Recently I decided to do a 72-hour water fast. That’s right…I only drank water (with electrolytes) for 72 hours. I’ll be honest, it’s somewhat of a “fad” lately, although fasting has been around for forever. This “72-hour water fast” has been made popular recently by a few mainstream influencers. People like Gary Brecka, Dana White, Joe Rogan…have all shared either personal experiences or thoughts about the concept. Naturally, the almighty social media algorithm pushed found its way to my feed, so I did a little (only a little) research before deciding to give it a try.
I’ve never been one to fast. Not at all. I think the last time I intentionally fasted I was 18 and wrestling. I have probably fasted for 3 days + back then, trying to cut weight, doing things dangerously, not emphasizing salt/electrolytes while doing it, working out in sauna suits…not smart.
Fast forward 15 years and now I’m doing it again with purpose. Well, what actually is the purpose? I’ll get into that later. For now, take a look at how my fast went from start to finish.
Sunday Dec. 17, 2023 – final meal before fast at 5:00pm
We had been traveling to see family this past weekend. As we were driving to on the highway, I mentioned to my wife that I might start the 72-hour water fast on Sunday after our dinner together with everyone. She, of course, said I’m an idiot but I still stayed the course.
Around 4:30pm one of our family members fired up the grill and I ended up finishing my meal by 5:00pm. I put absolutely zero thought into WHAT my final meal should consist of. No clue?! Since we were grilling out, it was the typical burgers/hotdogs kind of meal, so I was fine with that. I filled up by 5:00pm. We had about a 2-hour drive home so I decided that 5:00pm meal was the last one. No need to wait to start at 7:00pm after eating again that night. Plus, it was close enough to actual dinner time that it would be easy to make it through the night.
Really no effort up to this point.
Monday morning Dec. 18, 2023
No real issue waking up. I decided I would train/exercise regularly during the 3-day water fast, but this day actually got away from me. I could have squeezed something in later in the day, but I figured it might be smart to kind of just calibrate how I’m feeling throughout the day, and not force in the session. So I actually didn’t exercise on Monday morning like I usually do.
I had planned ahead (a little bit) in terms of electrolytes. I like to train with LMNT sticks! So I used a couple sticks each day, simply added it to my water and drank it throughout the day. I could certainly tell the difference when I hadn’t had LMNT for a few hours. Not only is there a little flavor to it, but the electrolytes help regulate blood volume and hydration as best as possible. Some of these electrolytes can be missed when you aren’t consuming food. Additionally, I know some amino acids are missed during fasting periods, but I didn’t plan well enough to supplement with anything else. Not a big deal, according to what I had read, so I was still in a good spot.
Monday Dec. 18, 2023 – 5:00pm: 24 hours into the fast
That first full day wasn’t tough until dinner time. My body’s internal cues for fuel started taking over and dinner time was somewhat of a struggle. Even still, it wasn’t awful. I was only 24 hours into the fast and still feeling okay, all things considered. I believe I had two sticks of LMNT today. Drank a TON of water on top of the LMNT-mixed water. Was feeling decent. It helped going to sleep, too.
Tuesday Dec. 19, 2023 – 6:00am: 37 hours into the fast
I decided to train today. I woke up and decided to run. Right now, my “running” is on the treadmill. I have three little girls, one on a bottle in the mornings, and all three currently with horrible sleeping habits. So outside running is hard to come by for me. I just take the baby monitor downstairs and hope to get my session in. Anyways, instead of doing intervals or tempo efforts, I just decided to run low and slow for about an hour. The run did NOT feel good. I ended up stopping at 45 minutes because it felt kind of awful, honestly. The heart rate response was fine, not weird at all for the intensity. I just felt off, and of course was lacking energy. In any case, the feeling actually went away about 30 minutes post-exercise. The endorphins kicked in and I was feeling as “normal” as possible. Actually felt pretty good.
Later in the morning I even went to the gym and lifted for an hour. That lifting session was nothing to call home about, but I still lifted. I’d even call it a productive session. It certainly felt strange without fueling prior and fueling after…this is why it’s important to supplement with amino acids when doing something like this. But I was so close to the end already, I could deal with the discomfort.
Tuesday Dec. 19, 2023 – 5:00pm: 48 hours into the fast
This was somewhat of a victory! I kind of celebrated with my wife. Well not really. She had wine while I had…water. But I felt completely fine. Energy levels clearly lower, but not feeling ill or anything bad. I can do anything for a day, right??
