by Matt Weik
This past weekend I had the house to myself since my wife and son were out of town. For most guys this means partying with booze and pizza with the boys. While the thought crossed my mind I decided to take it in a totally different direction. I did a 24-hour fast. I’m used to fasting as I actively use intermittent fasting because it fits my lifestyle much better than trying to fit in so many meals throughout the day. I thought to myself that if I’m used to fasting for 16 hours, what’s another 8?
People seem to have this notion that “fasting” means you don’t eat for days. While there are people who do such a thing, that’s not what I am talking about during this experience. There are several types of fasting. This article specifically talks about the 24-hour fast.
Benefits of a 24-hour fast:
• Improves energy and vigor
• Allows the digestive system to recover and heal
• Improves mental clarity
• Improves immunity
• Gives a sense of well being
• Can improve eye sight
• Aids in weight loss
• Eliminates toxins from the body
• Some studies show fasting may help ward off and kill cancer cells
• Reduces the risk of heart disease
Many of the benefits above come from regular use of the 24-hour fast. Some people prefer to fast once every week. Doing so more than once a week is not recommended. More in this case is not better. For those who have been doing intermittent fasting (IF), this should not be difficult. However, if you have never fasted before, you might not enjoy the experience the first time you try it until your body gets used to it. Your body is used to being fed throughout the day, when you don’t have anything in your system, it begins to remind you that you need food. You simply need to fight through this—it’s more mental than anything.
Choose a day that you don’t have much going on and will be fairly relaxed and stress free. Try to avoid any strenuous activity since you will not be eating any calories or nutrients to fuel your body during your fast. Do not worry about the lack of nutrients as our bodies have been programmed and designed to go for weeks without food. If you have any medical conditions, it would be wise to consult with your doctor before doing a fast or engaging in any diet or nutritional program.
How it’s done
Honestly, it’s quite simple. You can’t eat or drink any solid foods or beverages that contain calories or any type of nutritional value. You can only drink water during this fast. Some people say you can drink black coffee, but in my opinion, stick with plain water. Nothing in it, no flavoring agents of any kind. That also means no calorie-free beverages either. When I say just plain water, I mean just plain water. Sure, drinking nothing but water all day can play with your head a little and cause you to get a little moody, but that feeling will pass.
Some people think it’s best to start the fast in the morning after you wake up. But what people fail to realize is that in that case, your fast actually started the previous day whenever you stopped eating. So if you ate around 8pm and woke up at 6am, you’ve already been fasting for 10 hours. For that reason, I’d recommend people to begin fasting after they eat dinner. You’ll stay full for the night until bed and then sleep through a good part of your fast. Sure, you may wake up and feel hungry, but the best way to subside those feelings is by drinking water first thing upon waking.
If you are in the middle of your fast and absolutely have to eat something or cheat during your fast, do not get discouraged. Yes, you broke your fast. Is it the end of the world? No. Find out what caused you to break your fast. Are you stressed and it was emotional eating? Was it simply you don’t have enough self-discipline? No matter the reason, figure out why you did it and learn from it. Then wait a few days and try again, this time remembering what caused you to break your fast and push through it this try.
Tips for maintaining your fast and not cheating
• Remove any foods from the house that you know will make it difficult to resist eating
• Make sure you are well rested
• Fast on a day you don’t have much going on in terms of activity level
• Reassure yourself that you can make it 24 hours without eating or cheating
• Drink constantly throughout the day
• If you find you have a hunger pang, drink a couple glasses water
• While you want a relaxed day, try and keep mentally busy to keep your mind off food (or the lack there of)
• Find encouragement from your spouse or friends during your fast
Are there side effects from a 24-hour fast?
There can be. Because your body is used to getting a constant supply of food during the day, you might feel weak, dizzy, even nauseated. You might also get a slight headache due to the lack of calories which can be normal as well as a slight drop in blood sugar. If you feel any of those symptoms, drink some water and lay down for a little. The symptoms should subside and disappear. Again, please check with your doctor to ensure you are able to complete a 24-hour fast due to any medications you might be on as well as your overall health.
My take from personal experience
This was definitely a pretty cool test to see how my body reacts to a full-blown 24-hour fast as compared to the 16-hour intermittent fasting that I’m used to. I feel that my experience is going to be different than a lot of peoples. Being that I know what my body feels like during a fast, it was easy for me to push through an additional 8 hours. In fact, I found it extremely easy.
Like I normally would do during my daily IF, I simply drink water throughout the day and if I felt a hunger pang coming on, I simply downed a couple glasses of water to trick my stomach and mind into feeling full and I was good to go. I truly believe the key to success is drinking water throughout the day, not just when you’re thirsty or have a hunger pang.
I also don’t believe in shocking the system when breaking a fast. For instance, don’t fast for 16 or 24 hours and then go eat McDonalds. You just fasted for a given period of time for health reasons, why would you go ruin it by eating fast food? Eat a normal sized meal, nothing out of the ordinary from your regular portion size. Try to make that first meal something basic. Also, for that first meal try to stay away from spicy foods. During your fast your digestive tract goes through a healing and cleansing process. Eating something spicy might irritate your system and you’ll find a food your normally enjoy isn’t going down so easily this time.
So how did I feel? I felt great. Seemed extremely focused throughout the day and had a good amount of energy. I did some light housework outside and played with the dog. No issues at all. Again, my body may react differently than yours so don’t base my experience to your own if you’ve never fasted before.
Is this something I’m going to continue doing? I think I might. It wasn’t difficult and it made it easier that my wife and son weren’t home so I didn’t have any distractions of them eating in front of me (my wife is an amazing cook). I might try to continue this once a week and see what effects it has after a month or so.
Would I recommend someone give it a shot (fasting in general)? Absolutely. If you don’t want to jump right into it, talk to you doctor to get clearance and then maybe start with intermittent fasting for 16 hours with an 8-hour feeding window. Start there and see how you feel and get accustomed to not getting that feeding response for part of your day. From there if you wanted to do a weekly, one day, 24-hour fast it should be a little easier to complete.
If you try it, I hope you find it to be a learning experience. You get to know your body better by doing something like this and learn how to overcome the challenge of not constantly dumping food into your stomach. In my opinion, the health benefits of doing a fast outweigh the possible negative feelings which are temporary during the process.