Every time you complete an extended fast, you learn a lot and improve your process. I’ve done enough prolonged fasting now that I truly feel like I’ve got it down to a science.
Here’s a list of the most important and useful stuff to keep in mind before you begin your prolonged fast. This is my complete pre-fast checklist for optimizing results!
Detox From Caffeine 2 Days Beforehand
If you’re anything like me, you may be seriously addicted to coffee. Going cold turkey on the caffeine as you begin your fast is a terrible idea. Here’s why.
Caffeine withdrawals don’t affect everyone. If you’re lucky, you can go cold turkey and won’t have symptoms. For me personally, I only get symptoms about half the time. But when I do get caffeine withdrawals, it comes in the form of an absolutely brutal headache about 24 hours after I have my last coffee.
Usually a headache could be taken care of with some ibuprofen or paracetamol, but since we’re going to be fasting, we don’t want to be putting this toxic junk into our body, especially not on an empty stomach. If you’re dry fasting, good luck swallowing that pill with no water and a dry mouth!
This is why I always recommend playing it safe by taking your last cup of coffee no sooner than 48 hours before you begin your fast. If you get that headache from hell, take a painkiller and you’ll be past the worst of it and in good shape to start fasting.
What To Eat Before A Prolonged Fast
You don’t have to follow my advice here, but it is so valuable and one of the best optimisations you can make if you want the best possible results out of your extended fast.
For best fasting results, eat a strict keto diet for 2-4 days beforehand so you will be in ketosis prior to the fast allowing your body to better adjust to having depleted glycogen stores. Also eat a high fat, high salt final meal to ensure satiety as you enter the fast, keeping stomach distensity to a minimum which will reduce hunger as you begin the fast.
Some people are totally happy to just smash a giant pizza and tub of ice cream for their final meal before going on a week long fast. We’ve all been there. That’s totally fine too, you do you.
Everyone says the first 48 hours of any extended fast is by far the worst. But by following my recommendations you will make the first 48 hours a walk in the park.
Go Full Keto 2-4 Days Out
The reason we do this is to drain our body of glycogen and switch from sugar burning mode to fat burning mode (ketosis) in a controlled manner.
Without keto, you will still do this eventually just by beginning your fast, but if you’ve been eating carbs beforehand, that transition is much more jarring on your body because it’s still expecting carbohydrates that it won’t be receiving.
This may cause muscle catabolism which we absolutely want to avoid by easing into ketosis by eating mostly fat and protein for a few days beforehand.
Final Meal: High Fat, High Salt, High Omega-3s
What you eat directly before you begin fasting is one of the most important things to get right.
The reason you should have a high fat meal before the fast is because fat is highly satiating, meaning you will feel full on a relatively low volume of food. And the reason you want to keep the volume of food low is to keep your stomach as small as possible going into the fast.
If you have a huge meal before your fast, your stomach will expand. If you go into your fast with an expanded stomach, you’ll be a lot hungrier in that critical first 48 hours than if you’d had a small meal and kept your stomach nice and tight.
You want to load up on the salt on this last meal as well as we’re trying to stock up on electrolytes which will quickly be depleted from our body once we stop eating. No electrolytes means no energy.
Having some food high in omega-3s is a great idea for your last meal too. Fish oil is pure fat and quite slow acting which means it’ll still be benefiting you well into the fast. Omega-3s will help prime your cells boosting the effects of autophagy.
Buy Your Post-Fast Supplies Beforehand
If you’re doing a prolonged water fast, this one is completely optional. However, if you’re doing a long dry fast, it is probably a good idea to get all of your shopping and errands done before you begin.
On a long dry fast, you’re constantly drained and even going to the shops to pick a few things up can feel like a marathon.
While that won’t usually be a problem, you just want to avoid it in case something super unfortunate happens. Like maybe your motorbike breaks down on the way there and you’re stuck walking around in the sun, which could quickly become dangerous if you’re days into a hard dry fast.
Make Some Snake Juice
For all my water fasters, Cole Robinson’s “snake juice” is going to be your secret sauce that will give you energy to do just about anything while on a prolonged fast.
It’s simply water mixed with some electrolytes.
To make a day’s worth of snake juice, mix 1 teaspoon of sodium chloride (pink Himalayan salt) and 1 teaspoon of potassium chloride (‘No Salt’ , ‘Lo Salt’, or ‘Salt Free’ depending on what’s available where you are) with 1 liter of plain water and shake it up well.
You can throw in some food grade epsom salt as well for magnesium if you like, but sodium and potassium are the most important ones. I should also mention that I have halved the recommendation made by Cole (2spn of each salt down to 1) as many people have reported this amount of electrolyte intake while fasting causing gut and colon issues.
