Intermittent fasting has been a fairly hot topic in health circles for sometime now, but what about longer fasts of up to 5 -10 days at a time. Is it safe?
With this article I aim to discuss the health benefits of extended fasting based on my own personal experience and knowledge. I have undertaken many extended fasts over the last 12 years and they have generally been for a 7-10 day duration and I believe that these fasts have been beneficial to my health.
Please view my medical disclaimer before reading on.
What Are The Reasons For Fasting?
There are many reasons why people fast and they range from religious reasons to curing illness, weight loss or to detox, everyone has their own reason, but the outcome from my own experience has always been a positive one.
It may be hard to believe but usually a week into a fast, I can seriously say that I feel pretty awesome, physically.
I know that may seem a bit crazy to some people, that anyone could actually feel good after not eating for over a week, but I can truly say that I have always felt like a better person at the end of an extended fast.
My energy levels are great, my head becomes very clear and it puts me in a great place physically and mentally to think about my next step in life.
Maximum Self Control
The challenges that are faced during fasting really give you a real sense of self-awareness and make you really feel that you can overcome anything that is thrown at you. It is being able to have ultimate self-control of the temptations that are constantly around you.
Extended fasting is very much a mental challenge and helps you learn how to understand and physically read what your body needs. You start to take notice of how your body actually feels and is reacting to not having to rely on food and you become ultra-sensitive to smells and foods in your presence.
I can only speak on how I’ve felt during and after a fast and I can say that I have never felt any serious adverse physical effects on my body. If I had, I would have stopped immediately and consulted a doctor straight away.
So What Are Some Health Benefits Of Fasting?
There are many health benefits to be gained from fasting and that can obviously vary from person to person. Some of them may include:(1)
- Improved digestive and immune systems
- Improved blood sugar and decrease diabetes and cardiovascular risk
- Weight loss
- Decreased inflammation
- Improved blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels
- Enhanced brain function and health
- Increased HGH levels (growth hormone)
- Delayed aging
- Reduced cancer risk and has been known to aid cancer treatment
- Boost overall health and assist with healing of various ailments
- Improved heart health
- Improved mental health
You can see from this list why I would usually be feeling great at the end of a fasting period.
Duration Is Important
For me, I have always aimed for around a 10-day fast as some positive effects don’t come into play until a few days in. When your digestive system finally starts to have a break from food processing, the energy saved will go into self-healing and repairing.
You will begin a process called autophagy, where old cells are broken down, cleaned out and regenerated to form newer healthier cells.
This is part of the detoxing process and allowing the body to go through this process for longer is more beneficial in the long run.
Is Fasting For Everybody?
The short answer is NO. It is not advisable for children, pregnant women or the elderly to fast, without direct medical supervision. This also applies if you suffer from kidney disease or are suffering from an eating disorder.
Generally speaking, fasting can help with many conditions, however, it is best to research further to find out whether a condition you have may be negatively affected by fasting.
If you suffer from diabetes, fasting can actually be beneficial, though it is not recognized as a mainstream treatment for diabetes management. Some studies have shown that Type 2 diabetes can actually be reversed from fasting, however, it would be best to talk to a GP about whether fasting is suitable for your condition.
The Pounds Will Drop Off
If you are fasting primarily for weight loss, then I would say that extended fasting may not be for you.
Yes, you WILL lose weight. There’s no doubt about that, but NO you will not keep it off. Unless you make changes to your eating habits and lifestyle after your fast.
I have never used extended fasting as a weight loss solution. Just as a way to prime myself ready for change.
You will find that when you are not arranging your day around meals, sometimes you are not really sure what to do with yourself. I tend to use the time that I am fasting to rest my body, clear my head and start to think about the changes I need to make in my life, either physically or around my life goals and commitments.
It’s a great time to reflect on where you are in life and where you want to go.
Ohh… So I Will Still Need Control When I Break My Fast?…
Sticking to a healthy lifestyle can be just as challenging, if not more, than as fasting. The difference being, that fasting is for only a short time, and you know that it will end at some point, so you can push through it. But trying to maintain healthy weight and lifestyle is for life.
Don’t let this be a scary thought. Doing something “for life.” The first step is realizing that there is a problem. The next step is to come up with a plan on how to tackle that problem and the 3rd step is pretty obvious….head to the pub and…. No, No, No, No!!
If you have found your way to this site, then at least you have made the choice to try and tackle the problem and hopefully we can help you in some way.
As you can see, the health benefits of extended fasting can be great and as long as you stay hydrated and try to avoid too much strenuous activity during this period, you should benefit from time you spend away from depending on eating.
