Fasting used to be on the fringe of the fitness community.
However, it’s risen in popularity in recent years. Guys like Martin Berkhan worked hard to bring fasting into the mainstream consciousness.
Despite this, many gym goers remain reluctant to embrace fasting. They worry about losing muscle mass.
I’ve experimented with fasting for a long time. I began my journey with the Lean Gains style intermittent fasting, where you fast from 14-16 hours. I’ve also experimented with 24 hour juice fasts
Recently I discovered the incredible fat loss capability of Jay Campbell’s and Jim Brown’s Metabolic Blow Torch Diet. Here the fasts went from 18-22 hours.
I shredded fat on the Metabolic Blow Torch Diet and it went far beyond my expectations. Fasting appeared to be some kind of superpower.
This got me thinking. How far could I really take this and what would happen? So I decided to do a 36 hour fast.
I had no idea what to expect – I had never ventured this far before.
Please don’t get me wrong, I had my reservations.
How will it affect my energy levels? Will I constantly think about food? Would I lose muscle mass?
But despite all this, I was still excited to find out.
What Your Grandparents Can Teach You
It’s no secret previous generations were leaner and generally healthier than us today.
The reasons for this are numerous and beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say their foods weren’t full of crap and they led less sedentary lifestyles.
However, I have a theory our grandparents were leaner and healthier due to one main thing: Fasting.
They typically ate dinner at 6-7pm and wouldn’t eat again until breakfast.
No snacking or any other bullshit. That’s 12 hours of fasting every single day.
Back then there was no culture of constant grazing throughout the day. Or eating around the clock. Or instantaneous engineered food.
You ate 3 square meals and that was it. In most cases if you were hungry between meals you went without. Because there was no other option.
There were food shortages and many lived on food stamps.
They lived through the Great Depression and fought in World War 2. They learned to endure and yet they still survived.
Today we are spoiled and don’t know what it is like to go through real hardship.
So with this generation in mind I went on the 36 hour fast.
Adversity builds character. And I wanted to go up against myself and see what I was made of.
‘Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.’
My 36 Hour Fast
I chose to do the fast from Friday through Saturday. My main motivation to experiment was due to travelling. I had a flight and several connections ahead of me.
What do you do when your only option to eat is shitty airport and airplane food?
You don’t eat at all.
The problem is most people freak out over the idea of skipping breakfast. Never mind foregoing food for several hours.
And heaven forbid a 36 hour fast!
When I woke up I started my day with a black coffee. In my experience this helps keep hunger at bay for several hours.
I got to the airport early afternoon and had to get through security. Normally this is a stressful experience, although I felt pretty calm this time.
This makes sense, since I wasn’t eating food to jack up my blood sugar and heighten my anxiety levels.
After clearing security there is a wave of shops and restaurants. So the only thing left to do for people who are sitting around for several hours is to eat and drink.
But when I saw the food on offer, I was not tempted in the slightest. It was just processed garbage.
Later on I boarded the plane and after take off they served food. And you guessed it – more processed crap. I politely declined.
I continued to drink plenty of water and even chewed on a nicotine gum to keep my appetite at bay.
After several hours of flying and connections I finally landed. It was 8PM and I had just completed a 24 hour fast. It was at this point something strange happened.
During the day my body had been making feeble attempts to make me eat.
However, now after a 24 hour fast I didn’t have to do anything to suppress my appetite. It had vanished.
It was as if my body [ego] finally conceded I wasn’t going to eat.
At 9PM instead of winding down for the day, my brain kicked into life. I hadn’t consumed coffee for several hours, but I felt alert. Ideas were flowing so freely I couldn’t keep up with them all.
Not only that, but I felt extremely calm and serene. The little voice in my head that is constantly chattering away all day was gone. Only stillness remained.
It suddenly occurred to me why many spiritual traditions have a central figure who gained insight after long periods of fasting.
Before going to bed I read a few passages from Eckhart Tolle’s book Stillness Speaks. Normally when you read a book you have to use your intellect to process the information.
But here the words leapt out at me from the page. I didn’t have to ponder their meaning or re-read a sentence.
My understanding was instantaneous.
I almost didn’t want to go to sleep because I felt so alive. In the end I went to bed feeling more relaxed than I had done in months and slept deeply.
The next day I woke up and looked at myself in the mirror. My muscles looked flat due to the muscle glycogen depletion, but I looked very lean. And my mind was still clear.
Doing a long fast means running the gauntlet of your own insecurities. Your brain has been trained to eat every few hours.
But let me be clear. Just because you haven’t eaten for an entire day doesn’t mean you will wither and die.
You’re overcoming a lifelong habit, so yes it can be a battle of willpower.
However, you can still function at a very high level – if not better. This is due to the effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
In my opinion, one of the main reasons to do an extended fast is to see just how well your brain works. It’s like going from a family saloon to a powerful, finely-tuned race car.
What’s more, doing a long fast teaches you a lot about yourself.
While scientific research shows us that our willpower is finite, you have likely never pushed it to the limit.
With a 36 hour fast you discover your limits quickly.
After the 36 hour fast, I ate a huge breakfast and went off to train. My strength was decent but I gassed out pretty quick.
In hindsight I would eat at least 2 meals before training after a long fast to ensure maximum energy levels.
The Metabolic Blow Torch Diet taught me fasting is nothing to be feared when it comes to muscle preservation. However, if building muscle is your goal, then 36 hour fasts should be kept to a minimum.
If you are carrying to much body fat or worse, doing regular extended fasts will have you dropping body fat quickly and efficiently.
PS. Don’t forget the MBTD is launching this Friday on Amazon.