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Health & Nutrition

I Tried A 5 Day Water Fast. Here’s what happened…

At the beginning of this year, I completed a 5-day water fast. That means, I stopped eating for five days and consumed only water! Why would I ever put myself through this kind of torture? Let me explain.

First of all, I did not stop eating in order to drop a bunch of weight and get “quick results.” I did not do this as some extreme New Year’s “cleanse.” The truth is that I have been wanting to try what’s called a “prolonged water fast” for a long time. It may seem crazy, but fasting actually has several physical, mental, and spiritual benefits, that I will elaborate on throughout this post.

For the past two years, I’ve had the goal to complete a 5-day water fast. Finally, I decided it was time to take on the challenge.

The science & benefits of fasting

Fasting has been a spiritual practice for millennia but has become a popular “biohack” in the past few years, due to a growing body of research that supports the health benefits of fasting. It makes sense, given that our ancestors had to survive without food for long periods, and overeating is a contributing factor to many lifestyle-related diseases.

I’ve already tried intermittent fasting, but I wanted to take it up a notch this time.

To learn more about the science and research of water fasting, I spoke with anti-aging and longevity expert, Dr. Betsy Yurth (MD), to learn more about water-fasting and get advice on how to do this the right way.

“Fasting is hugely beneficial,” Dr. Yurth said. “When you start going into a fast that’s more than two days, and your body starts relying on ketones for energy, we start to see a change in the brain.”

What happens to your cells during a fast

Dr. Yurth explained what happens on a cellular level in the body during fasting, and why a prolonged fast can be so beneficial. It all comes down to a process discovered in 2016, known as autophagy. Autophagy is what happens when your cells are not relying on glucose for energy anymore and your body goes into a state of ketosis. What happens on a cellular level are that old, damaged cells start recycling into new, healthy cells.

“And that’s a really good thing,” Dr. Yurth said. “We’ve gotten rid of all the bad proteins and now you can start with new, healthy cells and a clean slate.”

Preparing for my 5-day water fast

Dr. Yurth told me that although the first two days of fasting might be really hard, I could hopefully expect an increase of energy and mental clarity around day three. She advised me to avoid intense physical activity during my fast and give my body plenty of rest. 

Because I was already in Costa Rica for New Year’s with my friend Kiley, we decided to take on this 5-day water fast together.

my PIC for the water fast
My partner-in-crime for this 5-day water fast, Kiley Mac!

We spent the week leading up to our fast at a permaculture community called Punta Mona, eating super nutritious meals, preparing our bodies for the 5-day water fast.

a typical meal leading up to the water fast
A typical meal at Punta Mona, where we spent the week before our fast.
My dream fasting destination

We knew the location for this fast would be important. We definitely wanted to be fully immersed in nature and ensure that we had access to high-quality, mineral-rich drinking water.

After careful consideration, we found the perfect place to do this fast: Rio Perdido Hotel & Thermal River. Rio Perdido is a wellness resort in the middle of nature, running along nourishing thermal hot springs. It has pure, mineral-rich water that would keep us hydrated during our fast. This would be the perfect place to rest & rejuvenate for the week.

the perfect location for our water fast
Rio Perdido was the perfect location for our water fast.
My 5-day water fast 

On the road to Rio Perdido, Kiley and I enjoyed our final meal at a little fruit stand that was the only thing open at night. We had a boatload of bananas, mango, papayas, coconut, avocado, and almonds.

our last meal before our water fast
Our last meal before the fast!

After arriving late at night to Rio Perdido, Kiley and I passed out, gearing up for the 5-day water fast.

Day 1 

I was surprised to naturally wake up at 4:30 AM the next morning with a ton of energy. I spent the morning meditating, journaling, and swimming in the thermal river. For the rest of the day, Kiley and I spent plenty of time drinking in the healing environment at Rio Perdido. 

At sunset, we spent time meditating and journaling along the river and got clear on our intentions for the week.

My intention for this fast was clarity within mind, body, and Spirit. My intention for 2021 is bravery and I knew I would need bravery to complete this challenge.

Day 2

I definitely started noticing the severe hunger kick-in on day two, especially when I saw food for the first time! This was not fun…

Pancakes spotted during my fast was torture
Having to see and smell these fluffy pancakes was torture.

Sleeping a lot and spending time in nature, without the ability to see food, definitely helped make things easier. Both Kiley and I were sure to drink plenty of water, about double the amount we would normally drink, which equaled about each of our weight in ounces each day. 

Day 3
This 5-day water fast was emotionally draining.
I went through a major life event during this fast that I didn’t expect. It made the entire challenge that much harder.

Something happened during this water fast that I am still processing, and I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to share this at all. However, because it was such a significant life event, I feel like I cannot share my experience of this fast without being honest about what happened.

In the middle of my fast, I lost my Grampy, someone who is so important to me. The pain of this loss was horrible. I felt devastated that I was not with him and so far away from my family. I almost quit the fast and booked a plane ticket home to go and be with my family.

But I decided to stick it out… It really came down to knowing what my Grampy himself would be telling me, “Skylah, you gotta do what you gotta do,” he would say. “You gotta stick to it and see it through.” So that’s what I did.

