dreams on Wednesday night and woke up feeling groggy. I knew I had to wake up the body and mind before teaching an intense heated warrior sculpt class. To gear up, I jumped into the sauna and then into a cold shower, incorporating deep breathing in both.
I felt great after the shower and had a cup of coffee. I even got the kids to school early! I brought a mug of bone broth to my class just in case I needed it. I felt a little light headed if I moved too fast. The class went off without a hitch and for it I had a ton of energy teaching it. I was surprised how well it went considering how deep into the fast I was.
After class I went to the farm to walk the property. The fresh air and sunshine again were a perfect boost of energy to keep me going, a great theme throughout!
That night we had a family event so I made our family dinner. I decided I’d just have some tea and fast through the night again. I was afraid that breaking my fast before bed might keep me awake. As it turned out, it didn’t matter, because I could not sleep at all that night.
My mind was racing and I couldn’t sleep. 11:30, 12:30 then 1:30am hit and I thought ok, I’m going to break fast and maybe it will help me sleep. So that’s what I did. After doing a little internet research, I had an avocado and 5 walnuts at 2am and went back to bed. At 5am I woke up wide awake and went for a run with a friend. I was fatigued so we took it easy but I was excited to get back to break fast with more foods.
I made it!
I had officially made it through a 72+ hour fast. I felt so strong and proud of myself for sticking with it. It wasn’t too hard physically. My body knew what it was doing: cleaning house. My mind and I got to spend some quality time together. It was good practice and I know I can definitely do this again.
If I had to do it again I’d ask my husband to join me to have a buddy. I would plan to have dinners frozen ahead of time for the family because cooking for them was the hardest part.
Breaking Fast Slowly
I read so much about breaking your extended fast. I knew what to do but didn’t listen 100%. At 80 hours I just wanted to eat and I paid for it. So in case you are going to give this a try, I highly suggest you follow the tips below so that you don’t get a bad stomach ache, gas, or find yourself on the toilet over the next couple of days. It took me about 2 days to feel like myself again after eating.
Plan to come off your fast SLOWLY with liquids (bone broth, miso soup), healthy fats (nut butters, avocado, olives) and easy to digest carbs and proteins. It’s good rule of thumb to take the time you fasted and divide it by 2 to get the days you should take to break your fast. This will help you ease back into digesting. So if I were to do it right it would have taken me 1.5 days to break before jumping back into my normal eating routine.
It’s also good to eat 1/2 of the food and calories you normally eat at each meal because your stomach will be more sensitive and get full fast. I did this part right up until dinner and then just ate way too much homemade beef stew. Thats another tip, make sure you eat foods that are easy to digest, red meat was a no no and so were complex carbohydrates.
Foods to avoid coming off of your fast: sugar, processed foods, breads, grains, cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cauliflower etc), red meat, complex carbohydrates (potatoes, beans, etc) and alcohol.
Things that were easy for my stomach were broths, light fish, greens, olive oil and healthy fats, nut butters, and surprisingly enough, my pumpkin pancakes loaded with nut butter.
Would I do it again?
YES! In fact, I think I’m going to try to do a 24 hour fast once a month this year. If you’d like to join me let me know! Sometimes if we have a buddy to chat with along the way, it makes it easier. And if you’re just trying this whole fasting/ time restricted eating thing out start simple with 12 hours and go from there. We are all going to feel different so I always like to play around with things to see how I feel, my experience is my own and yours will be yours.
Overall, this extended fast gave me better perspective on food and how much time I spend thinking about, making, and eating food during the day. I had a lot of spare time on my hands. It also showed me how much food can be a distraction from life. Food can be filler or just something we pick up and eat because we are bored. How many times do you find yourself in the kitchen during the day? I find myself in the refrigerator and forget sometimes how I go there! Being intentional on when and what we eat is also important and this fast had brought great light to that.
I’m thankful for this experience and hopefully it has encouraged you to get curious about fasting. Either way I appreciate you taking the time to read!
Favorite Fasting Doctors, Researchers and Books:
Here are some of my favorite Doctors and books I have read and like to follow so you can check them out.
An easy to digest podcast by Dr. Mark Hyman on Fasting with great insight on how many ways there are to do it!
Dr. Jason Fung – The Complete Guide to Fasting
Valter Longo – Fasting Mimicking Diet – gives some great places to start if you don’t want to go full on water fast to start. Favorite Podcast from him here
Dominic d’Agostino a nutrition and therapy researcher has also done some work on benefits of the body running on ketones instead of glucose, including purging your body of cancerous cells. Here’s his Ted Talk