Fast Series Part 4: Eight Steps to a Successful Water Fast
The 8 Stages of a 72 Hour Water Fast
- 48-36 Hours Before the Fast - Prepare Your Body
- 12 Hours Fasting - Enter the Metabolic State
- 18 Hours Fasting - Switch to Fat-Burning Mode
- 24 Hours Fasting - Autophagy
- 48 Hours Fasting - Increase Growth Hormone Levels
- 54 Hours Fasting - Insulin Levels Drop to Lowest Point
- 72 Hours Fasting - Generation of New Immune Cells
- After the Water Fast - The ‘Refeed’
Stage 1 - How To Begin a Water Fast
What you eat before the fast can set up the next few days for a greater chance of success. The 48 - 36 hours before the fast are important to prepare the body and mind. Beginning to implement a 16 hour fast for the day or two before will give your body time to adjust and then cut down the intake of energy intensive food to process. By eating light, wholefood meals (fruits and vegetables) and not consuming any processed foods you will allow your body to better capitalise on the benefits of the fast and make the most of the experience for autophagy and cell renewal.
The Water Fast Itself
Stage 2 - 12 Hours Fasting
By 12 hours fasting you’ve entered the metabolic state called ketosis (Anton et al., Obesity 2018). This is when your body starts to break down stored energy and starts to burn fat.
Stage 3 - 18 Hours Fasting
By 18 hours you’ve switched to fat-burning mode and are generating significant ketones (Anton et al., Obesity 2018).
Stage 4 - 24 Hours Fasting
Within 24 hours your cells are increasingly recycling old components and breaking down misfolded proteins linked to alzheimers and other diseases (Alirezaei et al., Autophagy 2010). This is the process called autophagy which we need to begin immune system regeneration.
Stage 5 - 48 Hours Fasting
By 48 hours fasting without any/ very few calories, carbs or protein, your growth hormone level has increased up to five times higher than when you started your fast (Hartman et al.,1992).
Stage 6 - 54 Hours Fasting
By 54 hours your insulin has dropped to its lowest level point since you started fasting and your body is becoming increasingly insulin-sensitive (Klein et al., 1993). This is where those with type 2 diabetes (insulin insensitivity) begin to see the body naturally re-sensitise to insulin.
Stage 7 - 72 Hours Fasting
By 72 hours water fasting your body is breaking down old immune cells and generating new ones (Cheng et al., 2014).
Maximising the Fasting Benefits
Stage 8 - After the Water Fast - The 'Refeed'
What happens after a water fast - the ‘refeed’ - is one of the most important parts of the fast as this is how your body will regenerate your system. After multiple days without any food your digestive system needs something simple and easy to process. The best food to break a fast is light fruit such as watermelon or a smoothie is the best way to start. This is giving your system a chance to get used to food again before beginning on solid foods. Usually waiting 2-3 hours after your fruit or smoothie is enough time before reintroducing solid food. Although it can be tempting to get stuck into an indulging feed, you won’t regret giving your body time to readjust. This ensures you don’t upset the system and can get back to your normal routine. Your first feed will taste amazing!
I find that my appetite is never as strong as before the fast, the fast can reset our idea of hunger. This gives our mind the understanding that just because our stomach is empty, it does not mean our bodies need more food. It can make it a lot easier to introduce an intermittent fasting regime or healthier diet as it resets your hunger and taste buds.
Fasting While Working & Working Out While Fasting
When Brendon and I did our water fast we aimed to fast for 72 hours. Consuming nothing but water, tea and black coffee for three days. We had our last meal on Monday evening and then we didn’t eat again until Thursday evening. During this time we also:
- Worked three full days
- Went to the gym three times
- Walked up the Rapaki Track at Otautahi’s Port Hills
- Attended a Bikram Yoga session at Flow Hot Yoga Christchurch
- Ran around Hagley Park, Otautahi’s largest park
All while not eating. This is not exactly necessary, but we wanted to highlight the fact that we do not always need to eat to operate. Our body stores energy (yes, that’s what fat is) for us to use in these times, however, we never have access to this stored energy because we keep topping up our fuel tank with food.
As a matter of fact, one of the most surprising outcomes of the fast is how much more focused you are, and how much work you can get done when you’re not having to prepare and consume a meal three times a day. Your body is the most complicated and intelligent machine that we have ever discovered. You’re not going to fall over and die if you don’t eat for 12 hours - I’m not sure how we would have made it this far otherwise. Especially when we have so much energy stored around our body.
My favourite part… it’s so simple! Just drink water and don’t eat… I dare ya!!
Our 3 Water Fasting Tips
1. Share the Experience and Results
Practice with a friend, group or partner. This means you have someone to share the experience with and they can keep you on track. It is always easier knowing that someone else is going through the same experience and you will both be able to share the benefits.
2. Keep Your Schedule Free
Don’t plan anything too strenuous or physically difficult. Enjoy the last 24 – 48 hours of the fast at home (weekends, days off, quarantine etc.) and try not to plan any social engagements around a meal. Instead you could go for a walk or have a cup of tea.
3. Keep Your Mind Busy
Although you don’t want to be doing anything involving food, it is a great time to read, study, do some mindfulness or complete those tedious jobs that you have been putting off. You will see that you will have a lot more time in your day, so planning to get some of these activities and jobs done will pass the time quicker.
Read Fast Series Part 5: 'Reversing the Aging Process Through Fasting' by clicking here.