Human beings are purpose built to do hard things. That includes starving every once in a while. That’s what I’m telling myself as I gear up for my first 3-day fast of the year.
My self-imposed famines are invariably followed by feasting on everything in sight, so weight loss isn’t my motivation. You may wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to deprive themselves of food for three days unless it's to lose weight?
Fasting is a powerful form of hormesis—a stressor to promote overall strength and resilience. I’m fasting to stimulate a stem cell reboot through a process called autophagy which literally means self-eating.
Yum-Yum Senescent Cells
Fasting offers an opportunity for our bodies to gobble up senescent or old and decaying cells that cause more harm than good. At the end of the fast when we resume eating, the body responds with a surge of stem cell activation. Imagine a cascade of brand, spanking new cells based on the original instead of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy…
This biological refresh translates into a burst of youthful energy, a sharpened mind, enhanced immunity and a host of longevity benefits. These can include reduced inflammation, increased insulin sensitivity which translates into reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, lowered blood pressure, enhanced heart health, and a powerful brain boost.
There’s plenty of research available online about the physiological and spiritual benefits of fasting. My purpose here is to focus on the prep, mental and physical, involved with a three-day fast.
Please note: This is not advice. You are the expert on you. Fasting is not advised without careful monitoring if you're hypoglycemic or insulin dependent. If you have an eating disorder, a fast may be crazy making. And don’t fast if you’re frail or on meds that need to be taken with food. I’m sharing what helps me. Take what you need and leave the rest. And oh yes, talk to your doctor who may know little to nothing about nutrition, but there you have it, I said it anyway.
Fast Track Ketosis through Fat Acclimation
Within the first 12 to 24 hours of going without food, our body uses up its stores of glycogen. This can be the hardest part of the fast. Around the 24-hour mark, fat breakdown ramps up, producing ketone bodies for fuel which is often associated with a state of calm focus and wellbeing. To lessen the angst associated with the initial hunger pangs that come with glycogen depletion, I find it helpful to nix the carbs and load up on healthy fats about three days prior to beginning my fast. Keto friendly plant foods include avocados, olive oil and nuts and seeds.
Drink lots and lots of good quality water. A pinch of Himalayan pink sea salt, or adding a splash of trace minerals will ensure adequate electrolytes.
Focus on the End Goal
Accept that cravings are a natural response to hunger and a sign of cellular cleansing and renewal. To keep focused on the benefits, I immerse myself in videos and podcasts on the profound upside of fasting.
Be Gentle with Yourself
Black coffee and green teas can help. If you feel shaky or nauseous, eat. To mitigate concerns about potential muscle loss, not to mention the sense of starvation, Dr Valter Longo
has developed a five-day meal plan he calls The Fasting Mimicking Diet that provides many of the longevity benefits of a water fast.
Embrace the Suck
Finally, when it comes to hormesis, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. To quote navy seal, Jacko, buckle up and “Embrace the Suck.”
It will be over before you know it.