Why A 5 Day Water Fast?
There are many reasons why one would fast. Let me explain to you the journey I took in the last month that brought me to this fasting experiment.
I'm a diabetic. It's been over 20 years now since I was diagnosed in 1996 at the age of 13. I see the doctor every 6 months, give or take, and have my HbA1c taken. Mine is usually in the 7-8 range. While this is high, it's not something I've worried about a whole lot. Over the years, I've done low carb, paleo, gluten free, almost no carb, but have only once in this time gotten an HbA1c result below 7. The last doctor's appointment in February had my HbA1c at 8.6. The doctor was not happy, and I decided I was going to show him.
The doctor suggested I see a nutritionist, but I really didn't see the point. I know what to do, I just got lazy and was enjoying that chocolate, popcorn, ice cream, corn chips a few too many times every week. I knew what to do, I just wasn't doing it. Now was the time to fix my diet. Judo is my sport and I want to compete in an event at the end of April. Since I compete in the 70 kg weight class, but my weight has been hovering around 76 kg, I needed to get my butt in gear if I was going to drop 6 kg in a couple of months.
In order to motivate myself, I started researching on the web again. Visiting my favorite hunting grounds of paleo and keto diets, I came across the Bulletproof Diet, which I had heard about before, but never really looked at it. It seemed like a new approach to the same problem, so I wanted to read his take on it. This lead me down eating a ton of butter, trying to intermittent fast, and overall eating less and having much better blood sugars. I would still go out to eat and eat those corn chips, or eat way too much protein in a meal causing my blood sugar to spike, but instead of spending hours above 300 mg/dL, my sugars were only in the 200 mg/dL range for a shorter period of time.
While reading websites, I read about Bullet Proof's 5 day fat only diet which intrigued me, but why just eat fat? I also ran into two research papers that just hit the news: FMD improves bio markers including diabetes and FMD in mice helps regenerate insulin producing cells in mice. This lead me to look at the Fast Mimicking Diet (FMD) but I didn't understand how it was fasting with all those carbs, and in general all that food. Along with these articles, I read a variety of articles that said it's dangerous for type 1 diabetics to fast which I disagree with. It might be harder due to insulin, but it isn't any more dangerous in my opinion.
With all these ideas floating in my head, I decided on a plan.
The diet plan
I have to go back to the doctor on May 15th, so I have just under 3 months to see how low I can get my HbA1c. The articles about the benefits of the fast mimicking diet say you follow the fast for 5 days, and then eat normally for 25 days, then repeat for 3 months. If I fast this week, fast in a month, and then fast the following month, I can end my fast the day I see the doctor.
Since I was unsure how this would go, a 5 day fast was going to be my goal. From there, I would see where and how it goes, then determine next steps. I decided I wanted to do a water fast because in my opinion adding any sort of food, meant this wasn't a fast. One exception I was planning to make was it necessary, is to eat smarties to increase my blood sugar if it got dangerously low.
Types of water
Now let's talk about my definition of water. I love hot tea, many days I drink it all day long, switching from black tea, to herbal tea, to chamomile tea, depending on my mood but still nice flavored water. There was no giving this up for a fasting experiment.
My doctor told me my vitamin D is low, and prescribed vitamin D supplements. This means that only the last blood test came back in a decent range as I was taking 5000 UI of vitamin D a day. Taking vitamin D was important to me to keep as a daily supplement. I also occasionally take Natural Calm before I go to bed. The other thing I started to do recently as I dropped my carbohydrate intake is add Pink Himalayan Sea Salt to my water. As this makes the water taste almost sweet to me, I enjoy it. I figured all of these supplement would help keep my body functioning better and hopefully make the exit from the fast smoother.
My safety blanket
One other note going into this. I told myself if there were issues, I could always quit early and try it again another time. Taking into account how I felt and where life took me was more important than just doing a 5 day fast. Now let's get into the actual fast.
Feeding Prior to the fast
I was out of town the weekend before I started the fast. I expected to eat a bunch of not good stuff and struggle at the beginning of the fast, but due to my schedule, I ate eggs with lots of yummy veggies on both Saturday and Sunday for breakfast. My dinner on Saturday was lots of yummy BBQ meat without too much sugar, although sadly not none. I also had a salad with the meal. On Sunday, lunch was a yummy salad, and dinner was a burger and diet pepsi. Dinner was my last meal so that is when I started my clock for my fast which was about 7 pm on Sunday. This whole weekend was fairly low carb and overall not gluttonous which I think helped my fast.
