Recently there has sprung up a fad called the 5:2 Diet. The two-day fast is not to be confused with that.
About a month ago I was asked by a few people about this 5:2 Diet, and it sounded a lot like my own special fasting strategy.
But it wasn’t.
The 5:2 Diet is some adapted version made for weaklings, where you are “allowed” to eat 500-600 calories a day for two days of the week, and then eat completely normally for the other five days.
So, the 5:2 diet is not fasting. It’s just calorie restriction, and it’s vastly inferior to my 2-day fasting strategy for the following reasons:
- The 2-Day Fast gives you a natural high.
- The 2-Day Fast is a great exercise for Breaking out of Homeostasis.
- The 2-Day Fast gets you ripped pretty damn fast.
The 2-Day Fast is a 40-48 hour period where you don’t consume more than circa 50 calories at a time, to avoid activating your digestive system.
For Beginners: Fasting 101
Note: If you’re new to fasting, here are three summary posts I’ve written about two of the most famous books about intermittent Fasting.
- Part 1. Eat Stop Eat – 24 hour fast once or twice a week.
- Part 2. Fast-5 diet – ca 5 hours to eat every day and 19 hours fast.
- Part 3. My take on IF, bulletproof coffee and miscellaneous stuff.
Most people think that certain things in life are “set in stone”; they think hormonal levels are one of these things that cannot be changed.
I have good news for you: Those people are wrong.
You CAN change your eating patterns and how your body responds to hunger.
I speak from experience. I am NEVER hungry, except after working out.
This is GREAT because:
- It saves me lots of time and money,
- It helps me stay lean,
- It makes me more productive and,
- It gives me much higher control over my behavior. . .
. . . (since I don’t have to think about food).
Is this hard?
It’s almost effortless because I’ve trained my body to go for long random stretches without food, and my hormonal levels have adapted.
How Eating Dulls the Mind
In your body there’s something called the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PN).
The ANS has to do with being active and doing stuff, the PN has to do with resting and conserving energy.
Your body can only activate one of these systems at a time.
Guess which system most people spend the majority of their time being in?
When you eat you are activating the PN and it puts your body in a state of “rest-and-digest”, which makes you mentally lazy and demotivated.
–Just like a grazing cow.
The 2-Day Fast will snap you out of this daze in a major way!
You’ll be able to think MUCH more clearly.
The 2-Day Fast as a Way to Break out of Homeostasis
Fasting is a great way to practice your willpower because it involves an easily observable plateau, during which you’ll experience an initial hunger phase.
This urge you’re feeling, which is telling you to eat, is triggered by your hormones–in order to keep you in homeostasis!
Homeostasis is the biological process by which your brain and body:
- Strive to minimize stress and maintain balance,
- Avoid change and save energy and,
- Flee from discomfort and pain.
When you go without eating for 16 hours or so, you’re breaking out of homeostasis.
This feels uncomfortable at first, especially if you’re not used to doing it–and most people aren’t. So, what do they do? They flee from the discomfort and “retreat to safety”, as an unconscious attempt to maintain homeostasis.
–This is the #1 reason why most people fail with fasting.
Since they don’t know about the process of homeostasis, when they try to change something in their lives–and it feels uncomfortable–they think it’s dangerous. . .
. . .but it’s really not.
The discomfort is only temporary!
It is homeostasis that “tugs at you,” attempting to resist (hormonal) changes by giving you a quick spike of negative emotions. Because of this. . .
. . . people who have never fasted before react to this like they’re going to die from starvation, but the initial spike of hunger is completely harmless.
When you do it a few times you know exactly what’s happening beforehand, and it becomes easy to mentally brace yourself against it.
Longer periods of fasting–just like physical exercise–are great ways to push your mental and physical limitations. And in doing so, you practice your brain, you develop discipline, and you increase your self-esteem.
The 2-day fast is a great way to break out of homeostasis because you get feedback quickly. And it’s very easy to see how your brain and body will try to fool you into quitting. It’s good practice because it’s so damn predictable.
This hunger-plateau is hard to overcome for most people because they trust in the feedback from their brain and body too much. They trust their emotions too much–and now it’s telling them to eat quickly or something dangerous is going to happen (it’s not).
You must brace yourself for this oncoming barrage of negative emotions and strange voices in your head telling you to stop what you’re doing.
These are the lies your brain and body tell you to keep you in homeostasis.
. . . And stop you from pushing your limits.
