I had a slight knee injury last week, which means I couldn’t do all the fun stuff I love to do on my free time (climb, bike, run). So I decided to kick something off my bucket list: fasting. I had no solid food for 4 days. And only juice for the first and last days.
Note: I will never water fast again. At least voluntarily…..
It’s not the hunger; that’s the easiest part. And it wasn’t the bad breath, strong case or BO, or excessive oily perspiration. And I did get mild headaches and weird aches in random locations on my body
It was the feeling of physical weakness. People in favor of fasting would probably say it’s just mental. But when you raise an arm for 30 seconds and it starts to feel like it’s full of pin needles when you bring it back down. The weird feeling in your intestines, where food blockage may be occurring (because there’s no other food pushing it through). And when you lie there, 40 hours into no caloric consumption and your muscles start to shiver like a cramp is on its way……
You feel the odd presence of your body…….slowly eating itself from the inside out.
What exactly happens during a fast is kind of up for debate. There are medical professionals from both sides describing the helpful and harmful effects of such a practice. So I’ll just rant about my personal opinions of what could possibly be happening (with a help of a Human Anatomy & Physiology book, by Elaine Marieb and Katja Hoehn).
I know it’s not pure truth. But if there’s already tens of thousands of websites already posting their ideas and opinions of food intake, or lack of, then one more wouldn’t hurt. At least I’m throwing my disclaimer out there.
On a typical day, I eat food. Three to five times a day.
Eggs for breakfast, some pre-lunch nuts, a lunch of carrots and hummus, a light pre-supper of yogurt or an energy bar, and a late post exercise supper of vegetables and chicken (or tofu if I don’t have anything fresh).
My body will typically absorb the useful stuff and convert them to glucose and glycerol. We typically use these molecules to create high-energy particles called ATP (via the Krebs cycle) which are used for …..everything. If you’ve ever taken a biochemistry class, there are A LOT of breakdown pathways for a variety of compounds, and a lot of enzymes to facilitate these processes.
What you don’t use tgets stored. Typically, my body will start making glycogen from the excess glucose. It’s easier to store and breakdown when needed. Nice and tucked within various tissues, like skeletal muscles. But we don’t need much of it. S whatever glucose (and family) is left will be stored into fat.
Ironically, when we consume fat, it doesn’t go straight from our intestines to our white adipose tissue (fat cells) without going some sort of transformation. The majority of it all started out as broken down form of glucose, glycerol, or a modified triglyceride.
Additionally, our stored fat is constantly being broken down, re-released into the blood, and then re-absorbed back into the tissue after making a few laps in the body via the bloodstream. My text literally states “that bulge of fatty tissue you see today does not contain the same fat molecules it did a month ago.”
So when you stop eating, things start to change over time. The body continues as normal, depending on how much glucose/glycerol is in your blood. But after about half a day, it realizes that……….it should start setting some priorities.
Priority #1, your brain!
Glucose sparing. That’s what the textbook calls it. The free glucose energy in your blood is reserved for your brain to maintain your capability to move around, find food, and stay alive (well…..if you aren’t choosing to starve yourself). Most of other tissues switch to alternative energy sources.
And yes, this is when your organs and muscles start to burn more fat for fuel. Lypolysis is the academic term. And typically it needs a compound (oxaloacetic acid) to do it cleanly. But when you are water fasting, there isn’t much of it to go around (it’s being consumed by that ever-so-important brain). So……..it just haphazardly shreds it through ketogenesis. The result is a variety of “aromatic” compounds which makes your breath smell, armpits reeks, and piss quite pungent (even though you didn’t eat asparagus….or anything).
If we solely relied on fat breakdown (in this fashion), the body would suffer “metabolic acidosis.” The blood pH would dangerously drop, lots of bad things would happen (proteins and nerves would fail), and we would die ….. nuff said.
Fat cells also store a variety of compounds, including necessary vitamins. But I believe they can store a lot of weird molecules. When your body digs into these reserves, they ultimately come out as a consequence (and not very pleasantly). I would like to think that my fast allowed for some “fat cell cleansing” during my experience. My mouth did taste a little “metallic.”And it makes sense.
For example. Tuna is known to be a source of high concentrations of mercury. This is due to the accumulation from living a carnivorous lifestyle. By staying old and consuming a lot of smaller fish, it tends to hold all the heavy metals from digested prey until something else eats it (like you). And then we accumulate those heavy metals.
It’s like an attic in a house. We put stuff there we don’t want to (or easily can’t) throw out. And we don’t go up to the attic and routinely organize and clean it out. We’d rather leave it be, unless something forces us to go through the clutter. Like moving. Or a wasp’s nest….
Because ketogenesis is so unfavorable, the body will acquire energy through other means. The body will start ripping your muscle fibers apart for metabolic requirements. It’s easier to do, a lot less messy, and you get more energy/weight out of it. And this will happen a lot more after 24 hours of fasting. By that time, my body didn’t seem to smell as bad, but it’s when the physical reminders of “weakness” started to emerge.
This is why some have praised the idea of intermittent fasting. Where you only eat in an 8 hour window each day, so there’s that 16 hour window to induce fat breakdown, without digesting too much muscle fiber content.
Surprise, a study telling you to NOT eat breakfast!
If fasting still continues, somewhere after three days the body starts to digest just about everything else. By that time, there’s not much glucose left to spare and the brain starts eating other things (like them nasty ketones), making your head hurt more than it already did. There are still priorities; the brain is definitely not going to eat itself away. But once the body eats away at something (like your heart, or kidney, or your soul), it fails and death occurs.
I do enjoy juice fasting. Taking in a small amount of glucose and protein. It allows me to realize that disconnect between needing substance and “being hungry.” A reminder to me what my body is actually telling me.
But I did obtain my strenuous fast experience (even though I wasn’t hungry at all during my water fast days), and I’m hoping that my physical build wasn’t impacted that much. I also did lose 12 lbs in 4 days (mostly water and salt), which I’ll slowly gain back in the next month or so. And I’m fine with that.
But for now, I’ll work on not how how my body looks………but what I can do with it.
Note: I kind of have a similar reaction with the level of attraction I have with women. I never did get that “boobs or butt” preference thing. If they can hike with me 600 m vertically up a mountain at an impressive pace, that’s a 10 in my book.