Monday - Day 1:
Weight was 73.5 kg when I woke up, which was lower than it had been, but I've been slowly dropping weight as I've been getting closer and closer to ketogenic and less calories in my diet.
I felt good through the day, but was slightly worried about my planned judo practice that evening. Not sure what energy I would have but I was going to give it a go. Unfortunately, a snow storm blew through and ended these plans. I wasn't so upset as I think not really working out on my first fast was an okay idea. Make note I managed to lock myself out of my house, and the energy I used to get back in the house spiked my blood sugar. This required a tiny bit of insulin to bring it down.
Tuesday - Day 2:
Weight was 72.7 kg when I woke up. This means I lost .8 kg in the first day of fasting. Overall, I'm happy to see the movement. I slept in today because it was snowing and that was my excuse. When I went out to shovel snow, I felt like I lacked energy to shovel the snow. Usually I enjoy this, but I gave up pretty quickly and just drove over it. The little bit of exercise I did spiked my sugar as well, so I took a tiny bit of insulin to bring it back down. Other than that, the day wasn't bad. I felt a little bit of hunger in the afternoon, but nothing too bad. When I drank water, especially my salted water, the hunger really went down.
Wednesday - Day 3:
Weight was 72.0 kg when I woke up. Not as much as the day before, but still .7 kg. This day was awful. I felt much more hungry than the previous two days. This surprised me because other write-ups I read on fasting said after day 2, things got easier. My blood sugars kept rising during the day as well. This upset me as I didn't do anything I thought would cause the rise. I had to take a little insulin in the evening to get my sugars back below 140 mg/dl. I also noticed one of the symptoms of fasting I read about, a white tongue.
Thursday - Day 4:
Weight was 71.2 kg when I woke up. Another .8 kg has come off. I'm excited to be almost down to the weight I like to sit at. Today was the first day during my fast where I had a bowel movement. Since I have taken in no foods that should be in my intestines, I thought this was important to note.
I went to judo practice this evening and wanted to talk a little about my experience. I was not doing a hard workout, but instead walking through some movements with my partner and a few lifts and throws. For the most part, it was good, but I definitely ran out of energy quicker and started feeling out of breath sooner than I would have normally. We called it an early night, but I was happy to note I didn't feel the fasting hurt our practice much. After practice, my sugars were above 140 mg/dL again. This may have been from the exercise, or the evening rise I seem to be getting. I took a little insulin when I got home to help with this.
Friday - Day 5:
Weight was 70.3 kg this morning. This was another .9 kg. I'm going to assume the extra .1 kg was due to the bowel movement the day before. It also excites me that I'm only .3 kg off of making weight for my competition at the end of April. I expect it will go up in the next week or so, but I should easily be able to be under weight by the time I need to.
Today I felt pretty good. I was ready for the fast to be over and eat some food, but only because I felt like I needed a little energy boost. Energy to think and do things was not a problem, so since I had a few hours to kill before I could eat, I cleaned my kitchen. It was nice to have it clean before the dirtying it down again started.
I broke my fast about 7:15 pm. Beef stock I had been making for the last two days was my meal of choice. Some of the meat that fell off the bones I was cooking, along with some onion and celery that I put in the stock was part of my mug of soup, but all I really wanted was the liquid. I had about 3 mugs full of the stock.
I did take a little much insulin to cover this as I thought the protein would do more to my sugars, but I let the low sugars go as I felt no effects from them. Here is a blog post about why I wasn't concerned. The main thing he states is "The alternative energy that ketones supply to the brain may prevent or blunt the sympathoadrenal response to hypoglycemia which in turn reduces or eliminates the symptoms of and harm from hypoglycemia."
I woke up with my weight being 70.4 kg. This is up .1 kg from the day before. It is amazing that just a few cups of bone broth stopped my weight loss completely. I assume most of the weight increase is due to the protein and other components holding more water in my system.
Reading the internet, there are many opinions on re-feeding, and how you should take it slow. I figured that if I really had issues, my stomach would tell me. So I decided I was going for broke. I also didn't want to worry about my food macro nutrients today and just eat the food I wanted. So lets discuss what I ate.
