Fasting – what is it? Why do it? This is my own experience with a 21-day water fast: my plan, how I survived, what kept me going, and my amazing water fast results. Please consult your doctor before any major diet changes.
Quarantine weight gain, anyone? How about freshman 15 (or is that 25?)?
Water fasting is a topic that I’ve read about for years and have always wanted to try it out, although I’ve always felt it was slightly taboo. “Are you mentally okay?” “Is this an eating disorder?” “Why would you not eat?” – of course, these would be my own made-up judgments that I would imagine others thinking. In practice, it turns out, like most things, I didn’t really care for other’s opinions, and chose to really only share what I was doing with people who wouldn’t judge me: my partner, family, and…well, Reddit’s incredible fasting and water fasting communities.
Why did I do an extended water fast and what are fasting benefits?
Other than sheer curiosity and desire to see what my body can do, I wanted to:
- Experience autophagy: that is when your body breaks down old/bad cells and generates new ones. Out with the old, in with the new!
- Detox: Similar to autophagy, getting rid of toxins that have been building up for 30-odd years.
- Test ketosis out again: relive some of the nice and not-so-nice symptoms that ketosis brings.
- Weight loss, of course! I was officially overweight which is simply not healthy for my body. It’s stressful mentally and physically (especially on my hip joints!), and doing nothing will absolutely make it worse. Fasting for weight loss is a common solution that works!
What do you drink on a water fast?
Surprisingly, not just water! I drank plenty of herbal teas, plain soda water, and I also drank an electrolyte salt mixture which kept my body in check. Your body needs essential minerals to thrive. The formula for fasting juice (sometimes referred to as “snake juice”) was:
- 1/2 tsp Food grade Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate – Magnesium is important for many processes in the body, including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure and making protein, bone, and DNA.)
- 1 tsp Lo-Salt (potassium chloride – Potassium is essential for the function of the heart, muscles, kidneys, nerves, and digestive system)
- 1/2 tsp Pink Himalayan Salt (Sodium chloride (NaCl – salt) – an essential compound our body uses to absorb and transport nutrients, maintain blood pressure, and maintain the right balance of fluid.)
- 1 tsp Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate – often used to treat conditions caused by high acidity in the body, such as heartburn, which is a common side effect when fasting.)
- Mix this up in 2 liters of water.
It tasted absolutely disgusting, and I definitely didn’t drink enough of it. Before my next fast, I want to experiment with making this drink-able.
Was I hungry during my fast?
YES! Every day, but not all day. I definitely wanted to eat, but the cravings weren’t strong enough for me to break the fast.
What about day-to-day life? Was that pretty normal during the fast or did I take 3 weeks off?
It was mostly normal. The first week was very difficult with the headaches and body aches, but after that, it was pretty easy to get on with life and work. I work as a VA for food bloggers and maybe I’m slightly desensitized to food videos and recipe posts because of it, but work was fine, possibly more productive than usual. Outside of work, I was able to cook meals for my partner without tasting them. He eats a lot of things that I try to avoid so the food (ridiculous Mac & Cheese and a stir-fry with regular wheat and soy-containing soy sauce) wasn’t tempting to me anyway. He made some amazing Thai Red Curry (including the paste from scratch) which was definitely tempting though!
Exercise during a water fast
I kept exercise to a minimum. Usually, I enjoy HIIT, hula hooping, roller skating, and yoga. During the fast, I stuck to walking and yoga. I just didn’t have the energy for intense exercise.
How do you stay motivated throughout the fast?
For me it was two things:
- Determination: when I really put my mind to something, there’s little that can stop me.
- The number on the scale: It moved down effortlessly. My water fast results were incredible. It was amazing to watch!
My 21 Day Water Fast Diary
After day 9 it’s not very detailed, because nothing really changed.
- Day 1: Pretty much normal. Hunger was normal, nothing too crazy. Good Sleep.
- Day 2: Slight headache. I went for a long walk, felt fine but tired around 5pm. Hungrier, but taking supplements so it’s bearable. Sleep is fine.
- Day 3. Woke up with a headache and feeling generally fatigued. I took supplements with water and felt more energetic. Still hungry, but it comes and goes.
- Day 4: Massive hip, lower back, and leg pain. Headache is pretty much gone. Hunger pretty much gone.
