Is fasting going to murder me?
May 11, 2017 9:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to do a 10 day water fast. I don't think this will murder me, for several reasons. Also I will probably quit after one day, so that's a big one. Is there anything in particular I should know or prepare for? Or prepare to consume ( vitamins?) to stave off <thing>. Have you done something similar before? What was your experience?
posted by so fucking future to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is a doable thing for some people. It may or may not be doable for you. If you've never fasted before, I think a 10 day water fast might be a bit intense.

The big danger is super low blood sugar making you faint. You can train your body to go into fasting mode, but not all at once. You get how Couch to 5k is a process? You don't just hop up, wipe off the Cheeto crumbs and blast down the street for 3 miles. This is a process too :)

Maybe start with a one day juice fast (veggie juice with a little fruit, not just fruit juice) and see how it feels. If you can handle that, try two days next time. Wait at least a week between fasts. If you can do a 10 day juice fast, try a 1 day water fast and build up from there.

If you can do it all? Great! If not? Also fine. Some people can't fast at all. Some can do a few days, but not on a water fast. It's ok to not be able to fast, it's not a sign of weakness, it's just how your body works.
posted by ananci at 9:26 PM on May 11, 2017 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Once, when I was in my 20s, I did this for 5 days. I'd never done anything like it before. If I remember right, the first two days I was pretty hungry, the second three days not so much. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. On the other hand, I wouldn't say I really got anything out of doing it.
posted by escabeche at 9:37 PM on May 11, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: A few years back I was frustrated about some things in my life that I couldn't control, so I went on my own private (and secret from my partner, which meant I had to hide the food I would have been eating) hunger strike.

It wasn't a complete fast though, because I had a half pint of milk with my coffee every morning. After very smooth sailing at first, during which I had more energy than usual and lots more time, I developed a sudden headache accompanied by mental confusion and weakness on the afternoon of the 5th day, sat down at the kitchen table, found myself staring at the salt shaker, and realized I probably wasn't getting enough of that. The headache went away in less than 10 minutes after I ate about a tsp. of salt.

I still felt fine on the 8th day, but by then I could see a decrease in the muscle mass of my arms and legs and I didn't want that, so I started eating again. I lost 25 pounds.

And I did feel kind of empowered.
posted by jamjam at 10:29 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

I did the 5:2 diet (intermittent fasting, no where near as extreme as what you're proposing) and ended up with gallstones. Who knows whether I would have got them anyway but all medical evidence points to fasting as a contributing factor. Therefore if you're "female, fat, fair and forty" (I'm all four) I would say don't do it.
posted by hazyjane at 10:45 PM on May 11, 2017 [2 favorites]

I discovered that fasting gives me ocular migraines - something I never would have learned otherwise. So be prepared for weird things to happen.
posted by egeanin at 10:59 PM on May 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: PS I have fasted occasionally for shorter periods of times, and did IF regularly for a significant period of time -- it's not completely foreign territory. Great answers so far, thanks!
posted by so fucking future at 11:09 PM on May 11, 2017

Best answer: A friend who is getting seriously into fasting is following the guidelines in this book. It includes water fasts and 10-day fasts, and seems to mostly be sensible and not too woo and weight-loss obsessed. It had a whole range of different types of fasts and recommended different ones for different health issues and how to go into and out of fasts. It's definitely a reference-type book, not a read-through book.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 11:51 PM on May 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe it would be an idea to, like a diabetic person might, carry a couple of pieces of candy or mints or something to quickly elevate your blood glucose if you start feeling faint?
posted by XMLicious at 1:31 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I highly recommend taking some steps to go into a manageable fasting schedule and ultimately transition into a ketogenic lifestyle. You will want to get your insulin under tight control and your body used to burning it's own fat or a fast could be very difficult. Do this by first following a moderate carbs restricted diet, like The Zone. A couple weeks later go into a very carbs restricted diet like Atkins Induction. After a week or more of not counting calories but adhering very strictly to this plan transition to a 1200 calorie version. You will likely noticed some big changes in how you look and feel at this point and not feel the need to fast or change anything, but the next step is to go ketogenic, which is roughly 60 - 70% fat, 25 - 35% protein and 5% or less carbs. Get an app to easily figure this out, like My fitness pal. These 3 food groups are called your Macros. People in this lifestyle can transition into fasting or intermittent fasting quite easily. There are several books out nowadays on ketogenic diets. Also a great Facebook group Keto-acdaptation plus fasting.
posted by waving at 1:49 AM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I just did a 14 water fast (under medical supervision) and it went perfectly fine. I eat fairly healthy but not keto regularly and tapered down with a full day of only veggies and a full day of juice before. Drink a LOT of water, and be sure to taper off caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol well in advance. And of course take it very easy during the fast -- I couldn't do any exercise and had to be very gentle and careful even doing regular daily activities.

I craved salt desperately afterwards, so I might think about a way to get salt during if I did it again. The only bad side effect is that I've weirdly become allergic to my regular laundry detergent.
posted by LeeLanded at 7:26 AM on May 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

One thing to watch out for: don't drive an automobile or operate any other heavy machinery while you're fasting. If driving is how you normally get around, make other arrangements in advance.
posted by asperity at 8:34 AM on May 12, 2017 [5 favorites]

For those recommending salt intake:

I run outside in the summer in Houston and also practice hot yoga, so I sweat a lot. I can tell when my salt levels are low because no matter how much water I drink, I am still thirsty as hell. One solution is to drink coconut water, which has a high potassium content. Another is to take a salt supplement, like Salt Stick, which ultra athletes use to replace salts.

P.S. Those Salt Stick pills are expensive, but they also make a great hangover remedy.
posted by Brittanie at 9:59 AM on May 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Quick point: do *not* eat glucose tabs or candy during a fast. The sugar crash on an empty stomach will leave you feeling even worse than before, and more likely to actually faint.

If you're feeling woozy, eat a piece of whole fruit, i.e. a skin-on apple. The fiber will slow down the sugar absorption so you get your blood sugar up without a huge spike.
posted by ananci at 10:26 AM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did a seven-day green juice fast. Days 1-3 were completely ridiculous and I thought I wouldn't make it but right in the middle of day 3 I started to feel amazing. I had more energy and alertness, and I felt invigorated. It almost bordered on a religious experience. If your doctor has no concerns about you fasting, then it won't kill you.
posted by vivzan at 2:41 PM on May 12, 2017

Quick point: do *not* eat glucose tabs or candy during a fast. The sugar crash on an empty stomach will leave you feeling even worse than before, and more likely to actually faint.

I feel like it's important to point out here that the objective of carrying around a small piece of candy or other source of sugar is for emergencies, not because it's dietarily preferable even for a diabetic. For most people it's going to be more practical than walking around everywhere with an apple in your pocket or something like that.

So for example, if you start feeling faint while you're driving, you can pull over and eat it and wait a few minutes until you feel better and then go get something healthier and more fortifying, rather than wrapping your car around a telephone pole in search of somewhere to get fresh fruit.

If your lifestyle makes it easy to keep fresh fruit handy at all times that's great, but since the OP is specifically asking if this fast is "going to murder" them, if that's not practical then it's a cheap and easy insurance policy to grab a mint from the hostess's station at a restaurant or put some raisins in a baggie and keep that in their pocket for ten days.

On a couple occasions I've seen non-diabetic people who were much more fit and athletic than me faint because they forced themselves to keep going while dieting, in situations that could have become much more serious if no one else had been around.
posted by XMLicious at 4:06 PM on May 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

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