I am 48 hours into my first extended fast.
My plan is to get to at least 96 hours (4 days). If I get there and feel good, I'm going for 7 days.
I was first switched onto the benefits of fasting when I watched Dr Michael Mosley's BBC Horizons documentary in the early 2010's.
I highly recommend watching the documentary. Mosley was obviously personally impacted by the filming and went on to popularise the 5:2 Diet.
After watching it, I was so compelled that from that point on I had it in the back of my mind that I would one day try an extended fast.
I didn't do it earlier because I worried about being fatigued at work and perhaps I sensed that it wasn't the sort of thing you just sit down and do – it takes a bit of prep.
Last weekend my brother Luke told me he was doing a 24 hour fast. It seemed to go well for him.
The day after, I read a post by Brian Fabian Crain where he documented a recent 6 day fast he'd done. I told myself I'd start a fast a few days later.
I had a conversation with him a couple days after, and mentioned that I was interested in his fast and that I was about to do one. He too mentioned that he'd initially been inspired by the BBC doc. He went on to advise me to read The Complete Guide to Fasting.
I bought the book. Before reading it I decided to rewatch the BBC documentary which again got me really amped about the benefits.
I then watched this video by one of the authors behind The Complete Guide to Fasting, Jimmy Moore—
It was pretty practical and inspirational. Admittedly I was quite surprised at first that Jimmy Moore, a notorious fasting proponent, is actually pretty weighty. His arguments are super compelling though.
He told a really compelling story. He was initially into the low-carb diet and runs a podcast on the topic. One of his guests was Thomas Seyfried, a well-known doctor. On that podcast he said "all most people need to do to avoid cancer is one 7–10 day fast a year." That got Jimmy Moore into the idea, and really piqued my motivation too.
I went on to read the most practical parts of The Complete Guide to Fasting. It was actually only at this point that I really committed to the idea. I must admit I felt physically nervous at the idea. I had a huge pit at the bottom of my stomach.
The first 20 hours were really easy. I've done quite a few 18ish hour fasts at Vipassana retreats and have been doing some intermittent fasting recently. So I basically detected no differences there.
But then I got really, really bloody hungry. Hungry to the point where I was on YouTube and it felt like literally every single video was about food (they weren't).
I was also very lethargic, so I was just watching crap. I watched a video about the new high-end Starbucks in Milan, where I live now, and there was a scene where they were pouring espresso over homemade gelato. And I was squirming in my seat – such a strong hunger. It was actually quite enjoyable in a weird way, at least in hindsight.
Later on, my heart began to pound quite heavily. I didn't take a huge amount of notice – didn't seem like a big deal.
During this 24 hours I also made a bone broth because this seemed to be heavily recommended for new fasters who aren't doing keto. Chucked a few chicked bones in a pot with some veggies and salt and left it for 24 hours. In hindsight, this was really, really important and I'm super glad I went for it.
Trying to get to sleep was hard. My heart was pounding like a jackhammer. Not fast but really, really heavy.
I managed to fall asleep but woke up a few hours later to pee. And then the pounding kicked in again.
I was awake for an hour or so, so resorted to the trusty insomnia Google. Apparently the pounding isn't uncommon – nor are palpitations. It's caused by sodium/magnesium/potassium deficiency. This is where the bone broth was a bit of a life-saver. It wasn't done yet but I grabbed a cupful and that settled my heart down a lot.
Went back to sleep after extending my alarm to catch up the couple of hours I missed.
When I woke up I felt pretty bad. My heart was pounding again and my sleep tracker showed that my heart rate had been gradually building since I'd fallen back asleep.
What I was really surprised about was how bloody well I slept. I bought an Oura ring for sleep tracking a couple months ago and this night of sleep was my second best in that period. Really high REM and Deep sleep which I usually struggle to get and which are the most important components.
I had another cup of bone broth and set about my morning routine. 1 hour of meditation, 30 minute yoga session and 5 minutes ice cold shower.
Before the yoga session I was really worried about how I'd feel. I felt quite weak up until the moment I started, but that feeling completely evaporated within a couple minutes.
And since then I've felt pretty fantastic. High energy, high mood, high productivity. I've busted through a bunch of tasks I needed to get done today without a second thought.
I heard a wave of energy was supposed to hit you on day 4 or so, but I'm wondering if mine's come early. Perhaps it was the exercise which kicked me into ketosis early, who knows.
I'm at the 48 hour mark now and feeling pretty fantastic.
My plan is to get to Tuesday at 5pm. If I get there – I'm very prepared to call it quits if I'm feeling properly sick – it'll be a success.
I've set myself a stretch goal though. I'd really like to get to 7 days. Thomas Seyfried's golden number. At the moment it feels pretty doable – even easy – but we'll see how things go.
I'll write another update at the end of the fast, or whenever something notable happens.