I don’t want to get into all of the details surrounding the grieving process I was going through, but somehow dealing with this loss of my Grampy while fasting seemed to open up my Spirit in a way I didn’t anticipate.

Day 4

Despite being emotionally exhausted, I somehow gained a surge of energy on day four. Kiley and I spent the day in nature again, which was really healing for me.

I need to recognize how grateful and lucky I am to have had Kiley with me during this experience. She helped me so much and was such a fantastic friend during this difficult time. I don’t think that I could have done this without her.

Kiley was my PIC for this water fast
I could not have done this without Kiley by my side!
Day 5

On Day 5, I woke up with severe anxiety. I started questioning myself so much. What if I was actually damaging my body by doing this fast? What if I was ruining my metabolism or self sabotaging all the hard work I had put into my body? My mind started going crazy.

What I really had to practice was complete surrender and trust. Knowing that my body is so strong and healthy and it knows exactly what to do. I really had to work on trusting my body and this process. 

Breaking the 5-day fast 

In order to come off my fast properly, I consulted with Dr. Yurth about the refeeding process. Although refeeding syndrome is rare, especially for young, healthy people, it’s definitely something to be aware of.

“Obviously when you come off your fast, you don’t want to go and eat a whole cheesecake,” Dr. Yurth said. “But we know there are many benefits when coming off a fast.”

Dr. Yurth explained that when we fast, we lower growth hormone called insulin-like growth factor, or IGF. But when we begin to re-feed and come off of a fast, we then get a big surge in IGF. Which means that post fast is a great time to increase muscle, burn fat, and take advantage of this surge in IGF.

“Coming off your fast, you’ll want to consume higher protein and healthy fats and avoid sugar and carbohydrates,” Dr. Yurth said.

That’s to avoid spiking insulin levels too quickly after fasting and to keep the body in a state of ketosis while reintroducing food. I broke my fast with a homemade bone broth from the organic kitchen at Rio Perdido.

I had bone broth to break my 5-day water fast
 I broke my fast with organic bone broth. I’ve never been so happy to eat broth!

The following day, I had green juice with cucumber, celery, lemon, spinach, and then another bone broth. Later in the evening, I introduced solid food again with fish, avocado, and steamed broccoli to start getting more protein and healthy fats for dinner.

green juice to break my water fast
my first solid meal after my water fast
My first solid meal after my fast: local fish, steamed broccoli, and avocado.
finally eating after 5 days of fasting
I was so happy to finally eat again! The gratitude I feel for food has significantly increased after this fast.
My advice for fasting

I learned so much about water fasting and about my body during this experience. Here are my honest thoughts and advice if you are considering doing a fast:

  1. The first thing I want to reiterate is that I would not necessarily recommend this to anyone. Yes, there are benefits, and yes, this was a powerful experience, but it is extreme. Not eating for five days is no joke. I would think deeply about if this is something that would be right for you and consult with a medical professional before embarking on a fast.
  1. If you have a female body, I would highly suggest planning your fast in a way that aligns with your cycle. The best time to do a fast is any other time than the end of your cycle, which is called the luteal phase, about 10-14 days before your period. I didn’t time this well, and I fasted at the end of my cycle. I expected to get my period about two days into the fast, but I did not because I was not eating. Literally, as soon as I had the bone broth, I got my period almost instantly. If I were to do this again, I would absolutely time this differently with my moon cycle. 
  1. If you struggle with your relationship with food, I would not necessarily recommend this, mainly because it’s more likely that you could end up struggling with overeating, relapsing, and binges after the fast. I have done so much work around my relationship with food over the past few years, and have still noticed some of these unhealthy tendencies around food come back into my psyche. You have to be super intentional and careful about what you’re eating after a fast, and having those kinds of restrictions is not suitable for me.
My honest reflection

With all of this being said, I am so happy I did this and super proud of myself for finishing it. I’ve had this goal for a long time, and more than anything, I feel a lot of strength from overcoming this major challenge.

On a spiritual level, the week was super challenging for me, having lost someone I love dearly, but I feel such a deep connection with my Grampy’s spirit, and I can feel him with me, cheering me on into this new year. There’s a lot I want to accomplish this year, and I have started the year overcoming such a big challenge. I feel a ton of strength to go full speed ahead into 2021 and am ecstatic to execute all of these visions and dreams for the upcoming year. 

How to get the benefits of fasting without actually fasting

Say what…. You mean to tell me I didn’t have to go through five days of torture to get the benefits of fasting?! You mean there is a way to actually get the health benefits of fasting without actually having to go through it?! Well… sort of. Let me explain, because if fasting feels too intimidating for you, then this is a pretty darn good alternative.

Dr. Yurth let me in on a little secret. It’s a supplement with a hilarious name that I almost completely discredited at first until Dr. Yurth filled me in on how incredible this supplement truly is. It’s called SpermidineLIFE. So how does it work?

“Spermidine actually helps your body get into autophagy, naturally,” Dr. Yurth said. “We know that the places that have high levels of spermidine in their diets actually live longer.”

