Years ago before I ran my second marathon, I read several books by Dr. Joel Furhman. The two that I always keep going back to are his Super Immunity and Fasting and Eating for Health. A therapeutic fast with all of the associated health benefits (improved insulin resistance, decrease in inflammation, internal repair, improved digestion, decrease in cancer cell proliferation, autophagy, among many more) and the opportunity for emotional and spiritual introspection has been an appealing idea for me.
I was running a lot and to support that, fueling a lot, and my body and knees have always been temperamental. Different modes of bodywork help but fasting seemed like it would be a calm and grounding alternative. Logistically, with a busy life, it is difficult to allot a week without inconveniencing my family rhythm. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago I heard Jay Ferruggia interview Dr. Zach Bush and was reminded how fasting can improve your performance so… I had a low-key week off and tried a five day water fast.
179.8 (though I haven’t weighed in for a while, I usually eight in at 177ish but feel like this may be high after having a slightly looser and higher in sodium bit of food yesterday)
First day was basically boring. My day seems to revolve around food thought, planning, and cooking. It may be a long 5 days.
Both days 1 and 2 were not very productive. It’s amazing how much food punctuates and structures my day. And, how much I think of nutrition and cooking… I’ve been a bit listless but am treating the time as rest and recovery from constant exercise and fueling…
Took my boys to watch a movie and was overwhelmed by the smells of junk food. I didn’t cave but did buy them popcorn and watched them stuff their little faces.
Last night was the first night where sleep was a bit erratic. I’ve been reading Joel Furhman’s Fasting and Eating for Health about what to eat to break the fast and the thought of an orange or watermelon followed with lettuce and steamed zucchini or potatoes sounds fantastic. It doesn’t help to have a fascination with cookbooks so I made it a point to hold off perusing them and that I would just cook one of my standard feed the kids dinners.
Went for a fast walk/hike for about 60 minutes. Felt good. Especially towards the end. Despite having gloves on, fingers have been getting cold more than usual.
Had a difficult time sleeping last night and woke to find my alarm hadn’t gone off. Rushed around to get my son to school but still managed to make him wholegrain pancakes and a berry smoothie. Still thinking about food but the ‘clear-headedness’ has set in and it makes it easier to see food more objectively. Notice that I am constantly asking myself how I feel and will try to focus a bit on the ‘outer’ world by going to some SF museums with my younger son who is on break.
It’s here! Day 5! Half excited about breaking the fast, half excited to see what another few days yield…Difficulty sleeping last night because I went to bed early and had a bit of a headache. Woke up feeling better and am thinking of breaking the fast tonight at 120 hours (8 pm) with a bit of vegetable juice and bone broth….or just waiting until tomorrow if I feel good throughout the day.
Practiced a lot today and felt super productive.
I actually do not feel like breaking the fast but given the baby steps recommended for breaking a fast I thought it better to start the process. Around hour 120 I drank diluted vegetable and carrot juice and then an hour or so later some bone-broth. Fast broken.
Slept well and am going on a long walk. Feel great. Had more diluted carrot and vegetable juice and one amazingly flavorful banana. Over the next day or so, I’ll have more fresh fruit, romaine lettuce, and other vegetables, more broth, and maybe some steamed potatoes and more veggies. Tomorrow I’m planning on making a plain kitchari.
- Plan on not having a plan. Let your emotional state guide you. You might feel like taking walks, you might not, you might feel like being around other people, you might not. Give yourself permission to listen to your body.
- If possible, stay away from food. I cooked breakfasts for my boys before school, made dinner, and went to two movies where the smell of popcorn was overwhelming. If less will power is involved it may be better.
- Enjoy the fact that you are healing internally and that ou are giving your body a long and necessary rest.
- If you are caffeine-dependent, ease off a few weeks before you do your fast. I love coffee but weaned myself off and it seemed like the headaches and withdrawal symptoms most experience at the beginning of a fast didn’t hit me.
- Clean up your diet months in advance. Avoid sugar, processed food, alcohol, and animal products. Stick with lots of fruit and vegetables, well-prepared legumes, starches, and whole grains, some nuts and seeds.
- Meditation helps. I did about 30-40 minutes of simple breathing each day.
What would I do differently next time?
- I would probably try to go for 10-12 days. On day 5 I felt close to wonderful and I wanted to enjoy exactly that state for several more days.
- Maybe try to do it in the summer. My body felt colder than usual.
- Avoid bone broth now that I know that animals store toxins in their bones and bone broth hype is hype.
Hope this helps all of you on a quest for better health!
3 thoughts on “Five Day Water Fast”
Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve had a very similar experience with my 5-day fast. I’m on day 5 now and feeling really good; sharp concentration, sustainable energy, and no cravings or hunger. I’m interested to hear about your transition off the fast. Did you gain all the weight back? And what foods did you ease back with?
Thanks in advance!
For the transition back I simply started nibbling on over-ripe bananas. Which at that moment tasted better than anything I could imagine. I had a few bananas over a few hours and a bit of chicken bone broth ( in retrospect the broth was a mistake because since then I’ve learned through nutritionfacts.org that bone broth has extremely high levels of arsenic and other heavy metals). I no longer eat animal food so I won’t make that mistake again. Over the next 24 hours I had more fruit, some brown rice, some oats, berries, and then more and more veggies (lettuces, microgreens, etc..). Within 2 days I was in my usual routine of plant-based staples but smaller servings.
As far as the weight, some obviously came back as water, replenishing glycogen, etc,…but maybe a few pounds. That said, I really didn’t need to lose too much weight but remain lighter since (and a better runner!).
Hope that helps. I’m interested in doing another relatively soon. Will post anything new especially if I go past 5 days.
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