The 7-Day Fast: Benefits, Challenges, & Collin Shares Her Own Experience!
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Curious about taking on a 7-day fast?
Despite fasting’s recent surge in popularity, people have been doing it forever. For thousands of years, fasting has been used as part of religious and spiritual practices. Even before that, it’s pretty clear that fasting was a part of daily life. Scientists have known for a while now that our earliest ancestors were not eating three meals a day with snacks in between!
We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of intermittent fasting when paired with keto, but today we’re taking a closer look at the practice of prolonged fasting – specifically, the 7-day fast.
Considering a 7-day fast?
Be sure to consult with a medical professional, as prolonged fasting isn’t right for everyone. Anyone with select health conditions or taking certain medications, or those who are under 18 years of age, pregnant, or nursing should not attempt a prolonged fast.
If your doctor determines that a 7-day fast may be beneficial for you, they can help you to find the approach that would be best for your specific goals and health.
What is a 7-day fast?
Often referred to as a “water fast,” a 7-day fast means that you’re abstaining from food for a period of seven full days. The term “water fast” can be pretty misleading though, because many people allow themselves to have things other than water while they’re fasting.
During a prolonged fast, some people consume coffee, tea, bone broth (or miso soup packets as a cheap, easy, vegan alternative), and multivitamins in addition to water. Even their water might be flavored with infusions of citrus fruit, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, sea salts, etc.
Looking for a good fasting resource? Pick up The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung, author of our previous Hip2Keto book club selection The Obesity Code. This highly-rated book is easy-to-read, helpful, and truly motivating.
Collin (and her hubby) share their 7-day fasting experience:
My husband Jeremy and I tried a 7-day fast, and it was the craziest but most rewarding experience. I’ve done a lot of research on extended day fasts, and there are just so many benefits that are way beyond weight loss. For us, it was more about brain health and giving our digestive systems and bodies a rest.
Some people literally just drink water on a fast, but I’m addicted to coffee and I just couldn’t give it up! I would have a cup of coffee with two tablespoons of unsweetened almond milk every morning, which kept me under 30 calories for the day.
I’m not a huge fan of chicken broth, but my husband would occasionally drink that. Even so, he never consumed more than 50 calories a day, and we both felt that we still reaped all the benefits from doing an extended day fast.
I’m so glad that I tried a 7-day fast with my husband, and I would definitely suggest having a buddy for anyone attempting prolonged fasting. It’s great to have that extra support and that push to keep going!
The first two to three days were very difficult because your body is kind of in shock and you’ll go through some really strong hunger pangs. For me, hunger would come in waves, so it helped to remember that the waves would always pass if I could just distract myself by taking a walk or reading a book.
On the morning of day four, I woke up feeling great with a ton of physical energy and mental clarity. It was as if my body realized, “OK you’re not feeding me, so I’ve gotta get smart and start burning fat for energy.” I remember my husband and I had a conversation in the car (on our way to the gym!) about how we were feeling amazing – and couldn’t believe we were able to work out with no calories in our bodies!
By day six, I had so much energy it was insane! I had absolutely nothing in my body and I was thriving. It gave me a new appreciation for my body and the fact that it knows what it needs to do.
The craziest thing about fasting is that you realize how much your life revolves around food. I think it’s healthy to kind of step back and reevaluate your relationship with food once in a while, because there’s so much more to life than just eating.
I definitely plan to do prolonged fasting again, probably once every year. It was just kind of a nice break for my system, and I really thrived on it once I got past the first three days.
Benefits of a 7-day fast.
When you go beyond intermittent fasting and abstain from eating for longer periods of time, you’ll further amplify the results of your fast. We know that fasting has many well-documented benefits that are backed by scientific studies. Some of them include:
- autophagy (the body’s natural detox process that clears out damaged cells and creates new ones)
- blood sugar control
- reduced inflammation
- improved heart health (thanks to lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels)
- increased brain function
- prevention of neurodegenerative disorders
- metabolic health
- increased levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH), needed for metabolism, weight loss, and muscle strength
- prevention of cancer and other diseases
Of course, weight loss is a benefit of prolonged fasting too. Since most fasting-related weight loss will be water weight and since you will start eating again, any weight loss you experience will likely be temporary and not one of the more meaningful benefits of your fast.
In addition to the benefits typically gained from an intermittent fast, many people report noticing some unique advantages of prolonged fasting too. These include zero bloating, clearer skin, mental clarity, reduced anxiety, fewer cravings (even after the fast ends), more free time, and a newfound appreciation for food!