- Day 5: Felt great most of the day. Slight pain in the evening right before bed, but a heating pad took care of that nicely.
- Day 6: Felt pretty normal, a little more tired than usual. No more pains.
- Day 7. Had a bowel movement. Felt tired all day, and hungry. Upped my water intake.
- Day 8: Feeling a bit better – less tired, taking more electrolytes really does help.
- Days 9 – 12: Feel great! Occasionally tired but overall good. Can’t exercise too hard – walking for 20 minutes seems to make me more tired but I feel good after. Plenty of yoga. Bowel movements days 9 and 11.
- Days 13-21: No real change. Overall still a bit hungry (definitely want to eat), but nothing that I can’t mentally fight through. Feeling weak after exercise.
Daily water fast results:
- 66.6kg (146.8 lbs)
- 63.1 kg
- 57.5kg (126.7 lbs)
Total loss: 9.1kg (20 lbs)
How I broke my water fast:
Having heard of refeeding syndrome, eating again was the main worry of my fast. After some research around the internet and Reddit, I decided that it was probably something I didn’t need to worry about too much. Generally, from the cases I read, this refeeding syndrome happens to severely malnourished people, and that just wasn’t me. If I fasted past 30 days it would be more of a concern.
My brother (who did his first extended fast in January) had an old book on fasting and breaking a longer fast. I loosely followed the advice for two days and then…had steak and chips. I do not recommend that (!), and next time I’ll move much more slowly into eating regular food. But here’s what I ate to get back into the swing of things (and I now feel fine):
My initial breaking of the fast:
Day 1: 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a pint of water, 250g passata (tomato juice) diluted 1:1 with water, and 1 knorr chicken stock pot added. It tasted amazing, just like tomato soup. I drank this slowly over about 3-4 hours. Then I had some apple juice, and eventually kimchi and sauerkraut for dinner. Felt great.
Day 2: More of the same, plus some eggs. Felt great.
Day 3: Steak, shrimp, fries: felt terrible.
How to break an extended water fast – the proper way!
- Day 1: Start off with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar in a pint of water, then mix 250g passata (tomato juice) diluted 1:1 with water, and 1 chicken stock pot, OR have bone broth instead of the diluted passata (this would be ideal). Drink this slowly over about 3-4 hours. For dinner, try having kimchi/sauerkraut/fermented vegetables to help with healthy gut bacteria. If you’re not concerned about ketosis, add fruit juice. Keeping low carb? Skip it!
- Day 2: Same as day 1, plus salad veggies/vegetables with high water content like tomatoes. Add in a plant-based protein shake if hungry.
- Day 3: All of the above plus chunky veg, fruit (if not doing keto), and maybe an egg or 2. If you’re not lactose intolerant, you can add kefir or yogurt for some extra good gut bacteria.
- Days 4-6: Make a chunky veg soup for the next 2-3 days. Try some avocado and maybe a few nuts too. Calories should be getting close to around 1000 per day. Experiment with spices (but nothing too crazy because you don’t want to upset the stomach! Herbs are good).
- Days 7-14: Eat mostly vegan, but try some lean meat. Ideally start with some light fish, moving over the next week onto light poultry and eventually red meats, fatty fish, and dark poultry. Calorie intake should be close to normal.
- Days 14-21: Experiment with adding dairy and grains. Try adding them one at a time (e.g. butter day 14, cheese day 15, rice day 16, gluten-free crackers day 17, wheat bread day 18) to see if any gut issues come up.
Recipes to try (when not fasting!)
- Whole30 Ramen Eggs (Ajitama)
- The Best Vegan Stir Fry
- Apple Pie Smoothie
- Lahanodolmades (Greek Stuffed Cabbage Leaves)
- Paleo Greek Stuffed Tomatoes
Have you ever tried fasting? I’d love to know <3 Tag me on Facebook and Instagram, Pin it on Pinterest, or leave a star rating review or comment below! Don’t forget to sign up to the email list for sparkly new recipes and fasting tips in your inbox =]
- measuring spoons
- 2 liter jug
- 1/2 tsp Food Grade Epsom salts
- 1/2 tsp Pink Himalayan Salt
- 1 tsp Lo-Salt
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 2 liters water
- Mix all of the ingredients in a 2 liter jug of water.
- Drink over the course of one day.
- Mix with herbal tea for a better flavor.