The Incredible Outcome of My 5-Day Water Fast

For 5 Days I consumed zero calories. There was no promised cognitive clarity, enlightenment, or  surges of new-found energy. It was a  F%$#@%  grind, but you know what? … I’m going to do it again! 😉

The benefits of fasting are legion.

Why I Did a Five-Day Fast

Specifically for the last item on the list above.

Several months ago, I had lunch with one of my five sisters. During our chat, she mentioned that she had recently completed a 5-day water-only fast, and much to her surprise, the chronic shoulder pain she had endured for the last year had disappeared. She’s been pain-free for several months.

That caught my attention because I’ve had chronic shoulder pain for what seems like forever.

Then, after lunch, I had a genuinely serendipitous moment on my way home. I had been listening to a podcaster interviewing Dr. Mindy Pelz, a best-selling author and long-time advocate of fasting for health.

When I picked up the podcast from where I had left off, she shared a story about her experience with a 5-day water fast.

“The great example I always use on this one was, I had an Achilles tendon injury, and nothing was helping it, so I threw a five-day water fast at it, on the fourth day, I felt this buzz in my Achilles tendon, and I was like, oh I wonder what that is, and it stayed all the way through.

I went five full days, and about the fifth and sixth day, so on the sixth day, I was entering food back in. All the pain completely went away, and it never came back. I tried everything, and that was the only thing that repaired it.”

Hearing that, I was all in.

I had been enduring shoulder pain for so long that I just accepted it as a cross to bear. To be clear, I could still do most shoulder exercises, but there was always a degree of pain to push through, and the thought of being completely pain-free was all the incentive I needed.

Basic Requirements of Long-Term Fasting (My Belief)

For more than ten years, I’ve been a strict intermittent faster. I eat between 6 p.m. and bedtime, which is usually around 10 p.m., and other than that, I consume zero calories. That means — and this is key to anyone thinking of doing a long-term fast — I am metabolically flexible, which means my body will effortlessly switch between burning glucose or ketones for fuel.

Note: If someone is not metabolically flexible, any form of long-term fasting will be extraordinarily difficult because your survival system will be on high alert without its regular feeding, and it will use all its power to force you to eat.

Since I was quite comfortable going without food, I decided right then and there that I would do a five-day fast.

More than a week had passed, and I was procrastinating. To be honest, I was scared to try because five days without a lick of food seemed pretty daunting. Admittedly, I was taking shelter in the infinite wisdom of Homer Simpson’s fatherly advice to Bart,

“Son, never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.”

My nagging shoulder pain finally trumped Homer’s sage advice, and I immediately decided to begin my fast that day. It was noon on December 5.

I told Michele (my wife) not to include me in her dinner plans. Of course, she wanted to know the what, why, who and what-for, so I told her about my fasting plans, and although she gave me her full support, she also gave me her raised eyebrow look of — good luck with that.

Besides my grand announcement of beginning my fast, it was just another day … until 6 -7 p.m., when it got challenging.

Michele was cooking her dinner, and suddenly I felt different, left out, lonely even. I wasn’t hungry; what I felt were those churning gut feelings — like the ones experienced after a long-time girlfriend tells you that she still really likes you … but only as a friend. “Yeah? Well, “F” you too!”

As for my problem, a little introspection and honesty made me realize I was just feeling sorry for myself. I was sulking because I couldn’t eat.

I got through the first night and slept normally; the next morning was like a regular day. I felt the same as if I had eaten the previous evening.

Then, sure-as-shit, when 6 o’clock rolled around, once again, I was overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety and missing out.

Day three was the same as day two. I woke up on day three and, once again, felt no different than if I had eaten dinner the night before.

Many people say Day-Three of a 5-day water fast is different. Hunger goes away, and you start to experience extreme cognitive clarity. You also get a surge of energy, and the whole world becomes perfectly peachy.

Well, all that loveliness passed me by.

Day three was just another day, with me dreading the looming evening’s anxiety.

When I woke up on day four, things were different. I had a mild headache that progressively worsened as the morning wore on. So, I started researching fasting protocols to see if this was a common side effect, and it was.

I was doing something drastically wrong!

I was drinking an aquarium’s worth of water every day, but I wasn’t taking any salt to balance things out. I was suffering from hyponatremia; I had flushed too much sodium out of my blood, and headaches are a common symptom of low sodium and an imbalance in electrolyte levels.

By the time I read that, it was high noon, and I had had enough of this fasting stuff.

So, that was my first experience with long-term fasting. I managed four days, and no, it wasn’t fun or euphoric. There was no rapturous cognition. It was a grind — but as it turns out, a grind worth the effort.

About a week later, I noticed that my shoulder pain had been substantially reduced by about 50 percent, and that was all the proof I needed to try another long-term fast in the near future.

My Second Attempt at a 5-Day Fast

Michele would be travelling for more than a week in mid-February, and I decided that would be a perfect time to give it another go.

Days one through four were pretty much a carbon copy of my first experience, except on day four — no headaches. Salt with my water was the solution, and this time, I made it all the way to hour 120.

Ending My Fast Was Sheer Indulgence

The prevailing theory after ending a multi-day fast is that you should spend half the number of days you fasted to slowly re-introduce food into your system. Perhaps start with a cup of warm bone broth, and an hour or so later, conclude the first day with an avocado.

WTF! Are you kidding me? … which is precisely what our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have said after going without food for five days. (See 3 Simple Rules for Overcoming the Endless B.S. of Health, Fitness & Weight-Loss)

I wasn’t hungry; I was ravenous for food again. After all, I haven’t eaten a bloody thing in five days, and all the while, I’ve maintained my regular workouts and daily routines. I had virtual dreams of my first meal.

When 6 o’clock struck, I started off with my terminal weakness, a handful of those glorious mixed nuts from Costco. Pure bloody, salty heaven.

Next, I devoured a four-egg omelette with grated cheese and a small bowl of beans, and following that, I had three BLTs on rye with a shit load of mayonnaise.

Feeling contented after dinner, I watched one of my favourite movies (one that Michele hates) uncorked a bottle of wine, and finally felt genuinely wonderful for the first time in 5 days.

The Results

As listed at the beginning of this writing, the benefits of long-term fasting are as long as your arm. In fact, it’s almost stupid how good it is for your overall health.

It’s only two days after finishing it and INCREDIBLY I’m feeling almost zero shoulder pain.

Oh, and the unmentioned side benefit of my fast was the added bonus of shedding a couple of pounds of stubborn belly fat.

The Takeaway

I would highly recommend to anyone who has achieved metabolic flexibility to try some degree of long-term fasting; the benefits are ridiculously good, and who knows what it might cure that ails you.

As for me, in a couple of months, I’m going to do it again.