Turkey bacon and eggs with onion and broccoli cooked together was breakfast. I also pulled out a bag of chocolate drizzled popcorn which I munched on most of the morning. That held me over until around dinner time, when I decided to make a tomato sauce and mozzarella dish. This is my gluten free alternative to pizza. As well, more beef broth was on the menu so I ate quite a bit for dinner, and never felt full to the state of bursting. I enjoyed this, and knew this was a little overboard with food, but decided It didn't matter so much as I was breaking a fast.
Today my weight was at 71.4 kg upon waking. I managed to gain a whole kilogram back in 1 day, which was not surprising since I knew I ate quite a bit. I decided that today I would still allow myself to eat a little bit of junk, but tomorrow it's back to a good ketogenic diet. After the food I ate yesterday, my blood sugars were not happy. As fasting and this experiment was to focus on getting a much better HbA1c, I need to not let the feeding periods undermine it all.
Sleep While Fasting
Since I have read a lot of questions and comments about sleep quality, I thought talking about my sleep while fasting was a useful piece of information for everyone. I happen to have a fitbit and it tracks my sleep, so I've included the data from the fitbit.
Sunday night I didn't get home until late from my weekend away so I didn't get to bed very early. I did sleep pretty soundly through the night as you can see, but not a ton of sleep. Fasting had little impact on this as it was just the beginning.
Monday night I went to bed at a reasonable hour, and since there was snow on the ground Tuesday morning, I choose to sleep in. As you can see, I got almost 10 hours of sleep. This was needed more to catch up from missing sleep this weekend, than the fast. I do believe the sleep made Tuesday a better fasting day.
Tuesday night was a little more fitful. As you can see here, I was probably waking up every hour. I will note I did get to bed nice and early. Also note, even though unclear in the graph, I got a work phone call in the middle of the night and was mostly awake for about an hour between 2 and 3 am.
Wednesday night I went to sleep exceptionally early. I was feeling tired and didn't see a point trying to stay up. As I had mentioned above in my notes, I didn't have the easiest day on Wednesday. Going to bed seemed like the simple and easy solution.
Thursday night was a shorter night, but I slept pretty soundly. Due to judo practice there was no going to bed early, which meant I had 8 hours for sleeping. As you can see here, I slept very well this night of fasting.
Sleep data from the week of fasting shows that the fasting didn't affect my sleep much. More sleep than normal was required, but if I went to bed too early, I tossed and turned more. This seemed to be the problem with going to bed before the sun. Next time I want to try staying up until dark, but also allow for 9 hours of sleeping. I feel shooting for 9 hours of sleep should keep me well rested and ready to attack the day without food.
Non Numerical Results
Some things are hard to measure, but no less important. I have had a nagging shoulder issue that has been bothering me for over a year now. It is noticeably better after fasting. While practicing judo for the first time since fasting, I protected it less. I did feel overall weaker as I worked out, but also lighter on my feet.
Overall Feelings on the Fast
Going into the fast, I was apprehensive on how it would go. I've never gone this long without food before unless I was really sick. I was also concerned that my blood sugars would make this difficult. A couple of things I'd like to note:
- Besides wanting more sleep, my brain felt perfectly fine through the fast.
- Would have liked to see my blood sugars stay more level and a tiny bit lower during the fast. This is one thing I'll focus on next time.
- Felt good, even after the end of the fast. I was more productive this week. When I was being lazy, I felt like I really should be doing things instead of just laying around. Just from this alone, I want to do this more often.
- Focus more on the diet following the fast. After this fast, I let myself eat whatever I wanted. This lead to poor quality food choices, and too much quantity.
- Most people are curious folks, so they ask why you are fasting, how you feel, and if it was beneficial. I wrote this to answer many of those questions, and I was happy to explain it to other people in my life as long as they didn't try to judge me for doing something unconventional.
As I'm writing this up, and the fast is over, I'm looking at the future. I want to look at more information about working out while fasting. There is a lot of information on 24 hour fasts where you are going to eat after the workout, but very little about working out on an extended fast. I want to look more into what data everyone would like to see posted about in the next fast post. I didn't think about all the data that others would be interested in when I started the fast. Weight, sleep and blood sugars is all you got, since those are things I track always. Please leave any thoughts in the comments about what you would like in the next post.