You might have heard of intermittent fasting and are eager to try it out. BUT you’ve never actually gone without eating for an entire day. No worries…this a guide on how to survive your first 24 hour fast.
Get Your Reasons Right
First off, you have to come to terms with why you’re doing it in the first place. There are many reasons as to why you should do intermittent fasting:
- Improved biomarkers
- Better blood sugar and insulin regulation
- Enhanced growth hormones and energy production
- Increased mental abilities and sharper cognition
- Of course – greater fat burning effects
But these are all of the physiological benefits. Fasting is also great for rejuvenating your mind and relationship with food. You’ll get more in tune with your internal environment and create a deeper connection with your body.
Although the safest and healthiest way to lose fat is to do intermittent fasting, it shouldn’t be your primary concern. Instead, focus on the overall life-enhancing benefits and you’ll be more consistent with it.
Get Your Mindset Right
Secondly, you have to realize that FASTING ISN’T DANGEROUS. Hunter-gatherers have been following the feeding cycle of feast and famine for eons and have thrived on it. It’s only in our contemporary society where food is abundant – too abundant, really – and you can never even enter a fasted state.
If you hear doctors and fitness gurus telling you to eat 5-6 small meals a day and that hunger signals your body to hold onto fat, then it’s natural to be fearful of fasting. In reality, it’s anything but dangerous and only dreadful if you perceive it as such.
You have to change your perception of hunger. Instead of linking it with exhaustion, malnutrition, pain or lethargy, associate it with self-mastery, health and vigor.
There’s a huge difference between fasting and starvation as well. One is voluntary abstinence from food, whereas the other is your body not getting enough nutrients. As you fast, you’ll be more nourished than before because of utilizing your inner fuel supply. Muscle catabolism decreases to a bare minimum as well as you’ll be creating a lot of ketone bodies that are protein sparing fat molecules.
Tips for Fasting 24 Hours
After you wake up, follow these guidelines to make your time more enjoyable:
- (Optional) Sleep in if you want to. I mean, if you’re asleep then time will pass by quicker. But don’t run away from fasting and experience it fully.
- Balance your electrolytes. Add a pinch of sea salt or pink Himalayan rock salt to a glass of water and gulp it down first thing in the morning. This will also keep cortisol at bay.
- Follow your regular routine. Take a shower, get dressed, journal, meditate, whatever, just do it sans food.
- Don’t drink coffee right away. Although a powerful appetite suppressant, you don’t want to cash in on it immediately. Drinking too much coffee will make you dependent of it and you would want to use it only when you’re actually hunger. Whenever you get hungry, drink some water and wait for about 30 minutes. If it gets excruciating then drink coffee (like a strategic motherfu#¤a) but most of the time, hunger is just a sign of dehydration so drink water 😀
- Drink herbal teas. Green tea and black tea have some caffeine so don’t overdo them either. Other teas, like chamomile, hibiscus, lemongrass, ginger etc. are great.
- Sparkling water is another amazing appetite suppressant. To be honest, I feel like it’s cheating because the carbonation will starve off hunger instantly.
- Salt crystals were my go-to-hack when I had my 100 hour fast. You want to keep your electrolytes in check to have more energy and less stress. To trick your mind, you can bite on some solid sea salt crystals whenever you feel exhausted.
- Brushing your teeth also helps and keeps your mouth fresh. However, there’s the danger of artificial sweeteners spiking insulin so you would want to use it only as a last resort. To be safe, use products with natural ingredients without sugar. The same goes to chewing gum.
- Apple cider vinegar. It’s mainly used for household and cooking purposes. What you maybe don’t know is that it also has powerful health benefits. Lower blood sugar levels, better fat loss and improved symptoms of diabetes. Its biological components are very effective and acidic, that can be good for digestion sometimes. By the same token, it will also destroy bad bacteria in your gut and make you less hungry. You can add it to salads or other food during your feeding window. While fasting, get a glass of warm water and add 1-2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar. Any more than that may have some unwanted consequences, so don’t go overboard. Consume it right away and be done with it. Your body will thank you.
- Drink decaf coffee. It doesn’t have to be caffeinated to stop hunger. You shouldn’t drink more than 3-4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day but decaf is potentially limitless. By the same token, it will still dehydrate your cells so be wary and watch your water intake.
- Don’t make a big deal out of it. What I learned from my own first 24 hour fast was that you get hungry only when you think about it. At other times, I felt fine, even amazing and wasn’t tired or starving or anything the like. Only when I realized that I hadn’t been eating anything for nearly 20 hours did the hunger signals kick in.