Challenges associated with a 7-day fast:
You don’t need us to tell you that fasting for seven days in a row is hard. It requires extreme commitment, self-control, and restraint. Even if you possess super-human willpower and have some experience with prolonged fasting, you could encounter many potential challenges throughout your 7-day fast. Here are a few to look out for:
Even though you can still drink water, it’s easy to get dehydrated on a 7-day fast. Since almost 20 percent of your fluid needs come from food when you’re eating normally, you’re going to have to increase your water intake to ensure that you’re staying hydrated. If you continue to exercise during your fast, you’ll want to increase your water consumption even more.
Electrolytes are substances like sodium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and calcium that your body needs to manage, regulate, and maintain important bodily functions. Electrolytes are depleted through fasting and physical activity, so you’ll want to be sure that you’re keeping them in balance throughout your fast. Try this citrus water recipe to help out with the imbalance!
During a fast, you may find that you’re super-focused and alert. Your body is coursing with hormones like adrenaline, HGH, and testosterone, and your brain is getting more of the blood that would normally be used for digestion. It’s kind of the opposite of feeling drowsy after a big meal – you’ll actually feel energized from not eating. This is great for mental clarity and productivity during the day, but you may find that it’s harder to unwind and sleep at night.
Hip tips for completing a 7-day fast:
Check the calendar and choose wisely.
You’ll want to choose a 7-day stretch without any unusual stressors, especially if this is your first prolonged fast and you’re unsure how you’ll feel. Make sure there are no important work presentations, dinner parties, or 5Ks on the horizon. Women might also want to skip the week leading up to their period too if they tend to notice more cravings during this time.
Eat well leading up to your fast.
If you’re already keto-adapted, then you’re better prepared for a 7-day fast more than most people. Some people are not only fighting hunger during their fast, but also a wicked addiction to refined carbs and sugar. Try to eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as you can along with your regular keto diet leading up to your fast.
Fasting can make you realize how much of our daily lives revolve around food. It can be a lonely feeling to think that everyone else in the world is eating but you! Sharing your 7-day fast with a friend, family member, or spouse can make the journey go a lot easier. You can commiserate, help to hold each other accountable, and celebrate each other’s victories!
In addition to being essential for health, drinking plenty of water during a fast can also fill up your stomach and help you to feel full. Proper hydration will make your fast a whole lot easier, and help ease your transition back to food. Shoot for 8-ounces of water for every 15 pounds of body weight per day, or more if you’re exercising during your 7-day fast.
Keep an eye on your urine to gauge your hydration levels.
A concentrated yellow color could indicate dehydration, while very clear urine can mean that you’re actually overhydrated and flushing out valuable electrolytes. Urine that’s a light straw color should be your target, as it reflects good levels of hydration.
Watch for signs of electrolyte imbalance.
Signs and symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include headaches, heart palpitations, lightheadedness, muscle cramps, and fatigue. When you speak to your doctor about fasting, they might recommend adding a zero-calorie electrolyte supplement to your water.
Plan some light exercise.
As long as you’re staying hydrated and keeping your electrolytes in balance, there is no harm in getting a little physical activity. See how you feel and let your body decide what you’re up to. Taking a walk, stretching, or light yoga in the evenings can be a good way to unwind and burn a little bit of that extra energy you might be feeling before bedtime.
Use some of that extra mental clarity you may be experiencing to practice clearing your mind from worries, negative feelings, and thoughts of food. Meditation can be a great way to calm your mind before bed, since you may be finding it harder to sleep these days.
Break your fast the right way.
You did it! Your 7-day fast is over, and it’s time to EAT. You would think that this would be the easiest part of a 7-day fast, but you’ll have to resist the urge to gorge yourself. Your stomach will be in a sensitive state and it won’t take kindly to processed foods, nuts, seeds, cruciferous veggies, dairy, eggs, or alcohol. Start slow with bit of chicken or fish, see how you feel, and go from there.
The bottom line on 7-day fasting.
For many people, a 7-day fast is like hitting the reset button on their relationship with food. Although it’s certainly not all fun and games, it wasn’t meant to be torture either. While you’re sure to experience your share of ups and downs, your overall experience with prolonged fasting should be more enlightening than dreadful.
Lots of people who have tried a 7-day-fast will tell you that the physical and mental benefits are completely worth all of the challenges. At the same time, it’s definitely not for everyone and it’s essential to check with a health care professional before attempting a prolonged fast of any kind. If you do decide to take the plunge, we wish you the best on your fast-inating journey!
New to fasting? Join our 5-Day Intermittent Fasting Challenge!