Fasting

by Steven van Groningen on 29 December, 2012

I wanted to write about the cost of fraud in the banking system but because I have taken the rest of the year off, I decided to pick something that is totally unrelated to work, namely fasting. Before Christmas I did a six day water fast, that means that for six days I didn’t eat at all, I only drank water, no tea or juices.

Not My First Time

This was not the first time I went on a fast. It is not so hard and it seems as if my body adapts faster to it the more I do it. Normally I would start on a Friday and use the weekend to adapt. So Monday I can go to work and stick to my normal schedule, which includes attending lunches and dinners. This takes a bit of explaining but most of the time people not only understand but they also find it interesting. It might seem like a bit of self torture to sit a dinner table watching others having good food and wine but honestly, it is not really that hard. This time I started on the first day of my winter holidays.

Why Now

For some time I wanted to do another fast. This year I have not been very disciplined about food and lifestyle (yes, everything is relative in life). At least not like in 2011 when I participated in the European Ironman Championship. That took a lot of preparation and discipline. Still, I cannot keep it up like this forever and alternate periods of intense physical activity with periods when I have to take it easier. Yes, It might be better, or even healthier (who knows)  to keep a reasonable level all the time instead of these fluctuations, but then I would never do an Ironman. Anyway, increasing body weight, less sleep, more coffee, less attention to the quality of my food, it all adds up and I knew I was moving in a direction I didn’t want to go. So I needed a “reset”, a recalibration of my body and the way to do it was to fast.

Benefits

The idea is not so much about weight loss but to give the body a period of rest and a cleansing. The fact that (all) religions have periods of fasting also shows that the benefits of fasting have been known to mankind for ages. I had contemplated fasting for some time but it was the book “Fasting and Eating for Health” by Joel Fuhrman that gave me the understanding I needed. Fasting provides the body the rest it needs to undergo important maintenance and clean up. Some call it detoxification. This process is most effective once the body changes its metabolism and goes into protein saving mode. This happens after all sources of carbohydrates are depleted, usually after two days and is called ketosis. In this phase the body will be actively looking for tissue that is not essential and that can be burned for energy.

How Does It Feel

I felt cold during the fast. This is normal. Digesting food is hard work for the body and this takes up a lot of energy and generates heat. No digestion, less heat. So you feel cold.

Blood pressure is lower, so you have to pay attention and get up slowly but even so, I felt lightheaded from time to time.

Headaches are usual during the first few days, I attribute mine to caffeine depravation. Only a minor issue in my case.

Strange taste in my mouth and my tongue turned almost white, this seems to be normal.

I was not hungry nor thirsty and had to make sure I drank at least a litter of water a day.

Energy levels are lower than usual. This doesn’t mean I couldn’t work or that I had to stay in bed all the time. It is just better to do light administrative work.

My only problem were my legs at night. The backside of my upper legs hurt so much that I couldn’t lie down comfortably. A hot shower helped, bath probably would have been better but we don’t have a bathtub. I searched the internet a bit  and there are some indications that this might be linked to caffeine depravation. Not impossible, I drank a lot of coffee in the weeks before I started my fast. Next time I’ll make sure I don’t take any coffee at all or only modest amounts before I start fasting.

Weight Loss?

I lost almost a kilo a day. I guess most of this is water and loss of muscle mass but this will be reversed. Still a few kilos less, no more sugar cravings, no more need for caffeine to get through the day, a cleaner and leaner body. I feel good about it and am motivated to build on these achievements by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In my experience only a healthy life style will bring my weight down, not keeping diets, starving myself. I see fasting in that context and not as a method of sustainable weight loss.

Final Note

As a 55 year old with a history of high performance in sports I like to think I know my body well. If you are interested in fasting and how it might help you I highly recommend the book “Eating and Fasting for Health” by Joel Fuhrman as a fist step. I just wanted to share my experience and that should not be taken as advice.

 

 

 

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Mihai Seran December 29, 2012 at 14:23

Very Interesting! As I am training 4 or five times a week I think this is not feasible for me but I am still going to grab the book and check it out. Thanks for the hints!
Kind regards,
Mihai

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Amy N. December 30, 2012 at 13:01

Dear Mihai, please let me reply to you in place for Mr. Steven, if he permits us to, because my sportive and independent(individual)sportive education with my medical deep experiences too, gave me an idea upon the bad characteristics of both an alert and a not-alert life too. In that case where it is normal to control your weight if you’re a sportive or an ordinarily paid person in the spocieties who cannot afford to pay money for new wardrobes and closets every time indeed(!!), please remember people are different one from each other and every single person may have an individual metabolics and genetics, contrary there are common features in everyone, indeed. Secondly, it’s about the individual or independent characteristics of every life has, indeed, as many from the people who have started to practice the sport since their childhood or youth times or others who never had enough money for food too, could never gain too fat, indeed! Period.
In the third and last time, it’s only about the education and you’ll have to search for an effective medical sportive doctor to first make you complete biological or scanned examinations and secondly to train you with the diet issues as you wish for. Because, you see, as the persons are born with different brains, their bodies are different too and each body may reply differently to a stimulus too. And please let me give you a political example as I’ve promiced dear mr. Van Groningen last night, too: I’ve both worked for the money or searched for the money and volunteered also, during my top highest formal studies in the time I completed my formal education too. And all these years starting with my teenage period, I’ve PRACTICED over and over again there are some smart people to rapidly understand and memorize the education and others(the majority from) who can’t. But it is not fair for any from these to have the right to pass a Bac or a Faculty/College Degree, because it is only the brain first, but the free time you have for the study of any sort. So..what does it tell you about the communism in the Minister for Education in Romania first and in many not-top universities abroad, too?
I hope my free advice really could help you.now could you send me the free digital books I’m looking for since years? .Regards..

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SvG January 2, 2013 at 17:22

Joel Fuhrman was an Olympic hopeful when he got injured. After all sorts of unsuccessful treatments he tried fasting as a last resort and his injury healed.

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bhuttu January 2, 2013 at 17:04

One interesting thing to know is if you drank more water than usual, or if the quantity stayed pretty much the same. I imagine it makes some difference for the body.

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SvG January 2, 2013 at 17:20

Actually I was not thirsty and had to make sure I drank at least one liter of water a day. There doesn’t seem to be a need to drink more. I though my hurting legs might benefit from more water and I drank more but I am not sure it made a difference.

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Emilian Nedelcu January 3, 2013 at 18:45

I wanna know if you had some sport activity during the fasting period.

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SvG January 4, 2013 at 07:39

Not this time, last time I ran for one hour on the first day only. I did do some snow shovelling this time but I wouldn’t call that sports.

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Emilian Nedelcu January 4, 2013 at 23:28

So, you wouldn’t recommend exercises during the fasting days.

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Edi January 30, 2013 at 10:51

Steven, glycogen storage requires approx 3 times more water; fasting would deplete the glycogen reserves, that explains the rapid weight loss in the first days. Also, due to the sodium level, since you only drank water.
You are right, this should not be used as a weight loss. Anyway, after 2-3 days of fasting the body adapts and lowers the metabolic rate (as a survival measure). And when going back to normal, it would deposit fat as reserves.
But you can use it as intermittent fasting, 1-2 days per week, to avoid the change in BMR.

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