While fasting is nothing new, it is experiencing a resurgence in popularity as many discover its health benefits. If you are planning your first fast or looking for ways to improve your next one, there are a few things you should do to prepare. The first step is learning about the different stages of fasting. This knowledge helps you mentally and physically prepare for what happens to your body when you fast.
The stages of fasting outlined below are based off a water fast, a traditional fast in which you abstain from any food and only drink water for 12-48 hours or longer. Personal experiences can vary depending on the type of fast, age, or health of the individual, but these should give you a general idea of what to expect when you fast.
Stage 1: Day 1-2
Stage one lasts for the first couple of days of the fast or about 12-48 hours from your last meal. Usually, it is a good idea to put some planning and preparation into how and when you will start a fast. Try selecting a start day and time and then make preparations in your schedule for the duration of your fast.
How You Feel: Hungry
This stage is when your body transitions into fasting mode and, for many people, it’s the most challenging part of their fast. This stage is where you start to feel the hunger pains as you skip your regular mealtime routine. Most first time fasters start to feel a reduction in their energy levels. These effects can induce a negative mood or irritability for most fasters. It’s wise to prepare yourself for the possibility of being short on patience during this stage.
What’s Happening With Your Body: Battery Save Mode
Several things happen at the cellular level that cause hunger and fatigue during this first stage. When you’re eating regularly, your body breaks down glucose to get the energy it needs to function properly. While you’re fasting, your body needs to produce sugar for energy, so it begins a process called gluconeogenesis. During gluconeogenesis, your liver converts non-carbohydrate materials like lactate, amino acids, and fats into glucose. As your body goes into “battery save mode,” your basal metabolic rate, or BMR, becomes more efficient and uses less energy. This power saving process includes lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. At this stage, you may feel drained. However, if you stick it out for a little longer, some of that lost energy will return.
Benefits: Mental Strength and Heart Health
Fasting these first few days can be difficult, but there are mental and physical benefits. Mentally, the act of fasting is an excellent way to exercise your willpower. Similar to the strength runners might feel after pushing their body to run that extra mile, people who choose to fast can feel strength as they fight through those natural urges to eat. Physically, there are incredible cleansing and heart health benefits taking place, too. As BMR lowers, fat in the blood starts to disappear as it’s metabolized for energy. This process promotes a healthy heart, and for some, improves cholesterol levels by boosting HDL levels.
Stage 2: Day 3-7
Stage two starts around the end of day two and lasts until day seven. A lot of changes begin to happen at this stage, and you may start to notice changes in your physical appearance, as well as how you feel.
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