In this post I draw upon my own personal experience of fasting to share with you 7 tips to help you get through multi-day fasts.
1) Start Small and Build Gradually
The longest I’ve fasted so far is 5 days. In the ‘big leagues’ of fasting that’s not much – but for mere mortals like myself it wasn’t easy, and was something I had to build up to.
The steps I used were intermittent fasting and a series of shorter 1, 2 and 3 day fasts.
In terms of intermittent fasting, it’s a case of getting comfortable with 14/16/18 hour gaps between meals. And specifically, getting comfortable with the feeling of being hungry!
Once intermittent fasting is something you’re comfortable with, the next step is to try a 24 hour fast, then a 48 hour fast… and so on…
Something that helped me at the start of these longer fasts was a method outlined by Tim Ferriss in his book ‘Tools of Titans’, which provides a 3-day fast strategy to make it as easy as possible.
The crux of the strategy revolves around getting through the uncomfortable phase and into ketosis as quickly as possible. Utilizing ketone salts or MCT oil, combined with low tempo exercise. To learn more about it, we’ve a post on the blog here.
Another tool I’ve used to build up fasting length is something called ProLon. It stems from the research of a scientist called Valter Longo, who looked at how to use small meals daily to emulate many benefits of a regular fast.
Out of this came the ProLon diet, which is a 5-day fasting mimicking diet. It includes pre-packaged, prepared meals that you consume throughout the process. It might *sound* easy, but the meals are small and so it builds willpower in the process of completing it!
To learn more about ProLon, see the review I wrote here.
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2) Fast with Friends
Eating is an incredibly social experience – and for most people it’s rare to go a whole day without sharing food amongst company.
Therefore when you’re fasting, if the hunger on its own wasn’t nuisance enough, it can feel a bit lonely being the only one not eating.
Ideally you can find a friend who will do the fast with you, that way you can keep each other company throughout the process. If not, then you can use a mobile app called Zero Fasting. It’s primarily a tool for timing your fast, but in addition it will show you how many other people are fasting (using the app) at the same time. It doesn’t, yet, help you to connect with other fasting ‘buddies’ – but that would be cool.
3) Schedule Things During Your Fast to Stay Busy
I didn’t realize (until I started fasting) how much entertainment food provides, and how much we use it as a way to keep entertained. Take food away, and all of a sudden here’s more free-time and less entertainment. So in a way, you want to replace that with something, ideally something you enjoy. Ideas for things you could schedule include:
- Spending time with friends (but not going for dinner!)
- Going to the cinema/theatre/sports games
- Working on projects you otherwise wouldn’t have time for
These can all stave off boredom and thinking about food!
4) Exercise Gently & Don’t Over-do It
It probably goes without saying that whilst we’re doing multi-day fasts we are less capable of vigorous exercise. For one, our body’s fast-access to glycogen are lower. I’ve made the mistake before of trying to exercise vigorously during fasting. Whilst I was able to do it, it came at the price of feeling very hungry and tired after. To the point that I nearly broke the fast as a result!
The same goes for trying to do too much on any one day. Try to be gentle on yourself in order to maintain a reserve of energy that you can use to keep your discipline and willpower up.
5) Use Walking To Stave Off The Cold
Whilst fasting, our body works to conserve energy by reducing the production of heat, especially to the extremities. This results in feeling colder than normal – including cold hands and cold feet. To combat this, I would often walk extra during the day to generate heat. Racking up more steps on the FitBit than normal (💪)
6) Have Fun With Herbal Teas
Personally I allow myself to drink zero calorie, caffeine-free, herbal teas whilst fasting ☕️. They keep the taste-buds occupied, without providing any material disturbance to the fast. Whilst I’m fairly boring in my choices, favoring mint, nettle and rooibos teas, there’s a whole world of choice out there to experiment with!
7) Consider Topping Up Salt/Electrolytes
Sodium and potassium are excreted rapidly during the early part of fasting, which can for some people lead to symptoms like nausea and muscle cramps.
Possible methods for solving this are the addition of salt, electrolyte salts or bone broth. When it comes to adding salt, I’ve used 1/2 a teaspoon added to water. Then for electrolyte products, I’ve found Salt Stick’s to be good. There’s lots of options when it comes to electrolyte products, just be careful around the flavored ones which sometimes add sugar (which we want to avoid!).
Hopefully the above gives you a nugget or two to takeaway into your own fasting experience. It’s good to remember that even if you set big goals for your fasts, you can always back out. I’ve tried to do 3 and 5 day fasts, and “failed” at getting right to the end! But looking at the bigger picture I wouldn’t call them failures, as I still learnt a lot from them, and got better in the process 🙏
If you’ve any questions on the above, leave them in the comments 😃