Last night was a big personal milestone; I competed my first 72-hour fast. When the timer finally went off, my first thought surprised even me: how was that so easy?! I've been doing a 24-hr one day/week for a month or so, did my first 48-hour last week, and wanted to keep the ball rolling with the latest one. As a former competitive martial artist, I was no stranger to not eating for 24 hrs in order to make weight before a fight, but that was without any salt and often involved sweating as much as possible. Compared to those days, this was a walk in the park (I would say cake walk, but, ya know...).
I've studied the topic of fasting pretty extensively over the past few months, and am specifically interested in the research of Dr. Peter Attia, who has put out an incredible amount of content about fasting over the years that is constantly updated to reflect his latest findings. To be clear, the main reason I'm intrigued by fasting is the longevity aspect; fasting is almost certainly the best tool we have as humans besides diet and fitness to promote healthspan (a long, healthy life). Many people fast for weight loss, which has been shown to work well for some cases (every BODY is different though, and what works in some bodies may not work for others), but this is not my primary motivator. The older I get, the less I care about the number on the scale, and the more I focus on how well I feel and my level of performance in my daily activities. Lot easier to do now that I don't have to worry about starving myself every time I have a fight coming up.
Cellular autophagy is the main goal when doing extended fasts. To put it in layman's terms (which is admittedly about as deep as I understand it), autophagy literally means "cells eating themselves", and when this happens, the sick or harmful cells (such as cancer cells) tend to be eaten first. There's varying debates about when autophagy actually starts to occur in the body, since there's no way as of now to actually measure it. Most speculate between day 2/3 of a fast is when it starts to occur. This explains why Attia would do a 7-day fast once a quarter (he's since switched to a 3-day fast once a month).
I've only started to scratch the surface of the research and how my body reacts, but the first 3-day was surprising on a number of levels. I lost almost eight pounds (mostly water I'm sure, though some muscle as well and maybe a tiny bit of fat), but had almost no energy level drop. I worked out everyday of the fast, and when lifting weights, actually put up personal bests in every exercise that I did. My muscles felt great, sleep was fantastic (I use the Oura Ring to track my sleep data every night, and the data during the fast was just about as good as it's ever been since I got the ring a few months ago), and was extremely surprised at how little hunger I felt throughout. I drank coffee, herbal tea, water with plenty of celtic sea salt to retain electrolytes, and 2g of bouilion/day (which is basically just pure sodium with a little chicken flavor).
Eating becomes a habit for us nowadays (something that would have never been uttered a thousand years ago), and it really does seem as though we eat largely based on just being used to eating at the times we do. If anything, this fast taught me that we really don't nearly as much food as we think we might. I actually wanted to prolong the fast, but had dinner plans the night I broke it.
Next month, I plan on trying a four-day, and look forward to sharing whatever anecdotal information I gather. I hope this sparks some interest in some of you, and to steal from the company Zero Fasting (who developed a popular fast-tracking app), remember, Autophagy Cells Itself!