... Certainly not like hell. Although it was uncomfortable at times it was far more enjoyable than anticipated.
What dry fasting is
Dry fasting is abstaining from the intake any food or liquids. It can be practised for a pre-determined period or until desirable health outcomes are reached or for as long as the patient's health permits.
Why I did it
I chose to practice dry fasting for 3 main reasons.
1) Recovering from the flu
Shortly after I changed the scenery for my summer holiday at the seaside I caught a nasty bug. Fortunately, there were no other symptoms apart from a cough which only becomes irritating in the evening. It is interesting to observe that I practically never get ill. This only happens to me on the handful of occasions when I experience climate change during a short trip. Yet again, only if the temperature change is more than 20 degrees Celsius.
Fasting has been applied for millennia as a natural way of directing all the body's energy towards cleaning and self-healing. So, I decided to apply this 'medicine' as well.
2) To reset my digestive system
I've been in a consistent deficit as part of the caloric restriction with optimum nutrition (CRON) approach that I follow. Additionally, I've been practising daily fasting for ~22 hours each day, eating only between 5-7pm. And of course, I've continued with a 100% raw fruit centred diet. This means that a significant volume of fresh fruit and veg has been going through my system on a regular basis.
It goes without saying that there is no better 'holiday' for the digestive system than complete fasting.
3) To transition to a new daily eating window
Going forward I intend to move my eating window to the first half of the day. Starting with a breakfast between 7-9 am I intend to finish with a light lunch between 11-1 pm. This would still enable me to practice ~18 hours of fasting every day without overloading my stomach. (More on the reasons for the change in a future article).
What it felt like
I did not eat or drink anything from ~5 pm on a Tuesday until ~7 am on a Thursday. On the Wednesday afternoon, I also did a high intensity (HIT) workout.
The Tuesday evening and night felt absolutely natural and nothing out of the ordinary. I am used to not eating late in the evening and sleeping on a somewhat full stomach so everything seemed normal.
On the next day, the Wednesday, I started experiencing some short-lived pangs of hunger. I applied a technique to reduce the feeling of hunger. The Ukranian doctor Alexander Voroshilov has supervised more than 20,000 fasting patients over 20 years. He found that the discomfort we associate with hunger can be alleviated by draining the stomach from acidic juices. When these start flowing but there is no food in the stomach we can squeeze them out.
This is done by taking a deep breath, sucking your stomach and holding this for 4 seconds. Several repetitions are usually enough to dissipate the uncomfortable feeling. This technique can also be beneficial to prevent overeating when practised before a meal.
Soon it was Wednesday noon and I was approximately ~20 hours into my dry fast. I was feeling very calm but somewhat low on energy. The prospect of working out did not seem appealing.
So, I did what I usually do. I went for a workout anyway turning away from the prospect of surrendering to lethargy. Of course, it wouldn't have been the end of the world if I did not workout, but why not. I wanted to see how the abstinence from food and water will affect my performance and the way I feel.
Shortly after I started any feeling of tiredness dissipated. My mind felt clear and I was carrying myself with purpose and intensity throughout the session.
I was a little bit weaker on upper body pull movement. I matched my personal best (PB) on upper body push. I was able to set new PB on 1-leg squat and 1-leg elevated bridge. My times on hanging knee raises and lying prone back extensions were in-line with recent workouts.
So, working out fasted went well. The next question in my mind was: what about fasting after a workout? What about optimising the 'anabolic window of opportunity' by giving food to my body? What about hydration? It is true that after the workout was the first time I felt significant thirst.
Post-workout nutrition timing is a debated topic. Without going into a discussion, it seems that it only makes a difference if one intends to exercise or play a sport again within the next 24 hours. (Which I did not intend.)
Yes, my muscles did look flatter than usual and did feel a tiny bit softer. But they were back to their normal look and tone when I resumed eating the next day.
This experience is enough to assure me for now that fasting before and/or after exercise is not likely to compromise progress. Of course, I will keep monitoring progress, observing and refining if necessary.
Approaching the 24th hour without any food or liquids was more of a psychological barrier than a physical one. I even went out for a gentle walk and read a book in nature. No feelings of hunger were present. Strenght exercise is actually known to repress hunger in some people.
I experienced some transitional signs of hunger and thirst again towards the evening. I dealt with them using the technique described above and they were gone before I knew.
All that remained now was a night's sleep before I will eat again. I anticipated that I may feel hungry or thirsty and have trouble going to sleep with a stomach that is SO empty. This was not the case, though.
Instead, what bothered me was the coughing. It intensified as if going for a final bout of resistance before my immune system deals with it completely AND naturally.
Additionally, I felt a bit colder than usual. This was due to the natural drop in body temperature during prolonged absence of food and water. I added a second blanket and felt warm again. The moment the coughing diminished I was off to a very good, uninterrupted and restful sleep.
I enjoyed a night of continuous and deep sleep without a pee break for the first time in years. I woke up slightly earlier than my 7 am alarm. I was feeling rested and a genuine feeling of hunger was noticeable.
How I broke my fast
I broke my fast with a mixture of 10 grams vegan (fermented) branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and 5 grams of creatine dissolved in half a litre warm water. People familiar with the taste of BCAA will know that it is not very nice, to put it mildly. Yet, after 38 hours it was a little celebration to at least drink some liquid.
(More on the rationale behind this in future articles).
Afterward, I performed my morning energy movements for about 10 minutes. My first non-liquid meal was a smoothie consisting of 200 grams bananas, 50g of raw hemp protein powder, 40g of celery stalk and ~ 400 millilitres of water. This tasted like the best smoothie I've ever tried after my fast.
Next, I did my morning meditation for ~30 minutes and had my main breakfast consisting of ~12 bananas, 1350g to be precise. My sense of taste was heightened and sharpened and the pleasure derived from eating was immense.
My digestive system seemed to be working well. My stomach felt completely empty from the smoothie before the bananas. There was no noticeable heaviness after the main meal.
For lunch, I had a vegetable smoothie around 12:30 pm. It consisted of 200g tomatoes, 100g lettuce, 120g celery, 15g organic barley grass juice powder, 30g hulled hemp seeds and 150ml of water. The taste did not disappoint.
There was an appetising level of saltiness from the celery and the barley. The hemp seeds, ground into a fine paste, added a rich creamy texture. The fresh lettuce and organic tomatoes from my grandmother's garden were the main taste contributors to this elixir of life.
I intend to follow this with water to thirst until 2 pm and revert to dry fasting until next morning.
Dry fasting helped me reset my digestive system. It appeared to work more efficiently after 38 hours without food. Dry fasting also empowered my immune system as the coughing was all but gone by the end.
The way I practised, in good health and accustomed to daily 20-hour water fasting period, was not uncomfortable. It also didn't seem to interfere with my workout performance and recovery.
Emotionally I felt calm and relaxed. Meditations were deep and tranquil, time in nature - peaceful and rewarding.
Finally, it helped me re-connect with my taste buds and develop a deep appreciation for the foods I consume.
My research into dry fasting indicates that it can be safely practised for up to 14 days by people who are in good health. Still, I would not recommend doing this unsupervised.
On the other hand, it can be detrimental to very ill, underweight or people with high levels of toxicity in their body. Death may occur within the first day. So, do not attempt unsupervised dry fasting unless you consider yourself to be in good health.
The presented information is for educational purposes only. It does not constitute medical or other professional advice. It is a reflection of my views at the time of writing, which may change in the future.
Martin Stefanov Petkov