Wednesday Dec. 20, 2023 – 5:00am: 60 hours into the fast
Didn’t sleep great. I’m not sure if this was a side effect of the fast, perhaps my chronological rhythm was thrown off without typical feeding times. My internal clock was acting wonky, and sleep wasn’t great overnight. In any case, I woke up feeling decent, but tired. I hold a weekly “team ride” virtually on Zwift. I decided to hold it this morning during the fast. We accumulated about 1800ft of “elevation” virtually, which was about double what I had planned. I mistakenly miscalculated the difficulty of the terrain. My intention was to keep the course easier, and I slipped up. Oh well!
Interesting phenomena here. At minute 50 of the 90-minute ride, I felt INCREDIBLE. I had been keeping the entire ride VERY light up to that point. But at minute 50 I felt so good that I planned to push a little intensity over the last 30 minutes. I was able to push pretty hard for the last 30 minutes, and once again felt great after the workout. Thank you endorphins. I am still absolutely slamming water and LMNT at this point. Pretty much all day. After my workout I checked my body weight, knowing this would be the lightest I would be throughout the 3-day fast. I was 11 pounds lighter than my starting weight. I knew as soon as I started drinking more after the workout I’d put it right back on, and I was right.
Wednesday Dec. 20, 2023 – 1:00pm: 68 hours into the fast
At this point I know the end is in sight and I’m starving. It’s one of those things that when you know the last mile or two is coming of the marathon, those miles feel harder…simply because they’re the final two miles. Mental? Likely. So I needed to try to stay busy. I did my best to stay occupied but I was very very hungry. Still overall felt okay, though.
Wednesday Dec. 20, 2023 – 5:00pm: 72 hours into the fast
Well I made it! It wasn’t bad. The wife says, well why not just keep going? … I digress. I had taken my daughters to a trampoline park earlier in the day, then out to lunch at Chik-fil-A. You better believe I got myself a sandwich so I could eat immediately at 5:00pm even though we had dinner plans later. So 5:00pm comes around and I absolutely murdered that chicken sandwich. It did nothing for me haha! I was still incredibly hungry but knew it was best to not simply continue devouring food.
We went to Texas Roadhouse. We hadn’t been there in forever and I wanted a good steak so we gave it a shot. I forgot how good those dinner rolls are though…and appetizers… so by the time my steak came out, I had begun digesting some of the food I’d eaten, and my stomach felt like it had shrunk maybe 3x smaller than normal. All of a sudden I was incredibly full. I did eat about half of my steak, but I literally wasn’t able to finish it! Weird feeling…
Okay so why did I do this.
Well first of all, I’m not always the person who fully thinks things through. I DO, but not always fully. So the “research” I did was minimal. Not a lot more than hearing (podcasts) and reading (social media) a few different things. I quickly just considered it a challenge and decided to try it. Of course after making that choice, I then made sure that I did it safely by adding in sufficient electrolytes throughout the day. That was a gamechanger, by the way.
But, what are the benefits.
The biggest “potential” benefit is something called autophagy. This is a cellular process that is linked to cellular repair and regeneration. I also say “potential” benefit because although this is researched and documented information, every human being responds to physical demands inherently differently (hot, cold, exercise, food, NO food, etc.). The metabolic benefits can potentially include things like increased insulin sensitivity, reduced inflammation, and of course there is also the possibility of acute weight loss. When you put your body into a state of starvation, your body will naturally transition from carbohydrates to fats as a predominant fuel source. So there’s potential to lose a little bit of body fat. I think in total I lost about 6 pounds. That’s weight I assume will come right back once I’m back to eating normally.
The other big “reason” people do this is as it relates to cancer. The autophagy concept kind of plays in here. Regeneration of cells, repairing cells, etc. There is a thought that conducting a 72-hour water fast can exponentially reduce one’s risk of EVER developing cancer due to this autophagy concept. I’m not going to throw a percentage out for that statement at all, because it’s important to note that the research related to fasting and cancer isn’t necessarily definitive, and I’m certainly not going to reference a social media influencer’s percentage as it relates to cancer risk. BUT if it is possible to reduce cancer risk from a 72-hour water fast, why the heck isn’t EVERYONE doing this?! …
Maybe they should be.