Listen to your body. If you feel as though you need more electrolytes/are dizzy or lightheaded/lethargic, it’s fine to consume up to twice this amount of snake juice per day. But start small and add more as needed.
Sip on it throughout the day and you’ll be good to go. If you’re planning on still hitting the gym while water fasting, which is perfectly fine by the way, make sure you have some snake juice handy to keep those electrolytes in!
Know What To Expect
If you’re about to embark on a long fast and you’re a little nervous, I find knowing exactly what’s about to happen to your body is a good way to settle those nerves. If you’re water fasting, don’t expect all of these symptoms, but you will have some.
Dry fasters, this is a complete list of what to expect!
Hunger – Obviously.
Dry Mouth – This will come to be the most annoying symptom to deal with and will set in around 16-24 hours in.
Extreme Lethargy – You’re losing electrolytes quickly, so expect to become very weak.
Dizziness, Lightheadedness, & Coldness – Entering into a hypertonic state will cause your blood volume to decrease, meaning it’s more difficult for your heart to pump blood throughout your body and to reach your extremities (like your brain). This will result in lightheadedness and coldness in your hands and feet.
Heart Palpitations – For the same reason as above, your heart is working overtime to move blood throughout your body. You will get some crazy violent heart palpitations at some point! Relax, you’re not having a heart attack!
Kidney Pain – Expect a mild aching in the side of your abdomen. This is because your kidneys are also working late to kick toxins from your body.
Slight Cramping – Mainly because of the lack of electrolytes and dehydration.
Disgusting, Black Stool – Thank your kidneys for doing this. The blackness literally means old rotting fecal matter.
Potent, Gritty Urine – Expect a vibrant yellow or orange, often with sediment. Again this is the pure filth coming out of your kidneys.
Diarrhea After Breaking The Fast – You may be able to avoid this if you break your fast extremely slowly and gently, but it’s pretty normal to get the runs after your first meal post-fast. Your colon is just a bit sleepy still, that’s all.
Remember all of these things are perfectly normal and to be expected.
Now when you’re being kept awake at night by those crazy heart palpitations, you can rest easy knowing your body isn’t malfunctioning.
Begin With The End In Mind
You need to think about the big picture. What eating protocol are you planning on doing after the prolonged fast? Do you want to go back to eating pizza and ice cream everyday? Will you go into an intermittent fasting protocol? How much more weight do you have to lose?
Know Your Purpose & Make It Clear
Everyone has a different reason for doing an extended fast. For some it’s for healing medical and mental conditions (like skin problems or addictions). For others it’s purely about weight loss. Know why you’re doing this.
Know what your goals are. Know exactly how this extended fast fits in as a stepping stone from where you are to where you want to be.
Are you 50lbs overweight? Great. Do your 7 day water fast. Finished it? Good job. Now what? How about OMAD for a week and then start mixing in the occasional 72 hour fast until you reach your target weight?
If you like, take some progress pictures before and after. Measure your waist. This is a good way of reminding yourself what’s possible in what timeframe. It’s motivating to see tangible, numbers-based evidence of your hard work.
And everyone loves to see an epic transformation!
Maybe you’re doing fasting for a medical condition, say diabetes. If that’s you, maybe it would be a good idea to get some blood tests done before and after to see what changes occurred biochemically.
Know exactly how you’re going to break your fast and what eating/fasting protocol you’re going to go into afterwards. It’s such a pity to see people complete a 7 day fast and then go back to eating 3-4 meals a day and gaining almost all of the weight back.
Use this prolonged fast as a new beginning. Don’t allow yourself to go back to your old ways until you reach your weight loss target. And at that point, you won’t want to go back to your old ways!
If you are still overweight, after your prolonged fast you should have a small refeed and then either go straight back into another prolonged fast or some sort of aggressive intermittent fasting protocol until you reach your target weight!
Watch Motivational Videos
This one is kind of cheesy but honestly works wonders.
A day or two before you start the fast, watch/listen to a few inspiring/motivational videos on YouTube. There’s thousands. You’ll get so amped up that there will be no way for you to quit!
There’s something really powerful about having David Goggins screaming at you on the internet! You should try it!
Everybody comes to a point in their life when they want to quit. But it’s what you do at that moment that determines who you are – David Goggins
If you do all of the things I’ve talked about here, your fast will not only be easier to complete, but you will see better results across the board. I can guarantee it.
If you don’t do any of the things I’ve mentioned, you can still get through a prolonged fast and you will still see great benefits. I won’t hit you with the,
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail…
You don’t have to do this stuff. It’ll just make things a lot smoother.
At the end of the day all it takes to crush any long duration fast is a winning mindset and a little wherewithal and you’ll be fine.