I am currently having success with a Keto diet losing weight and I invite you to have a look at what that involves, if weight loss is your goal.
Please leave any questions or comments about your fasting experiences below or message me directly here.
10 Replies to “The Health Benefits of Extended Fasting – Is It a Good Idea?”
Thank you for this article about fasting. My longest fast was between 2 and 3 days. I was getting really into breatharianism and wanted to see if I could go without food.
It was an interesting experience. I began to worry that if I fasted much longer, it would become dangerous to eat anything, due to stomach shrinking. And when I re-introduced food I might not be able to do just a little. So I decided to end the fast.
Now-adays I am doing a bodybuilding routine which involves intensive weight lifting workouts mostly every day. So I haven’t tried fasting. Because I want to replenish my body with food after each workout. The most I fast is 9-12 hours over night.
Fasting is still in the back of my mind though. Thanks for reminding me! With all the food I eat for bodybuilding a fast might be good to rest my digestive system.
Breatharianism is essentially “dry fasting”
I personally wouldn’t recommend this for an extended period. This will cause dehydration and can cause some very damaging effects to internal organs. I have read of people trying this and nearly dying, however, I am curious to hear about your experiences with it.
Extended fasting is probably not the best if you are bodybuilding. You really need the energy. Generally with longer fasts, you should avoid strenuous activity. Shorter intermittent fasts may be ok though. Maybe avoid eating after 6 or 7pm and having 12 or so hours of fasting would be beneficial for weight loss.
Thanks for the comment!
I’m not much of a religious person so most time I don’t really fast even when its recommended. Fasting have been one very effective means of losing weight for so many people I know of and I can also recommend it to other people are wish to lose weight. However I don’t know much about the benefits of fasting before now, but coming across this post have increased my knowledge in that aspect and I would love to fast as well to gains those health benefits. Thansk fornl this information.
Fasting will help you to lose weight, but when you have ended you fast, you will need to continue with a healthy diet and exercise or else the weight will likely come back fairly quickly.
I use fasting as tool to help me reset my body and regain focus of where I am in life and what changes I need to make.
I’ve found not only to be beneficial to my body but my mind as well.
Hi Stevie great write up on fasting, I have tried a few dry fasts, after a few months of 36hrs water fasts twice per week(I’d eat dinner fast till breakfast 36hrs later),
i found I was going to the toilet quite a lot in the evenings so I decided to reduce my water intake in the afternoons if I wasn’t working in the heat or doing anything strenuous, to eventually doing the dry fast for the last 12-16hrs of the 36hr fast, then I’d break the fast with water then food,
you’re body produces a limited amount of water from fat and I found if I had a mild cold during these dry fasting periods water would be a prioritised to other parts of my body and away from my running nose and watery eyes it’s just bro science though but that’s my experience with it, thanks
Bro science is the best type sometimes, haha.
There’s a reason why animals stop eating and people lose appetite when they are sick.
The body wants to heal itself and fasting is a great way for the body to focus on the healing process rather than putting all its energy into digestion.
I’ve always been one to drink plenty of water whether I am fasting or not. I have read about a man doing a 3 day dry fast and by then end he could barely stand. Too long without water can cause damage to your kidneys, but I wouldn’t know a time frame on this.
Definitely food for thought. Or water for thought? hmmm…
Thanks very much for this article on extended fasting.
I did a 3 days extended fasting two weeks ago and on the third day I was counting the hours funny right… Belief me by 12:00 am I was already in the the kitchen because I couldn’t sleep and felt like a walking dead.
But guess what I’m on a 3 days fasting and today is my day 1 and I’m certain to correct my mistakes and even do a 5 days extended fast next month.
That’s awesome Sama!
I hope your not disappointed with a 3-day fast, it takes a lot of control to do that, so well done!
I will say that after day 3, it should get easier and hunger pangs should subside, so if you can push through those first 3 days it will be rewarding.
Setting a goal of how many days you want to do is a good idea too, it seems to help you prepare mentally, but I will say that on the last day of a fast, I start to look forward to and anticipate eating again and yes I watch the clock too, but I make sure that I make the goal that I set out.
I would feel disappointed if I set out for 7 days and only did 6 days and 20 hours or something, even though 6 days and 20 hrs would be a great achievement. i just don’t like to feel like I caved.
Keep it up Sama, I would like to hear more about your experiences!
I have done many fasts from 3 days to 16 days. Water only. The first 2 days are a little tough because I’m hungry. After that I feel great. Lots of energy. I look normal and feel clear and clean.
That’s awesome! You are right, the first couple of days are usually the worst but it definitely gets much easier after that, I have found