This is part 2 of my series on fasting. If you haven’t read part 1, you can find it here. In that article I went into the benefits of fasting and why I personally wanted to try fasting for 5 days; not juice fasting, but putting my body into a state of ketosis.
In this article, you are going to go with me on my own 5-day fasting journey. And at the end of the article, I’m going to share with you specific supplements I took that made the experience that much easier. Here we go…
My Adventure Into Self-Starvation
Day 1 and 2
I started on a Monday and right around mid-afternoon I started to really think about food. Luckily since I’ve been eating a relatively low-carb diet to begin with, I believe my body was somewhat fat adapted. I knew this because I wasn’t feeling any grumpy blood sugar crashes that tend to occur with people who eat a higher carb diet. I’ve also found that when people get headaches, or feel super irritable if they don’t eat… well, that’s a bad sign that your body is more sugar adapted than fat adapted. But regardless… even though I didn’t get the “hangries,” I still wanted to eat something!
The interesting thing was around dinner time I was still thinking about food, but it wasn’t so much that I was hungry… it was more that I realized how much I use food as a way to pass the time. This was a really interesting discovery that in hindsight makes a lot of sense, but actually coming across this finding was really eye opening. Think about how much we go through our lives using food as a place holder to fill our time. I realized I use food as a way to procrastinate!
As the days went on without food, I did notice that my body was feeling a little bit weak, physically. Interestingly, I felt really sharp mentally, more sharp than usual. This made me happy because I realized that my body was producing ketones (read more about ketones in my last article).
Just to make sure I was indeed in ketosis, I decided to buy some keto-test strips and find out for myself. In case you aren’t familiar, keto test-strips are these little pieces of paper you pee on to test the level of acetoacetic acid in the urine. This compound is often found in the urine when your body begins to produce ketones because the body can’t use the ketones as effectively at first. Unfortunately once your body becomes more keto-adapted the urine test strips no longer work, because the body is using your ketones more effectively and you aren’t peeing out as much of the unused ketones. If you wish to keep testing your ketone levels, at this point you have to take out the big guns and test using either blood tests or breath tests. More expensive, but more accurate as well.
By day 3 I tested myself with the urine keto-test strips and discovered I was producing around 40 mg/dL, which is about 2 mmol/L in ketones. Not too shabby since 1.5—3 mmol/L seems to be about the ketosis sweet spot (1).
Also, I started to notice that I was slimming down a little… especially in the mid-section, which is often one of the hardest places to lose body fat. Granted, losing weight wasn’t my primary goal, because I’m a fairly slim guy already, but it was to be expected since I wasn’t eating and my body was burning fat for energy. But hey, great news for anyone out there looking to trim down a little.
By the 4th day, my hunger largely went away, and I felt a calm about things. I also noticed my productivity dramatically increased as well, because I could no longer distract myself with food! Something I also found that was fascinating was my libido largely disappeared. I was just content working and relaxing… not a care in the world. It really makes a lot of sense why so many religious traditions have fasting practices.
Also, by the 4th day, I decided to see if I could sustain myself at going to a yoga class… still fasting. This was a dumb mistake. I’ve read that when you are doing a fast you are not supposed to engage in any rigorous physical activity, and I thought yoga wouldn’t be too bad, but I guess I got a little too confident and paid the price. I survived the entire class, but I had to tell the instructor I was fasting because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t keep up with the other students. I also noticed I couldn’t hold myself in some of the more difficult positions as long, and even the small movements I made caused me to feel winded very easily. Live and learn. People, don’t exercise if you try your own fasting experience! Learn from my dumb mistakes… and maybe laugh at my misfortune?
Day 5 – I Survived Hooray!
On the 5th day, I broke my fast with some broth and steamed vegetables. I did get a little excited and over ate and as a result, experienced a little digestive distress. Again, don’t do this, people! The toilet time that followed was one I could have probably done without. The interesting thing though was about 10 minutes into eating… after all the orgasmic bliss of eating food went away… I sort of felt sad. Like I had lost something now that I was eating again. I also felt my mental clarity get a little bit more cloudy. Sad times.
Three days after breaking my 5-day fast, I went into the gym to do my High-Intensity Workout and was super nervous my strength progress was going to fall back from a week without eating. Well I am happy to report I got personal bests across the board! I was so shocked! I really thought my workout was going to be horrible. I think taking the PerfectAmino supplement was my saving grace throughout the week. Getting those extra essential amino acids got me to the finish line!
For your curiosity, here are the supplements I took during my ketogenic fast. If you decide to try this yourself, please check with your doc and make sure you’re good to go.
Supplements Taken During My Fast
Before getting started, I was going to bend the rules a little. Although it has been reported that ketosis does have a muscle sparing effect, which means that you won’t experience muscle breakdown when you are fasting, I didn’t want to take any risks. So, I did take an essential amino acid blend called PerfectAmino a couple times per day. Normally, it isn’t recommended to have high protein intake while in ketosis, because the body being savvy as it is will convert excess proteins/amino acids into glucose via the chemical process of gluconeogenesis. This process will knock you out of ketosis because of the new glucose being made from the protein/amino acids. But because I was taking an essential amino acids blend, which has a high absorption rate, I wasn’t worried that the amino acids might become sugar in the body and kick me out of ketosis.
I also took the adaptogenic herb rhodiola in the morning to keep my adrenals in balance and cortisol at an even keel. Often when you go into a fasted state, your body will increase cortisol which is one of our primary stress hormones. It does this to force the body to dump more glucose into the bloodstream for energy. This is useful, but I figured I didn’t want to add any additional stress on my adrenal glands and I wanted my body to use what glucose it had stored sparingly. There are a bunch of other great adaptogenic herbs you could experiment with as well, but I just had some rhodiola on hand so I went with that. You can find the brand of rhodiola I used, here.
I also took about 15 grams per day of the amino acid glutamine. Glutamine is a non-essential amino acid, but has been shown to assist with protein synthesis, prevent muscles from breaking down, increase healing, and boost immune function. Glutamine is also great for keeping the digestive system running smoothly and decreasing risk of developing a condition known as “leaky gut.” If you’re curious to learn more about leaky gut syndrome, the website SCD Lifestyle has a great article on the subject. You can find it, here. In addition, glutamine is great at stopping sugar cravings. You can find a link to the glutamine I use, here.
I also made it a goal to get about a teaspoon of mineral sea salt into my body throughout the day… I would put some in my water or just eat it when I was feeling hungry.
When you’re eating an extremely low-carb/ketosis diet or you’re just fasting like I was, your insulin–the hormone that directs sugar storage into your fat cells– not as active. This is good from a weight loss standpoint, but something insulin also does is instruct your kidneys to hold on to sodium, keeping your electrolytes in balance. So if you’re in ketosis, your body is going to release a lot more sodium than normal (2). This is why increasing your salt intake is totally necessary when your insulin isn’t active and you’re in a ketotic state.
The next time I am going to do this experiment, I am also going to supplement with exogenous ketones. Doing this will not only push my body into ketosis faster, but I believe my energy levels will be a lot better and more sustaining for the duration of my experiment. This is also a great tool for anyone who feels they are not very fat-adapted.
The best brands I know of are:
The End… Or is it?!
So that was my fasting experience. It was really interesting and the experiment got me even more curious about diving into a ketogenic diet as well! I can really see why so many people rave about the benefits of ketosis.
In a few months from now, I’m going to try a 10 day fast… because if you can do 5 days, why not 10? And with this next go-around, I’m going to play with those exogenous ketones. Looking forward to reporting back.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat some food! 🙂