My Water Fast Experience

Like most of my crazy ideas, the idea of fasting for an extended period of time came from listening to a podcast. Once the idea seed was planted, I started doing lots of research online to determine if it was something that I wanted or needed to do.

The idea is pretty simple. You drink water, and only water (and not that flavored water junk) for several days. According to the expert on the topic, Dr. Thomas N. Seyfried, the water fast should last at least 3 days and preferably 5 to 7 days.

So why in the world would a healthy person like myself want to go this long with only water? This was the question that I wanted to answer before determining if I would do it.

water glass

What I found was a long list of reasons why fasting might be a good idea and very few reasons why it might be bad. Some of the positives include:

  • Long term water fasts are known to solve chronic health problems like dyspepsia, loss of appetite, diarrhea, colic, gastritis, inflammation of bowels, sinusitis, allergies, skin problems, diabetes, migraine, joint pains, gas problem, constipation, etc.
  • Fasts give a much needed rest to the digestive system. It helps to repair and heal all the organs of the body. Toxins are removed and one feels improved energy and vigor.
  • Fasting can improve immunity and gives longevity. It can improve the texture and glow of the skin.
  • Fasting is the easiest way to lose weight (not that this was my goal). One may lose anything from 5 to 15 pounds during a 7-day fast. But you will gain back most of this weight once you return to normal food. Following a controlled diet after the fast can help in maintaining the reduced weight.
  • During the fast, one gets to observe the mind closely. It helps to understand of our food habits and cravings. This understanding helps to control the diet after the fast, thereby helping in weight loss.
  • Many practice long term fasts for spiritual reasons. Fasting is a time of introspection and emotional cleansing.
  • Fasting can enhance DNA repair and stimulate antioxidant defenses.
  • Fasting shifts the brains basic metabolism, enhancing energy production and paving the way for not only better brain function and clarity.
  • It may be that we have the ability to “starve out” stray (pre-tumorous) cancer cells by simply… not eating.  Cancer cells don’t survive nearly as well as healthy cells in a ketotic internal environment.  And the quickest way into ketosis is, well… starving.

So even if only a few of these are backed up by actual science, I felt like it would be beneficial to give my body a “reset”. I also planned to take the entire fasting period off from any form of exercise as well, so my body would be able to rest and recover both inside and out. It’s important to note that I had discussions with medical professionals that I trust prior to taking this journey and if you ever consider doing a water fast, you need to consult a qualified doctor to discuss any health issues prior to fasting.

So I looked at my calendar and decided that the second week of January would be the best time for me to fast. During the week leading up to the start of my fast, I may have over indulged at a few meals, which artificially put my starting weight a little higher than normal.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect. After reading a few other people’s accounts, I figured there would be a mental struggle for a day or two and some people experienced some headaches and dizziness.

Other than my wife Jessica, I didn’t tell anyone that I was planning to drink only water for five days and then only liquids for two days after that. But since I was still going to work and other social activities as normal, it didn’t take long for people to notice that I wasn’t eating. The first, and not obvious question that everyone asked was “why”. Without going into too much detail, I would just tell them that I felt like giving my digestive system a break was a good idea. Honestly, most people that are around me on a daily basis are used to me doing “weird” stuff!

I learned that most people don’t understand how long the human body can go without food. Some people seem genuinely concerned that I might starve and end up in the hospital. The fact is, a person with average body fat can live on that fat alone (plus adequate water) for 60-70 days before succumbing to death-by-starvation. You read that right. So a seven day fast is a piece of cake for the human body to manage.

While I told people that I may not last the whole week, I knew that barring a serious medial situation, I was going to complete the challenge. Like most other things I set out to do, quitting was not an option.

During the week, I kept track of my weight, heart rate variability, resting pulse, bowel movements and any other physical or mental changes that I noticed.

Day 1: Sunday, January 10th

Weight: 190.8 lb

HRV: 53 (1618 LF / 216 HF)

Resting Pulse: 49 bpm

Bowel Movement: 8:30AM

For my water source, I just stuck with water from the tap or the water cooler at work.

