I’m coming up on the end of my official one-year “nutritional ketosis” (NK) experiment in May 2013 which for all intents and purposes has been nothing short of a resounding success. While the weight loss to date (73 pounds in 10 months) has been a nice little side effect of this self-imposed scientific experiment, there are so many other intriguing and measurable health benefits that have come from doing this–namely hunger control, less obsession about food, heightened mental acuity, regular restorative sleep, blood sugar stability, energy out the wazoo…I could go on and on!
The reality is nutritional ketosis has given me back full control of my health and weight again in ways where even a typical low-carb diet had failed me in recent years. In a nutshell, NK has given me my life back again and I couldn’t be happier about that! I’m stoked about sharing more about my NK progress over the next few months speaking on a panel at PaleoFX in Austin, Texas next week, doing a one-year update lecture on The Low-Carb Cruise in May and presenting a poster at the 2013 Ancestral Health Symposium (#AHS13) in Atlanta, Georgia in August. And after I’m finished up writing my current book Cholesterol Clarity, I’ll begin work writing a book about this whole nutritional ketosis experiment with all that I’ve learned doing this set to release in 2014. Just in case you haven’t been keeping up with my regular NK n=1 updates that began in May 2012, check out my regular 30-day updates: Day 1-30, Day 31-60, Day 61-90, Day 91-120, Day 121-150, Day 151-180, Day 181-210, Day 211-240, Day 241-270 and Day 271-300.
With my curiosity for doing tests on myself while in a fully keto-adapted state, I couldn’t help but see what would happen if I attempted to do a one-week total fast with water only. As regular readers already know, I engaged in a one-week fast with water, diet soda and chicken boullion cubes while keeping up my regular exercise routine in 2011 putting the words of cancer researcher Dr. Thomas Seyfried to the ultimate test. In this November 2009 podcast interview, Dr. Seyfried noted that a great cancer prevention measure that people can engage in is to do a one-week fast annually. It took me a while to work up the gumption to do it the first time in April 2011 and Dr. Seyfried honored my willingness to give it a go in his new 2012 textbook Cancer as a Metabolic Disease. With my body running quite efficiently on ketone bodies for more than 10 months, I wanted to see if I could replicate that same experiment with water only without the diet soda, bouillion cubes, exercise and supplementation that are a typical part of my normal lifestyle routine.
I’ve been measuring blood ketones, blood sugar and weight on a daily basis in both morning and night during my NK experiment. Could I possibly be successful surviving on water and ketosis for an entire week? And what impact would a total fast have on blood ketone production, blood sugar and weight (although I personally think the weight change is all but irrelevant within the realm of a test like this)? Would it be possible for me to make it for an entire week on water only? These are just a few of the questions I wanted to know and there’s no better way to find out than to give it the old college try. Since I had already done a fast once before in 2011, I already knew what I had in store for myself. And with nutritional ketosis, regular periods of 18-24+ hours of fasting are very natural and easy to see. What would happen once I go beyond this usual fasting time period? Let’s test it and find out.
Since I wanted to see what was changes were happening to me during this entire experience, I decided to test blood ketones, blood sugar and weight every hour on the waking hour beginning on Sunday, March 17, 2013 (my last meal was on Saturday night at 5:30PM) while observing anything happening to my normal routine. This would allow me to see precisely the impact on all my numbers and state of health in real time to assess the situation. I promised myself and my wife Christine that if at any point I started to feel bad beyond just simple hunger or if my blood sugar dips into the 50s for more than a couple of hours, then I would end the experiment immediately. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors went through regular long periods of deprivation where food would not be readily available. What would this feel like in a modern world? I wanted to find out and see what would happen.
