This past weekend, I undertook the longest fast I’ve ever done. I do intermittent fasting on a regular schedule, and generally do a 36- to 40-hour fast once each month (you can read about the whys and wherefores of those fasts here.)
That monthly longer fast had gotten to be fairly straightforward, with few uncomfortable side effects, so I decided to stretch it out to 48 hours.
According to fasting and keto diet expert Thomas Delauer, prolonged fasting generates the following benefits, and more:
- rest for the digestive system
- healthy stress to the body that forces old, damaged cells to be eliminated
- increased ketone production (an alternative energy source to glucose that encourages fat burning)
- increased BDNF production (a chemical in the brain that increases the rate of neuron growth)
According to the Bible, prolonged fasting brings about these additional benefits:
- increased dependence upon the Lord
- demonstration of a sincere desire for his guidance and assistance during a trial
Remember Esther’s three-day fast?
Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. – Esther 4:16
Unlike Esther, I did not undergo this fast because of a pressing issue in my life. Rather, I wanted to reap the health benefits, test my self-discipline, and increase my dependence upon the Lord to maintain a pleasant demeanor during the fast.
Because cooking (and eating) is one of my favorite hobbies and means of showing love for others, I knew that last goal would be the most difficult to attain.
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. – Matthew 6:16-18
Just prior to my fast, on Saturday morning, I ate a couple of small meals, about an hour apart, and loaded up on healthy fats: a bulletproof coffee (coffee with butter, coconut oil, and half n’ half); an omelet with cheese, avocado, ground beef, and vegetables; and whole-milk Greek yogurt with various nuts, seeds, and berries.
Healthy fats tend to stay in the system longer than carbohydrates and stave off hunger. That meal sustained me fairly comfortably through Sunday night. During those hours, I drank green tea, water with apple cider vinegar, and water with fresh lemon and lime juice. At one point, I drank a small glass of water with pink Himalayan salt dissolved into it to keep electrolytes in my system.
At this point, I felt fairly normal, and only experienced a bit of fatigue and a mild headache. Hunger pains disappeared after 24 hours or so.
I was feeling good and perhaps a bit over-confident as I went to bed on Sunday night.
On Monday morning, I woke to flu-like symptoms: lethargy, nausea, and light-headedness. My normal workout was out of the question.
To stave this off, I drank more salt water. That decreased the nausea, but not the other symptoms. I decided to listen to my body and eat, a bit of salted chicken breast, followed soon after by coffee.
Oddly, I felt so ill that it was an effort just to chew and swallow a few bites, but I began to feel better almost immediately and ate a larger meal several hours later.
In the end, my prolonged fast turned out to be about 43 hours rather than 48 hours, but I still feel as though I accomplished my goal. I think my family would tell you that I was fairly cheerful, and I did pray throughout the day more than I usually do. (It’s interesting how much more important something like food becomes when one has decided not to have it!) My body also eliminated a great deal of waste and water weight, and I’m feeling lean and mean at the moment.
After undertaking this fast, I have renewed respect for those who can fast as long as three days, or even five days. I’m not sure if that will ever be attainable for me. But I can say, by God’s grace, that I will continue fasting on some level for my spiritual and physical health.
What are your experiences with fasting? Do you feel it is needed in this age of grace? I hope my experience may prove helpful to those of you considering a long fast. I look forward to your comments.