Since writing this article with my experience of doing a 5 day fast, I have had many questions about the process and what's required. To help anyone thinking of doing it, here are my recommendations to make sure you are fully prepared and to help guarantee your success.
The first thing is to acknowledge you're going to be uncomfortable at various stages throughout the fast. Sometimes, you won't even notice you're fasting. However, there will be times when you'll be ravenous and possibly have difficulty focusing on anything else but the desire to eat. Being aware of this right from the start puts you in a much better mental state to cope.
The 5 day fast protocol I followed had a minimum calorie consumption of 750 cal, which is not a lot. A few days before I started, I made sure I had all the food I would need for the week.
As well as fasting, I wanted to work on gut health by having Kefir and Sauerkraut as well as bone broth, which is gentle on the gastrointestinal tract and full of nutrients. All are very easy to prepare, with the kefir and sauerkraut just needing time to ferment. You could use store bought goods, but as a chef, I preferred to make my own.
Kefir starter kits are available online and I would recommend a fermentation crock to make sauerkraut. The bone broth just requires a large pot and the ingredients.
Do it with a Friend
Doing it on your own can be tough. Everyone around you'll be eating as and when they like and it'll drive you crazy. Find yourself an f-buddy (that's fasting-buddy): a friend, a family member, or work colleague who is committed to the doing the 5 days with you. Research has shown you'll have more success at both exercise and weight management if you do it with someone who is going through the same process. You can share you experiences and offer support to each other when needed.
My partner and I would check in on each other several times a day and when one of us was ready to crack, the other would help refocus and keep us on track.
PT Image courtesy of TRAINFITNESS
Clear the Fridge
At times, when you're ravenous your will power will be close to if not non-existent. You therefore don't want to have any food within easy reach. Clear out the fridge: get rid of any easily consumed food in your house, at work, in your desk, in your car. I found that if there was nothing around to eat, then it was much easier not to. If you have food around, having your f-buddy on speed-dial is essential.
Spread Your Calories Consumption Out Over 8 Hours
There isn't a lot to eat so you don't eat it all at once, otherwise you'll be going a very long time before you get to eat again. This is the plan I stuck to and it worked:
- 10am - Bulletproof Coffee. I would exercise in the morning (see next point) and therefore I found it easy to get to 10am before eating anything. As I hadn't eaten since 6pm the day before, I consumed the food with a higher number of calories first. The caffeine also helped me get through until lunch.
- 1 pm - Kefir & Sauerkraut. The fat from the bullet proof was great at satisfying hunger, so it was easy to get to midday before having the kefir and sauerkraut. The kefir is also good at satisfying hunger due to its higher fat content, but it does take about 20 minutes for satiety to be noticed.
- 4pm - Avocado. As I made sure I kept myself busy, getting though until 4pm was easy. A quick snack on an avocado meant I would not have to linger in the staff lunch room and watch others eating. Again, the high fat content would, after about 20 minutes, satisfy any feelings of hunger.
- 6pm - Bone Broth. This was like a cup of soup for dinner. Once again, the high fat content helped with any feelings of hunger before bed.
Exercise Hard, Every Day
Put everything into your exercise and workout hard. This will help curb any hunger pangs for an hour or two. This study suggests that high intensity activity will result in suppression of the appetite, which you can use to your advantage. I would do HIIT exercise first thing in the morning when I was most hungry to help me get through until 10am before the Bulletproof coffee.
Fasting is a mental challenge, not a physical one. There's no scientific reason the body of a healthy, maybe slightly overweight person cannot go without food for five days. Keep your focus: every morning when you wake up, take a moment to reaffirm your commitment to your fast and picture yourself getting through the day with no problems at all.
Fasting is not something you can do when sitting at home with nothing to do. Make sure you have booked your calendar up with work-related tasks; definitely not social ones. The busier you are the less you'll think about food. The days will fly past if you have loads to do, and you'll be X kilos lighter as well.
I've already had a number of people say to me they were inspired to try the fast after they read my post. All of them said they got some great results and were very happy with how they went. As I mentioned, it's a mental challenge more than anything so the rewards will be both physical and physiological.
I would love to hear about how you go, so please feel free to post your comments below.