I’ve gone 16 hours without eating before, so skipping breakfast on day 1 was no big deal. The kids had spent the night with family, so it was a little awkward when Jessica and I went out to breakfast at North End Cafe and I sat there and sipped on a glass of water while she ate what looked like an amazing breakfast.

The rest of the day went by quickly and I felt good all day. I had some rumblings in my stomach around dinner time, but it passed after a few minutes. I went to bed feeling great.

Day 2: Monday, January 11th

Weight: 187.8 lb

HRV: 53 (997 LF / 68 HF)

Resting Pulse: 51 bpm

Bowel Movement: 5:05AM

My body is used to waking up at 4:30AM every day to train. So my internal clock didn’t care that I wasn’t going to exercise, I was still up at 4:30. So I decided to replace my workouts with a meditation session each morning. I knew it was going to be tough, but trying to clear my mind for even 10 minutes each morning was a challenge. It never got easier and I hope that I can give it a better effort again soon.

Once I got to work, the day went by pretty quickly. I had a lunch meeting, so I had to explain to my coworkers why I wasn’t eating. Then again at dinner that night, I had to answer questions from the kids as to why Daddy was not eating. I tried to dance around it as much as I could with the kids without lying to them. I don’t want them to think that it’s ok for them to not eat. Fortunately, they didn’t even notice most nights. I made a point to put a bowl or plate close to where I was sitting so that it wasn’t as noticeable.

If you are not familiar with Heart Rate Variability (HRV), you can click on this link to get details. The Clif’s Notes are that it measures the variation in the time interval between one heartbeat and the next. HRV is the gold standard for non-invasive assessment of the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that influences the function of internal organs). The HRV app that I have on my phone measures the power of the LF (sympathetic, fight or flight) and the HF (parasympathetic, repair and recover) aspects as well. The sympathetic nervous system functions like a gas pedal in a car. It triggers the fight-or-flight response, providing the body with a burst of energy so that it can respond to perceived dangers. The parasympathetic nervous system acts like a brake. It promotes the “rest and digest” response that calms the body down after the danger has passed.

If you compare my LF an HF numbers from Day 1 to Day 2, you can see that they both dropped. This is an indication that my body was slowing things down. Doing a hard workout after fasting for 24 hours would have been a bad idea.

Day 3: Tuesday, January 12th

Weight: 184.8 lb

HRV: 50 (1074 LF / 60 HF)

Resting Pulse: 56 bpm

Bowel Movement: None

This was the first day that I felt any physical side effects from not eating. I had a little bit of dizziness when I woke up and then some heart burn in the afternoon. Both quickly passed.

I have a standing work station and I was a little concerned that standing on my feet for 5-6 hours every day would be too taxing on me physically. But I never once felt weak or so tired that I needed to sit down.

The other thing that I started to notice by Day 3 was that I was cold. All the time. I started to drink hot water instead of cold water to try and get warm. I left my coat on most of the day and at night, I had to wear an extra layer to bed. All of these things are abnormal for me. I usually stay warm when everyone around me is cold.

Day 4: Wednesday, January 13th

Weight: 181.4 lb

HRV: 47 (753 LF / 94 HF)

Resting Pulse: 49 bpm

Bowel Movement: 5:15AM

Despite 72 hours of not eating, I woke up on Day 4 with tons of energy. I felt good all day and even better than on days 2 and 3. When I read accounts of other people that had done this water fast, they reported things turning south around day 4. Some had flu-like symptoms as their body ran out of its last sugar stores, and started burning fat for energy. I’m pretty fat adapted already, so I guess that’s why I didn’t experience this. Others reported muscle aches and pains, lethargy, insomnia and even blurred vision. Fortunately, I experienced none of these symptoms. I wish I had a better idea why I didn’t, but I just don’t have a good explanation. I felt like I could have run a marathon!