I’m going to start with my blood sugar because this was part of the reason why my ambitious one-week goal for this fasting experiment came to an end at 72 hours. You’ll find out why when you see what happened to my blood sugar towards the end of the testing period:
You’ll notice my blood sugar was in the low-90’s and rose to 101 before falling in Day 1. Part of it may have had something to do with the fact that I stopped taking my Glycosolve as part of this total fast. Additionally, I had a larger-than-normal meal the night before knowing it was going to be my final bites of food for a while, so that might be part of why glucose was slightly elevated. But as you can see, blood sugar fell to the more typical level of upper 70s/low 80s by that night. When I woke up in Day 2 of the fast, my blood sugar was 70–not that unexpected considering it had been nearly 40 hours since my last meal. After rising to 84 by midday, there was a precipitous plummet down into the mid-60s by the evening. I wasn’t worried or surprised by this at all, but it did manifest itself in a bad night’s sleep waking up several times during the night (I have typically slept soundly during NK). Day 3 began at 65 and rose to 77 by midday. However, the bottom fell out in the early afternoon when my blood sugar hit 59 for over two hours–and it came with an accompanying headache. Other than that, I felt pretty good. But even when my blood sugar rose back into the upper 60s again my headache persisted. I decided to officially end the fast at 5:30PM. Within an hour after eating a pretty sizable meal, the headache completely disappeared. I’m thinking my electrolyte balance was off and it was a lesson learned for the next time I attempt to do a one-week fast in the future (the boullion cubes were a lot more effective at helping me sustain the fast in 2011 than I even realized). Incidentally, I had another difficult night of sleep waking up just a few hours after falling asleep. If blood sugar dropped that much, then what happened to blood ketones? Check it out for yourself:
Day 1 began with my morning ketone levels at 2.3 millimolar which is a bit higher than they typically are. You’ll see they dipped down to .6 for a few hours reflecting the high level of water consumption early in the day. They rose back up to 1.2 before I hit the sack early just after 9:15PM. When I got up at 8:45AM on Day 2, my blood ketones were already at 1.5. After slightly dropping down to 1.1 due to drinking a lot of water up until around midday, you’ll notice blood ketones began to quickly skyrocket as I approached 48 hours of straight fasting. The meteoric production of ketone bodies hit a climax of 4.6 after 49 hours of fasting before falling back down to 3.5 towards the end of Day 2. When I woke up at 8:30AM on Day 3, my blood ketones were abnormally higher than they usually are at 3.2. After ticking up to 4.5 at 10:30AM there was a quick drop and very fast rise of blood ketones up to a high of 5.8 millimolar by 4:30PM–71 hours into my total fast. This coincided with my blood sugar dipping down to 59 for a couple of hours. My NK observation has been when blood sugar is lower, blood ketones tend to be higher. In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t at all worried about my blood ketones going that high. They’ve been even higher before, but I can’t help but wonder how much higher they might have gone had I continued this fasting experience. We’ll have to save that for another day. Now let’s see what happened to my weight during this 72-hour fast:
Weight is probably the least interesting part of this fasting experiment because if you don’t eat any food then you expect to see weight loss. DUH! I will note that my weight was up to start Day 1 because I had a sizable meal late in the afternoon on March 16, 2013 preparing for what I thought was going to be seven days of no food. Although there wasn’t much weight loss in Day 1, it certainly reflected itself when I woke up in Day 2. You’ll see my weight goes up early in both Day 2 and 3 when I drank copious amounts of water to ward off hunger from not eating. When I stopped drinking so much water, the weight came down. Yes, I lost a few pounds during this 72-hour fast, but the most interesting thing about this experiment is what happened in the three days that followed. Let me share a few observations about what happened next:
I definitely want to give another go to a full one-week fast again sometime in the future, but it will undoubtedly be with the inclusion of salt supplementation to keep my electrolytes exactly where they need to be. Had that happened this time, I think I would have made it all seven days. Nevertheless, I consider this experiment a success because it showed me what I wanted to see–how quickly blood sugar drops, blood ketones rise and weight fluctuations during a water-only fast. It’s yet another point of data in my n=1 experiment testing nutritional ketosis.
What did you think about my fasting results? I’d love to see your feedback about what happened, so feel free to share those in the comments section below. My next update for Day 301-330 is coming up in mid-April and then I’ll write a wrap-up post about one year of doing nutritional ketosis when I return from The Low-Carb Cruise in mid-May. I’ve got a few very interesting tests coming up soon that I hope to include showing the state of my health being in a constant state of ketosis in that final analysis. By the way, I got the results of my cardiac calcium score last week–ZERO! Not too shabby for a diet that is 80-85% dietary fat, eh? More coming soon!