- Keep your mind busy. That’s why you would want to trick your mind into focusing on other things. Work on a creative project, read a good book, watch a movie or do something else mentally stimulating.
- Stay away from food. Don’t set yourself up for failure by spending time in environments where there’s food. I mean, if you’re surrounded by sights, sounds, and aromas of sizzling bacon, fresh vegetables or cake, then, of course, you’ll get hungry. Unless you’re a Jedi-master who isn’t affected by those type of things then stay away from kitchens, supermarkets, restaurants and people eating food next to you.
How to Fast for 24 Hours
Now that this is covered, here’s a more specific blueprint.
What you eat the day before is also very important. To not start burning off muscle you would want to get into ketosis ASAP. In order to start producing ketones, your liver glycogen has to be emptied first. This can happen over the course of 16-20 hours. But, if you ate a low carb ketogenic meal at dinner, you’d be mildly ketotic by the next morning already.
When you wake up, start following the routine and incorporate the tips mentioned above. Drink water, have a nice cup of tea – an Englishman would say – don’t abuse coffee and keep your mind busy.
I have another amazing tip: Go for a walk.
I can’t believe I’m telling you all my secrets…
Moving around will get you out of your head and into your body. It prevents you from thinking about food but also starves off hunger. Get it? Starves off…But anyway…I also have a bro-hypothesis about why this is so. Or a bro-pothesis. Ye, I should stop now…
When you’re being aerobically active even just at low intensities, your body will begin to use its stored fat for fuel. This will release fatty acids into the blood stream and promotes the liver’s ketone production, leading to you getting more energy and not getting hungry. You just have to give your hungry brain the fuel it needs because it’s the most expensive tissue we have.
How to Break Your 24 Hour Fast
24 hours isn’t actually long at all. I mean, you don’t even have to go longer than a day but can simply have dinner. If you last ate at 6 PM the day before and you start eating again at 5 PM the day after, then it qualifies.
However, you would still want to ease into breaking your fast. Don’t start gorging right away like an animal but give your gut some time to get used to food again.
- Start off by drinking a hot glass of lemon water. This will produce good digestive enzymes and prepares your gut. And it’s delish!
- Wait maybe 30 minutes, then have a small low carb snack. Spiking insulin right away will make you crash and burn but also causes fat gain. Have an avocado, a boiled egg or something low glycemic.
- After another 30 minutes, the moment you’ve been waiting for…the last 24 hours. Have a nice dinner. Don’t gorge yourself or eat back all the past days calories because you’ll still gain weight. On these 1 day fasts, I would recommend still eating slightly less than your maintenance.
Some Potential Side-Effects
What I’ve noticed in my own experience is that whenever I fast for a longer period of time, my body would begin to fight back at digesting food. I would eat my dinner but either after a few hours or the next morning, I would have to go to the bathroom many times. My metabolism simply speeds up so quickly that I just excrete the food out. You would think that it’s not a bad thing but you’ll be also flushing out the micronutrients and minerals. To prevent disaster-pants, you can pop some pre- and probiotics before eating to improve digestion.
Secondly, starting to eat again may also cause additional lethargy. You simply feel like being hit with a club. The reason is either too high of an insulin response or eating too much volume of food at once. You want to recharge your body with fuel but you don’t want to overtax the gut. Try to stick to whole foods that won’t take you on a blood sugar rollercoaster.
Lastly, you may also experience a small weight gain. The reason isn’t that fasting makes you fat. You just ate too much. If you aren’t used to hunger, then you may develop the tendency of eating everything in sight after you break your fast. That’s why you have to control your urges and be mindful of how much you eat.
Another issue is your metabolic rate decreasing. It’s true that it’s going to happen to some degree. Not because your body is starving but because your inner energy production gets just so efficient. During my 100 hour fast, I created approximately a 10 000 calorie deficit. Did I eat all that food back after I broke my fast? No. It didn’t even look like I had burnt that many calories and I hadn’t. My bro-pothesis is that I was just in so deep ketosis that I was able to maintain all my healthy physiological functioning at a very low caloric expenditure, like 1000 calories or so. Ketone bodies gave me all I needed.
The Next Step
Alright, that’s it. I’m gonna stop giving you all my damn secrets.
Where to go from here? The next natural step would be to have a 2-day fast, then a 3-day fast and then a 5 day fast. Everyone should have therapeutic fasts of at least 3+ days 2-3 times per year, but I wouldn’t recommend you fast for any longer than a week.
To learn more about the art of intermittent fasting and how to do it on a ketogenic diet, then check out my Optimal nutrition program Keto//IF. It teaches you how to tap into your body’s prime-primal state and also comes with a 21-day meal plan to get you started.