Day 5: Thursday, January 14th

Weight: 178.4 lb

HRV: 48 (896 LF / 44 HF)

Resting Pulse: 52 bpm

Bowel Movement: NONE

The pooping stopped for good on Day 5 and did not return until Day 8 (the day after I introduced soups back into my diet). I guess it took a few days for my digestive system to process everything, but I honestly thought that it was all out after Day 2, but then I had a “surprise poop” the morning of Day 4.

The afternoon on Day 5 was the first time that I felt hungry. For the first time all week, I really wanted to eat. Watching the family eat dinner that night was tough. I knew that the fast was almost done, so I pushed through the first real mental challenge that I had encountered. Despite fixing breakfast for the kids every morning and even dinner one night, I never struggled to stop myself from eating. I even picked up bagels and donuts for customers one day. Smelling and seeing food, but not being able to eat, was not challenging for me…until Thursday.

Golden corralBreaking the fast is as important as the fast itself. When the body goes without food for several days, the digestive fire becomes weak. So your body simply cannot eat or digest large quantities of food. It will be like a shock to the system, if you consume solid food. So one has to gradually increase the digestive fire and bring it back to normal. I can only imagine what it would have been like if my first day off of the fast, I hit up the Golden Corral buffet!

Day 6: Friday, January 15th

Weight: 177.0 lb

HRV: 49 (1372 LF / 45 HF)

Resting Pulse: 56 bpm

Bowel Movement: NONE

I was a little tired the morning of Day 6, but I was excited to start the process of eating again. The first step is to get the digestive system back up and running. This is done by breaking the fast by drinking juice and other natural liquids. I enjoyed some lemon juice with ginger, a cup of green tea and a can of pure coconut water in addition to lots of straight water. Getting some flavor on my tongue was amazing. I felt like my taste buds had reset also.

Butternut-Squash-450Day 7: Saturday, January 16th

Weight: 175.0 lb

HRV: 45 (468 LF / 41 HF)

Resting Pulse: 51 bpm

Bowel Movement: NONE

On the second day after the water fast ended, I added in some light soups (no meat) and bone broth in addition to water. I heated up the soups and then ate on them throughout the day. I probably ate a little too much at first, but it was hard to hold back!

Day 8: Sunday, January 17th

Weight: 177.4 lb

HRV: 40 (211 LF / 36 HF)

Resting Pulse: 48 bpm

Bowel Movement: 9:00AM

On the third day after the water-only fast, I ate some soups with vegetables and a few cooked vegetables and some fruit. Things that I know are easy to digest. I baked and decorated a birthday cake for my son on Sunday. It was a bit difficult not to sample a little but as I made it, but I knew that the sugar and flour would do very bad things to my gut.

My weight had dropped a total of 15 pounds from Day 1 until Day 7. Although weight loss was not my goal, it was interesting to see how much weight will come off when you don’t eat. After eating soups again on day 7, the weight started to creep back up. In fact, after going back to eating solid foods, I was back up to 180 in a day or two and I’ve maintained that since.

Day 9: Monday, January 18th

Weight: 179.0 lb

HRV: 51 (1351 LF / 41 HF)

Resting Pulse: 51 bpm

Bowel Movement: 9:00AM

On the fourth day post-fast, I got back to a normal diet, but I was still careful not to eat things that I know are hard for my body to process. I was careful not to overeat and overload the stomach. I tried to eat smaller amounts a number of times, rather than eating too much once or twice.

So overall, I can’t really say if I would classify this as a “good” or “bad” experience. It just kind of happened. As I mentioned above, I felt normal almost the entire time and other than not having to worry about what I was going it eat, most days were pretty typical.

I was able to get back into my normal eating and training within a few days without any noticeable side effects. I wish I could tell you that I felt some drastic change or that I had a spiritual awakening…but it just didn’t happen.

All I was left wondering is how long I could have gone without food before I started to feel bad. Ten Days? Two Weeks? A Month? Maybe I’ll try this again one day and see if I can learn something more about my body and what happens when you go five days (or more) with just water.

Be sure and visit all of my sponsor’s websites. I sought out these companies because they provide great products and services.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.