Scientific Nutrition Update 10: My Experience With a 40 Hour Fast

Intermittent Fasting Book

In this episode I discuss my experience with a longer 40 hour fast.  Audio quality is a little bit wonky on this one and I’m sorry for that.  Now remember fasting can be a sign of disordered eating, if you are worried you may be falling into disordered eating patterns or if you have an eating disorder please seek health.  This is the number for a hotline that can help: 1-800-931-2237

If you want to learn more about fasting check this out.  As always the script is right below the fold.

For today’s episode we are going to talk about my experience with a 40 hour fast.  Now in my book for anyone who’s read it you know I recommend sticking to about 24 hours or less, and I stand by that, but I also love experimentation.  So I decided recently, to help get my confidence in fasting back, and for fun to do a 40 hour fast. So in this episode I am going to talk about that experience, and give my advice, but before I do that, do not undertake this or any other fast or diet without appropriate medical supervision.


So first things first I probably need to explain why I would want to try a fast like this in the first place.  Basically what had happened is I had gone through a period with way too much on my plate, and I had really started to struggle.  Both in terms of mental health, and in terms of my focus on my health and fitness goals. I really felt myself falling back into an unhealthy relationship with food, where it was becoming again my comfort, my stress relief, and basically not being treated in a healthful way.  Now I’m about to say something and I’m going to do my best to phrase it as carefully as I can, but before I do so I need to say to be very careful with any kind of fasting. It can very easily become disordered eating, and be incredibly dangerous. Eating disorders are the deadliest mental illnesses.  If you are worried you may be developing disordered eating patterns please seek professional health. I’m going to include the number for the National Eating Disorders Association Information and Referral Hotline both right here and in the show description. The number is: 1-800-931-2237 please call.


Now the reason I did this longer fast is because I had been falling into this bad relationship with food, and I have found fasting can help me reorient my relationship with food.  As I discussed in my very first episode of this podcast, it is possible to see obesity as a disease of addiction, and I feel that oftentimes I fall into this pattern. I feel compelled to eat, and it is a very hard drive to ignore.  However, I have found doing a medium length fast like this, can help me recontextualize my hunger and realize that while I do have this desire to eat, it is possible for me to ignore it. I have found that doing this can help me maintain a much healthier relationship with food in general.  Now again, I make the same caveats, be very careful and do this only under appropriate medical supervision.


So now I want to talk a little bit about how I found the experience and then give some tips to actually get through this long of a fast.  So first things first it was easier than I expected, and I could have pushed it a little bit longer. Breaking at the 40 hour point just happened to fit my schedule better, otherwise I would have had to go all the way to 48 and I didn’t want to push it that far yet.  However, by the end I did find myself struggling a little bit with mental focus. However, I believe this is because I let myself get dehydrated and let my electrolyte levels get out of whack. I am also worried that doing this long of a fast that included my first day back of weightlifting may have exacerbated my soreness, and possibly slowed my recovery from that workout.  Okay so now to get into some quick tips to survive a medium length fast.

  1. Stay hydrated.

I underestimated my ability to stay hydrated for this one.  You really do need to be making sure you are getting plenty of water and you may want to consider having some of that water be electrolytically enhanced.  You can buy these electrolyte waters at basically any grocery store and in my experience they help me stay hydrated and get through fasts.


  1. Drink coffee or tea

Now again, be careful with this.  Using compounds like caffeine to frequently suppress your appetite is unhealthy and can be a sign of disordered eating.  However, if this is your first long fast you may find that a little bit of caffeine can help suppress the initial appetite burst enough for you to push through and finish your fast.


  1. Stay busy

Fasting is always going to be easier when you are fully occupied and engaged in something.  Find a way to work on something to distract yourself from the hunger. Be productive and you may find yourself distracted from the hunger.


  1. Be careful with working out

Working out can contribute to the dehydration and your recovery may also be hampered because are not taking in nutrients.  I am not saying that exercise while fasting is verboten, just be smart, and be careful.


  1. Stay flexible

You may have set a specific goal but remember that life can get in the way.  Do not be afraid to modify or break early if need be. Remember this is just a tool and you are the one in charge of it.


That’s all I have about my first longer fast in a while.


If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting consider checking out my book The Optimized Guide to Intermittent Fasting and if you enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe and leave a review, it helps more than you know.  Thank you for tuning in, and remember live long, live healthy, but most of all live happy

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