Not only does spermidine help induce autophagy in the body, but research shows that it can also improve brian function, increase hair growth, and slow down aging. 

To learn more, be sure to check out this interview on Bulletproof Radio, where Dr. Yurth discusses the magic of spermidine with Dave Asprey.

Categories
Health & Nutrition

30 Days of Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has become one of the most popular health trends over the past few years. Both scientific research and anecdotal evidence suggests that fasting has major benefits for the body and mind. 

I’ve been curious about intermittent fasting for a while, and after reading several articles and watching a plethora of videos about its benefits, I wanted to put it to the test to see if it could work for me.

Before my experiment, I decided to interview a medical doctor and fasting expert named Dr. Jason Fung, to learn more about the science and research on intermittent fasting.

Dr. Fung is the medical director of The Fasting Method, and uses fasting and intermittent fasting protocols to help his patients reverse Type 2 Diabetes, lose weight, and overcome other health issues. 

First, Dr. Fung cleared up some of the misconceptions about fasting.

“When you’re fasting, you are not actually shutting down your body,” he clarified. “Your body is actually pumping you full of energy.”

Dr. Fung explained that intermittent fasting is not a diet, it’s a pattern of eating. Intermittent fasting does not restrict the types of foods you can eat or the amount of calories you can consume, it simply restricts the times of day that you eat.

Generally, an intermittent fasting period is anywhere from 12-16 hours, but can also be practiced for longer periods of time. Fasts that are 24 hours or more have also been shown to have massive benefits, because of a process called autophagy, where old damaged cells die and new, healthier cells reform. 

Dr. Fung explained that when we fast, our insulin levels decrease and we get a surge of counter-regulatory hormones including growth hormone.

“Everyone thinks that if you fast you are going to lose muscle,” he said. “That’s actually not true because growth hormone increases during fasting. When you start to eat again, your body will start to build proteins at a higher and more efficient rate.”

My 30-day experiment

I had already tried intermittent fasting for one week previously with my friend Eduardo for another video, so this time I wanted to try intermittent fasting for a longer period of time to really measure how it would affect my mind and my body. 

I want to make it clear that intermittent fasting is not about starving yourself. It’s a scientifically proven method that has helped many people with various health issues. Although intermittent fasting can definitely help with weight loss, it has also been shown to have several other benefits, including more cognitive clarity and focus. For me, I wasn’t necessarily looking to lose weight, but I was curious to see if intermittent fasting could help me increase productivity and overall energy. 

Week 1 

Going into this experiment, I was definitely a little nervous about how my body would react. I tend to get really hungry, especially on days when I workout, so I had to gear myself up mentally to take on this challenge.

I decided to stick to a 14-hour fasting period, which means I would have a 10-hour window where I could eat during the day. It’s very common for people to skip breakfast when they intermittent fast, but that doesn’t always work for me. Sometimes, I don’t feel hungry for breakfast, but since I like to workout in the morning, I needed to make sure I was eating afterwards to replenish and refuel.

I decided the best strategy for me would be to stop eating earlier in the evening around 5 or 6 pm, so I could hit an early workout and then eat breakfast afterwards around 8 am. Although it was a little tough not eating at night, I felt like this really improved my sleep and I woke up feeling way more refreshed and energized.

Week 2

One challenge with intermittent fasting is the additional time and effort it takes to schedule meals around the fasting period. My day-to-day schedule is never the same, so I had to be extra deliberate about when I was eating and what kind of food I was consuming to make sure I was satiated enough.

Although I was starting to get used to my new eating schedule after the first two weeks, the thought of keeping it up for another two weeks was a bit daunting. 

Week 3

During this week I definitely ran into some challenges. One day I went to hot yoga in the morning but had to wait another two hours afterwards to eat and found myself feeling really hungry and depleted. 

Socially, I also found this challenge a bit difficult,  because if I wanted to go out to eat with friends in the evening, I would have to wait even longer to eat the next day.

Week 4

By the end of this challenge, I was definitely getting the hang of this. Once I had my schedule down, intermittent fasting became way easier. 

What was the most surprising to me is how much this challenge actually helped me find more freedom with food. I found that I had increased energy and mental capacity because my body and mind were not as focused on eating and digesting food.

This challenge also made me super grateful to have access to good quality food! I am very lucky and realize that a large percentage of the population has to be concerned about  where their next meal is coming from. This experience definitely made me think more about the magnitude of what others might go through in regards to food scarcity. It felt a bit silly for me to complain about my hunger, when so many people around the world are dealing with actual hunger every single day.

My results after 30 days

At the end of my 30 day experiment, I did notice a change in my body. I felt great, and also saw physical changes as well from my before and after pictures.

Intermittent fasting pleasantly surprised me. It allowed me to appreciate food even more than I already did, and develop a healthier relationship with food. This is definitely something that I plan to continue and implement in my life regularly. 

All of our bodies are completely different, and are going to react differently to different things. If you want to try intermittent fasting, I encourage you to do so, but make sure you go into it with clear intentions, and be open-minded to what you might learn through the process!