Many people wonder how it’s possible to fall asleep without eating. I have no easy answers here. Suck it up and expect a less-than-perfect night of sleep. However, you might be surprised. I regularly deal with insomnia but for some reason I sleep better on my fasting nights. Going all day without eating seems to make me extra tired and I tend to fall right asleep on Monday nights.
Like most people, I end up training on Monday-Wed-Friday most of the time. Yes, this means on many Monday’s I train on an empty stomach and then I don’t eat anything or drink any protein shakes after my Monday workouts. The horror! This was difficult at first but my body quickly adjusted and now it’s fairly straightforward.
I wouldn’t try to get compete in the Olympics on an empty stomach, but a training session done on an empty stomach every once in a while shouldn’t be that difficult.
On the flip side, I find that going 40-44 hours without eating and then eating big on Tuesday evening seems to drive additional nutrients and fluids into my muscles. It’s almost like your body super-compensates for the lack of available resources. So on Wednesday mornings, I usually wake up looking bigger and more muscular than usual.
For that reason, it may be best to schedule your toughest workout of the week for Wednesday.
I don’t do this every single Monday, although there’s no reason why you couldn’t. I do this if and when it’s convenient. Is this just an average Monday for me? Cool, then I’m probably going to do the 44 hour fast.
But if I’m on vacation or if I’m in the final week of demanding training program then I will choose not to fast. A while back I intended to fast but when I got home on Monday night my kids (I have twin daughters) surprised me by baking their first pizza.
Without a second thought, I ended the fast and ate the pizza. I told them it was the most delicious pizza I’d eaten in my entire life. And I wasn’t lying.
It was a no-brainer. I’m not a slave to this protocol. I use it when it is convenient and “put it on the shelf” when it is not.
Exactly how long should the fast be?
Between 40-48 hours. Less than 40 hours and you won’t reap all the benefits of the extended two day fast. More than 48 hours and cortisol continues to rise. There is also the possibility of beginning to burn lean muscle tissue at this point, although I feel this fear is wildly overblown.
Still, 40-48 hours seems to be the “sweet spot” for getting the most bang for your buck out of a regular fasting program.
How many times should I do this every month?
Up to you. Some people do it every week like clockwork. They treat their 44 hour diet as a “reset” button to get them back on track after the weekend (since most people relax their eating habits on the weekend.)
Some people do it only once per month.
So… what can I eat during the fast?
Nothing. But you can drink water, coffee and tea.
What about diet soda? It has zero calories.
Personally, I would avoid it during your fast. Fasting is a great way to let your body clear up the chemicals that find their way into your system. Inducing chemicals via diet soda would be a step backwards.
Plus many people find that artificial sweeteners tend to trigger hunger cravings. Which is the last thing you want during a 44 hour fast.
Can I add cream/sugar to my coffee? Can I add milk to my tea? Can I add lemon to my water?
As long as you are not going overboard with the cream/sugar/milk, etc it’s not going to make much of a difference. But I would do my best to minimize sugar or milk since consuming fast-acting carbohydrates is counter-productive to the goals of fasting.
Who should NOT do this?
Off the top of my head, pregnant women should probably not experiment with an extended fast like this. And anyone under the age of 18 or anyone with existing medical conditions should check with their doctor first.
What should I eat before the fast? How about after the fast?
The key here – for both before & after – is to eat like the fast never happened. Don’t pig out before in anticipation of the fast. And don’t pig out after as a reward for the fast. If you do this, you will simply be “undoing” much of the fast.
The first few times you attempt this, you will probably find yourself overeating after the fast is over. That is ok. Once you’ve done this a few times you will find it easier to just eat normally despite not eating for the previous 44 hours.
As for what you should eat, just stick with whole foods and you will be fine. I’ve broken my fasts with steak, potatoes, pizza, protein shakes, eggs, cheese, pasta… etc and never had any stomach or digestive issues.
Some fasting zealots will say you should always ease out of the fast with fruits and other gentle foods. That may be true for longer fasting periods but because I’m only fasting for 44 hours I’ve had no trouble breaking the fast with any kind of food I want.