Friday, October 10, 2008

24 Hour Fast

fasting for health? i'll be the judge of that.

i incessantly read about training, health and nutrition. i feel like as an athlete and coach it's part of my continuing education. for years now i've read about the benefits of fasting. motivated by my buddy justin angle back in dec of '06 i did a 3 day fruit fast. people have been fasting since before recorded time. mormons fast the first sunday of each and every month. doctors believe this is why mormons as a group have a much lower rate of heart disease.

after listening to this npr article and reading this cnn article on fasting i was sufficiently sold on the supposed benefits, that include; a reduced risk of cancer, a slowing of the aging process, an increase maximum life span, glucose regulation which can protect against diabetes, lowers blood pressure, beneficial effects on the brain, protection against alzheimer's, parkinson's and stroke. although these are great reasons to try a fast, i think i'm more intrigued by the detoxification benefits which seem to be more immediately tangible.. and hell - jesus did it.

now, as an endurance athlete and someone who loves food, the prospect of actually not eating a thing for 24 hours is very intimidating, i've got peanut butter in the cupboard after all. fasting essentially means no energy and therefore no training. being injured it's easy to give up a day of "cross training" to fast and hopefully get some other work done.

thursday 10:48am: had my last bit of food; some u, peanut butter, raisins and banana wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. then just to go out with a bang i grabbed a frozen snickers bar and smothered that in peanut butter too. it was so good going down... and set me up for a good start to the fast because i felt kind of sick from it all. i realize that gorging before starting a fast isn't what anyone would suggest you do before you start. i like to learn things on my own and often the hardest way possible.

for the last 10 years or so of my life i've been a 5-6 smaller meals spread out through the day kind of guy. so within a couple hours i got the urge to get into the kitchen. this was a test, but i had lots to do and i diverted my attention by heading out to take care of some business. i'm usually filling a backpack with food before i leave the house, fruit, leftovers, bars of some sort, etc. i'm typically not more than a couple hours without eating. now i started to think, "this could be tough".

1:48pm: (3hrs in) i had this empowering feeling. i have these urges, i'm slightly hungry and i have overcome. normally i lose this battle numerous times a day with what i think i "should be eating". so why is this fasting thing coming so easy? do i have this power all the time? hmm. i think i like this.

3:45pm: (5hrs in) i was very spacey. couldn't concentrate or focus on much. it was a lot like the feeling i have after a really long run. i came out of home depot and just stood there looking at the lot. it didn't look familiar. my short term, cognitive memory was apparently gone.

5:00pm: (6hrs in) i was feeling a bit better mentally. my stomach felt kind of strange but it wasn't grumbling as i expected it might. i was surprised to not be overwhelmed with a "hungry" feeling, and i didn't feel empty per se.

7:30pm: (almost 8hrs in) i'm grumpy and tired. marit comes home and doesn't like the sounds of 'fasting'. now my mind is swimming and i don't feel very good.

10:00pm: (11hrs in) time for bed. i fall sleep immediately.

8:00am: (21hrs in) i wake a bit later than normal but don't fight it. my natural rhythm is causing me to want to eat and drink coffee. i have just 2hrs 48 mins left. i take the dog for a walk, do some yoga and stick to my guns.

friday 10:48am!!: (24hrs later) marit brought me some zucinni bread her friend tracy made. thanks tracy! it was sooo good smothered in peanut butter, amazing. deprivation is pretty good at increasing appreciation. i stop about 800-900 calories later. i know, i know.. not the way to come off a fast. i should have stopped sooner but i went grocery shopping yesterday.
well i'll never know if this fast will make me live longer, or less likely to get alzheimer's, parkinson's or to have a stroke. however the overall experience was a good one. it was a nice relief to not focus my day around eating and training. the intangibles were nice, the feeling of empowerment, etc. i'm a couple hours post now and i'm feeling sharp and energized again.. it's time to get on the bike and ride!!

i enjoy mark's sisson's daily apple blog and he wrote a good post on intermittent fasting that is very much worth a read.

after another meal and an easy 5 miles or so on the bike i went out for a 'training' session. wow - i felt incredible. better than i have in a very long time. i did 30 min warm & cool with varying intervals (i get bored easy); hills followed immediately by flat sprints; .5 mile speed laps, and i finished it off with some tabata sprints. i am not sure if it was the fast or the rest or a combo of both but i think there is something to this intermittent fasting.


Mark Sisson said...

Thanks for the link. If you ever give it another go, I might suggest NOT starting off the fast with a frozen snickers smothered in peanut butter. Or if you've got to do snickers, smother it in almond butter instead!

Will Thomas said...

That sounds like Hart! Willing to trying anything once!

Being one of those crazy, starving mormons, I've been doing this monthly 24 hour fast for 20+ years.

The benefits I have noticed are:
1. Increased mind over body. Helps me realize I'm in control of my body and not vice versa.
2. More in tune with my body & mind's communication. (Call it meditation, spiritualality, or whatever name you identify it with)
3. At the end of the 24 hours, even though my body is tired & weak, It does feel clean, purged, & detoxified.

The other cool thing about the mormon 24 hour fast, is we donate the money that we would have used on those skipped meals to help those in need. So at least we can feel good while being hungry. LOL

Hart said...

mark i'm honored to have you respond on my blog! yeah i think next time i'll leave the candy bars and peanut butter out of the equation.

will it's great to hear your take on the benefits. i would have to agree with them all. i felt so strong and energized today on my ride. just two meals after my fast ended. wow.
i love that you donate the money you would have fed yourself with. good on you!

Geoff said...

I should try this. I'm afraid of it though. Like you I tend to hardly ever go more than a few hours without eating, I don't know that I've gone more than 6 or 7 awake hours without eating something in years. I think I might just have to sleep most of the time so I didn't dwell too much on how hungry I was.

are you in SLC to stay indefinitely? we'll have to hook up one of these times when we're both there, but it might be a bit now for me before I'm back down south.

Hart said...

geoff - i think it's harder mentally before you start than it actually is. there are urges as you get going, and i was tired from like 6hrs in. but as long as you've committed to it you'll do fine. geoff if you can run a 100 miles you can do a simple 24hr fast. =)

Rod Bien said...

Hey hart,
now that you are in slc, are you going to run wasatch? I hope so! I'm going to apply and would love to share some trail time with ya.
Rod B.

saschasdad said...

Next time, start the fast with TJ's peanut butter cups!

Jeff Grant said...

Thanks for the post! You've inspired me to give my first fast a go, starting 30-minutes ago. I'm sidelined for a bit with an ankle injury, so this is perfect timing to explore and also distract my mind from longing to be on the trails on a gorgeous fall day! Again, thanks.

fasffeaf said...

im going to try a 24 hour fast tommorow, hope I make it, i too am also an athlete, in LOVE with peanut butter, i probably eat a jar of peanut butter every 4 days, hey at least i switched to organtic. Im excited, and am glad im not working tommorow.