Each month, my remote coaching clients have the opportunity to try something new. In February, we tackled a 24 hour fast. Below I am going to paraphrase the feedback collected from the participants, as well as my own personal experience.
Do not worry, it was nowhere near as daunting as this image of an empty kitchen table....
WHAT WE DID
-Participants stopped eating at dinner-time on Saturday night, and fasted until dinner on Sunday night. During this 24 hour period, all that was consumed was water.
Why Would You Not Eat for 24 Hours?
The main benefits of a 24 hour fast are as follows and I have stolen these from Dr. Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain and Brain Maker.
- Enhancing the same beneficial genetic pathways that are activated by caloric restriction, with a fraction of the difficulty
- Stimulating the production of BDNF, the brain’s growth hormone, which also supports the function of existing neurons
- Stimulating mitochondrial replication
- Accelerating weight loss (when done on a regular schedule)
- Decreasing inflammation
- Enhancing protection from diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and cancer
- Improving antioxidant function
- Increasing production of beta-HBA, a super-fuel for the brain and body
Hopefully these are good enough reasons for you to give this a thumbs up. Additionally, beyond the physiological benefits this is a great challenge for your mind and willpower.
How It Felt
- I asked participants to give me reflections at 4 different periods throughout the fast. I will outline the reflections of each period
Period 1 - 4 Hours Fasting (or before going to bed)
- At this stage, participants reported feeling ok.
- A few participants, including myself, had a bit of anxiety going to sleep 'hungry'.
- However, no participants reported difficulty falling asleep.
Period 2 - Upon Waking
-Upon Waking, participants reported that sleep was not disturbed and some participants, including myself, found their sleep quality was better than usual.
-Participants reported feeling quite good during the first few hours of the day with energy ok, and mental focus and acuity high.
-A few participants noticed their habitual/actual addiction to coffee and caffeine at this point. A couple participants opted for hot plain water, and felt that this alleviated some of the discomfort which leads me to believe a lot of the 'need' for coffee in the am is habitual.
Period 3 - Hour 16
-At this point participants reported feeling ok, but a few noticed a 'caffeine' headache at this point, which we agreed may not actually have been due to a need for caffeine, but the fast itself at this point.
- Hunger pains were still manageable at this point.
- Some participants, including myself felt mentally foggy at this point and for the remainder of the fast.
Period 4 - Hour 20-ish
-For most of the participants, things became difficult around hour 19.
-Most participants agreed they felt that some of this has to do with the 'light at the end of the tunnel'. Which is to say, now that food is on the horizon, thoughts about food and hunger were easier to come by.
-Most participants reported some feeling of 'Hangriness' at this point, but nothing dire.
-As the clock crept toward the 24 hour mark, most participants really started thinking about food, especially in the last hour.
-Most participants noticed how much salivation occurred during the preparation of their 'break-fast.'
+ One client, extended his fast for a few hours and finished it with a run. He reported that the felt great on his 5k jog, and his 'time' was not noticeably hindered. Interesting.
-Each participant reported that this was nowhere near as difficult as they thought it would be, and all also reported being willing and interested in repeating this quarterly throughout the year.
-Each participant reported feeling 'empty' around the half-way point, but not necessarily hungry.
-I personally found it interesting that I was still 'pooping solids' at hour 23 of my fast. This leads me to believe that I need a longer fast next time around.
-The coffee drinkers, were most concerned with lack of coffee and caffeine and not food, which is interesting as well.
Wanna Try It Out?
The 24 hour fast is safe, effective, and a great opportunity to learn how to deal with hunger pains. Additionally, the physiological benefits are fanstastic. As such, a practise with such a high reward:risk ratio, and an extremely low barrier of entry (no need to purchase anything, or even do anything really), seems to me to be a good starting point for a lot of people interested in increasing their well-being.
If you give it a shot, it does not have to be complicated, but please try to remember the following:
-You will survive, I promise. It has been normal to go longer than 24 hours without food for the overwhelmingly majority of human existence.
-Drink only water. Keep things simple.
-When you 'break your fast' make sure that it is a gentle meal. This means that is very low carb/low glycemic, high in nutrients, and easy to digest. Personally, I had a 4 egg omelette with spinach and fresh garlic in it.
-And yes, your next meal can be more...... indulgent. 🤓