For the majority of April, I felt pretty miserable an unlike myself. It felt like my energy had been cut in half, my anxiety was higher than usual, and I had serious brain fog. It felt like half of my brain was shut off, if not more. There was also constant stomach issues – diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and a general feeling of “bleh.” After little help from doctors, I decided to take matters into my own hands and try a 4-day water fast to reset my gut.
I’m grateful to have an adventurous partner, Connor McCreesh, to take on the fasting challenge with me. We completed four days without eating anything and documented our experience along the way. For those who are curious about fasting, I wanted to share some of the benefits and the lessons learned from our experience.
Please note: I am NOT a nutritionist or doctor. I’m not suggesting that you fast or do anything as we did. I’m simply sharing my own experience. I encourage you to do your own research and speak with your doctor, especially if you plan to fast longer than two days.
Our Fasting Commitment
We both had different reasons for doing the fast. Connor likes to try new things and push himself in new challenges. I do too, but I was mainly focused on clearing out my gut. I’d been struggling for over a month with gut issues and feeling a lack of energy. We opted for the benefits of a water fast, but made it our own. Here was our commitment:
- We were committed to three days, but were aiming to complete five.
- In addition to water, we still consumed coffee and tea for caffeine. As entrepreneurs, we weren’t in a position to slack off at work, so we allowed ourselves this.
- We also added lemon and salt to our evening water, to help ensure we were retaining electrolytes and not slipping into dehydration.
So, it wasn’t a full water fast, but it was important for us to make it our own.
Benefits of Fasting
Of course, there are many varieties of fasting and people participate for different reasons: weight loss, religious reasons, longevity, etc. There are juice fasts, water fasts, and fasting mimicking diets, all of which have different suggestions on how to do it best.
We selected our own version of the water fast and were hoping for some of these benefits:
- Autophagy: This is the mechanism of the body naturally getting rid of cells that aren’t functioning properly. When entering starvation mode, the body rids itself of what’s not working and replaces them with new stem cells.
- Fights inflammation: Fasting, including short-term fasting, seems to decrease inflammation in the body, which is related to chronic conditions such as heart disease, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Boosts brain function: Animal studies have shown that fasting can protect brain function and increase the generation of nerve cells to help enhance cognitive function. I was hoping it would reduce my brain fog.
- Reset the microbiome: As with the autophagy, fasting allows the bacteria within the gut to better communicate with each other and get rid of the bad bacteria that’s not working for you. This can help with digestion issues and metabolism.
There are many other suggested benefits of fasting, such as longevity, prevention of chronic conditions, and have positive hormonal effects. For more on the benefits that are backed by science, check out this article on Healthline.
Side Effects of Water Fasting
I seemed to have experienced much more side effects than Connor did. One of our theories for this was that Connor was practicing the Keto diet and had entered ketosis prior to the fast. As I was not, my body experienced a much more dramatic drop of blood sugar which caused me to feel weak and dizzy.
According to Intensive Dietary Management, common side effects are more likely to happen when people aren’t used to any kind of fasting and tend to eat more carbs and processed food. It confirms our hypothesis that it’s better to be in Ketosis prior to a longer fast. Side effects may include:
- Dizziness and blurred vision: I began to experience this after a couple days, especially if I stood up too quickly. (
- Brain fog and fatigue: We experienced this part of day one and two, but then the opposite happened – we began to have clarity and focus.
Side effects can also be due to low sodium. The body is flushing water through pretty quickly, which can also flush out all our electrolytes. This is why Connor and I would add sea salt to our water throughout the day. Other solutions may include drinking some bone broth, pickle juice, or apple cider vinegar.
This article on Intensive Dietary Management speaks of other side effects we did not experience and how to work through them, including diarrhea, constipation, increased anxiety, bad breath and insomnia.
Our 4-Day Fasting Experience
I’ll let the video speak for itself, but we made some pretty silly mistakes during our fast… Enjoy our moaning 🙂
Did the video spark any questions for you? Make sure to drop them in the comments below.
About Intermittent Fasting…
It seems like intermittent fasting is the talk of the town right now, along with keto and other similar diets. This is because intermittent fasting can create some similar effects and benefits to the long term fasting.
Intermittent fasting is simply reducing the window of time in with you each all day. Studies show that benefits can be seen even with a window as wide as 12 hours, which means you could practice intermittent fasting by only eating from 8 am to 8 pm each day.
I generally practice intermittent fasting with an 8-hour window, eating from 12 pm to 8 pm. Although, I’m not super strict on this. I find that by practicing this most days, I feel more energized and can pay less attention to what I eat.
Again, I recommend you do your own research and chat with your doc. There’s a documentary called “Fasting” that is worth a watch as well, but I’d look up studies on the benefits that excite you most. Science is constantly finding new contradictions and it’s always good to be hyper aware.
Questions about fasting? I’ll do my best to answer on my experience in the comments below.
What possible benefits excite you the most?
It’s fun to challenge ourselves in new ways and I plan to fast once a quarter. Stay tuned on social media to hear more about what I’m up to and new experiments I’m always trying.
Keep showing up for yourself each day!