So, you’ve decided to take it to the next level by trying your first extended fast. This is my personal domain of expertise and where I can help you the most with that next step on your fasting journey.
I hope you’re ready to experience the full effects that fasting has to offer. Prolonged fasts aren’t for the faint-hearted and can be challenging at times but this is also the most powerful form of fasting in which you’ll reap the biggest rewards.
After reflecting on my years of experimentation with various kinds of extended fasting protocols, I’ve come up with a list of the most important things beginners need to know before starting their first extended fast.
So hold on tight, because we’re not in Kansas anymore! Welcome to the wonderful world of extended fasting.
Establish Your Objective & Make Some Rules
Why are you doing an extended fast? What are you hoping to get out of it?
Prior to my most recent 3 day fast, I’d gone a little crazy being in lockdown for so long and had developed a horrible dopamine addiction. I was on my phone for over 10 hours a day, eating pizza every other night, drinking too much, not sleeping much, not getting much done – just generally in a pretty bad place.
I decided I’d had enough and wanted to change my habits, cure my device dependency, fix my diet, and get back on track with work stuff. I decided to kick things off with a 3 day fast because I knew it would cure my pizza cravings, fix my caffeine addiction, help with my insomnia, and cleanse my body of all the toxins that had built up in it.
After the fast, I was a completely different person. I didn’t allow myself to look at my phone at all throughout the work day, and I was totally fine with that. My sleep improved immediately. I felt way happier. And most importantly, I didn’t even think about pizza for weeks!
Most prolonged fasts are going to be for similar purposes, or to help cure some sort of medical condition. Sometimes people just want to see how much weight they can lose in a short period of time. And some people just want to challenge themselves mentally. These are both fine also.
Whatever your motivation, make a few rules about what you can and can’t do. Will you keep drinking coffee or tea? Or would you prefer going cold turkey on the caffeine?
Will you break your fast if that cute girl asks you out to dinner?
Pick A Suitable Time
It’s really important that you think ahead when planning an extended fast. If you want to start a 5 day water fast on Tuesday, but it’s your sister’s 30th birthday party on Friday, probably not great timing!
You want to schedule your extended fast when you don’t have much going on. Preferably when you’re not likely to be interrupted either.
If you’re dry fasting, it’s super important to prepare ahead of time. Gather all your supplies beforehand so you can just relax and do as little as possible while fasting.
If you’re water fasting, you’re usually going to have a lot more energy and should be able to manage completing basic errands if they crop up.
Do It With A Friend
If you happen to have a friend who you think might be interested in doing the fast with you, this can be a great way to help with motivation. If you’re suffering through a dry fast, it’s really nice to know someone else is going through the exact same thing.
You can keep each other company when you’re sitting there doing nothing all day, and push each other when the going gets tough.
As your body goes through the various stages of detoxification, you should both notice various physiological changes at the same time, so it can be interesting to see if your buddy’s having the same experience as you.
Embarking on an extended fast is usually something that is very personally motivated, so don’t be surprised if you’re unable to convince any of your mates to join in!
Avoid Looking At Delicious Food Like The Plague
This is the biggest rookie mistake you can make when fasting for any extended period of time. Remember that 3 day fast I told you about earlier? Well, I was lying in bed watching YouTube and up cropped a video of a competitive eater absolutely demolishing a 5 foot long burrito.
When you’re going on 60 hours not having eaten, literally any visual exposure to really yummy looking food is going to be excruciatingly difficult to deal with. The cravings will set in immediately and a huge surge of hunger will hit you like a ton of bricks!
Do not… I repeat… do not make this mistake!
Conserve Your Energy
It’s super important to not overdo it when on any extended fasting protocol.
This is 10 times more important if you’re dry fasting because you are at way higher risk of dehydration when consuming no water. If you’re dry fasting, you’re literally hydrating your body via the water released into your system during the breakdown of fat cells.
The last thing you want to have to do on a dry fasting protocol is anything involving serious energy expenditure. Moving furniture, running, getting into a heated argument with somebody – these are all really big no-no’s. You can go for light short, walks once a day, but that’s about it.
If you’re water fasting, as most of you will be, you can afford to be less careful because your risk of dehydration is much lower, assuming you’re drinking plenty. I know of people who have done 3 day fasts where they did heavy weight training on each of the 3 days just by supplementing with some sodium and potassium chloride (to help maintain electrolyte balance).
It goes without saying, you should definitely not attempt this as a beginner. Simply take it easy, do some meditation, relax, and wait for it all to be over.
Break Your Fast Properly
Breaking your fast properly is the most important thing to consider.
You want to do it in such a way that doesn’t cause too much shock to your system and also doesn’t result in a massive increase in fat storage or water retention.
Years ago when I was a complete idiot, I once broke a 5 day fast with a massive plate of chicken pad thai and another plate of chicken fried rice. I cleaned those plates up in under 10 minutes!
… C’mon, I was hungry!
How you break your fast is more important if you’ve been dry fasting than water fasting. I will be writing a full guide on the best way to break fasts shortly, but just briefly here’s what you should aim for.
How To Break A Dry Fast?
Break your dry fast initially with some plain water, follow that up 30 minutes later with some watermelon or cranberry juice or bone broth, and 30-60 minutes later, when you feel like it, introduce some lean protein like chicken breast or fish.
If you’ve been water fasting, follow the same rules except you can skip right to the juice since you’ve already been drinking water.
After you’ve been fasting for a while, your digestive system becomes dormant and certain foods can be more challenging to digest when firing it back up. Avoiding carbs and dairy in your first meal after a prolonged fast is generally a good idea.
Make sure the portion size of that first lean protein meal is very small – this isn’t a proper meal and is designed just to get things started back up again. A few hours later, when you’re hungry you can resume eating like normal, but opt for small portion sizes for the rest of the day.
My final piece of advice is to listen to your body. Be safe. If something feels very wrong, it’s better to call it off than to tough it out and hope it’s nothing.
If you have pre-existing medical conditions that you think might get in the way of a prolonged fast, do your research before starting – and it’s probably a good idea to talk to your doctor.
Last but not least, remember to drop a comment below letting me know how your first extended fast went! I’d absolutely love to hear about your experience.