When you do a 2-Day Fast you are breaking the usual rhythm–the homeostasis–that you are used to. The brain does not like this and will put up a fight.
However, the brain gives up the fight after a couple of hours, once you have broken through the hunger plateau, and your hormonal levels adapt.
I experience the hunger plateau around 16-20 hours. After 21 hours, like clockwork, it stops and I get high.
The 2-Day Fast as a Way to Get Naturally High
When you don’t eat for a while your ghrelin levels (ghrelin is a hunger hormone) will increase, and this gives your brain surges of dopamine (the neurotransmitter of pleasure and focus), which makes you more curious while improving your ability to learn things.
I once sat and read a book about Napoleon for 24 hours straight, with the exception of bathroom breaks.
I don’t think I’ve ever been as immersed in a book as I was then.
Two things usually happen to me once I get through the hunger-plateau:
- #1: Most notably, I experience an increase in cognitive and introspective abilities somewhere around the 20-hour mark after beginning the fast. This is accompanied by slight shivers as I slowly begin to get a bit colder. I also experience a tingling of energy in the back of my head.
- #2: Following this, I start getting into an incredibly deep state of focus. I can feel my brain flex. My brain is now in an activated state for many hours to come. This feels euphoric. It’s hard to describe it to someone who hasn’t experienced it. It’s like being curious about everything.
These sensations remain for a maximum of 48 hours (for me).
I’ve also done longer fasts, but I don’t particularly like it. I get weak and moody from doing it.
The 2-Day Fast is by far the most pleasant (and productive) fasting method, as it induces euphoria and increased focus.
The 2-Day Fast as a Way to Get Ripped
This one is a no-brainer.
If you don’t eat for 40-48 hours that’s a lot of time you spend in ketosis (fat-burning mode), effortlessly shredding unnecessary body fat.
I dropped from 77 kilos to 70 kilos in a 3 months by pulling 2-Day Fasts every Sunday through Tuesday. But then I stopped because it was too powerful, and I got scared–I didn’t want to lose more weight!
I still use do 2-Day Fasts occasionally, but not because I want to lose weight.
I might do it if I am busy and need to get things done. Or to practice breaking out of homeostasis to make sure my willpower stays strong.
How to Go on a 2-Day Fast:
Depending on how strong your willpower is, it’s going to be more or less easy for you to do The 2-Day Fast.
To make it easier you can:
- Drink plenty of water mixed with glutamine (the most common amino acid).
I cannot recommend drinking glutamine on a daily basis strongly enough.
Even if you’re not fasting.
I randomly found out–by experimenting–that glutamine makes longer periods of fasting much easier, without losing out on the beneficial effects.
–Just make sure you don’t go over 50 calories at a time (about a full teaspoon).
Glutamine will not activate your digestive system, because it is absorbed in your intestines before making its way down to the gut.
Glutamine is great for getting a healthier stomach and also for recovering from injuries or sicknesses. I used to have a nasty stomach disease–candida albicans–and my gut would swell up real big and get gassy. Glutamine played a big part in curing that.
To make the 2-day fast easier you can also:
- Drink coffee or tea however much you like.
When you combine coffee with the ghrelin-induced dopamine high that hits after ca 20 hours. . .
. . .You get into a state of fanatical focus and single-mindedness.
Recap: Why You Should Go on a 2-Day Fast
The 2-Day Fast is great because:
- It heals your stomach by giving it time off when you’re not digesting food. (Most people constantly have food digesting in their stomach!)
- It gets you ripped by switching on ketosis, helping you burn fat almost effortlessly.
- It allows for longer periods of hard work and immersion, as your ability to concentrate and learn things gets dramatically heightened.
- It gives you a natural high, making you feel crisp and clear-headed.
- It breaks the cycle of incessant stimulation, boosting your self-esteem and sense of personal freedom.
- It is good practice for making a lasting decision, and for practicing your willpower.
If you can go on a 2-Day Fast you will become a lot better at breaking out of homeostasis.
You will become better at detecting ways that your brain tries to fool you by means of rationalizations and excuses for why you should eat–and go against your decision to fast. And this ability isn’t just useful for fasting. . .
It is a crucial skill for any type of success.
To make the 2-Day Fast easier:
- Drink about 5g of L-glutamine every 3-5 hours.
- Drink coffee or tea. They both suppress hunger and do not contain any calories.
Read on for an FAQ. . .
Common questions I’ve received about the 2-Day Fast
But, I heard fasting is dangerous, and that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?
I’ve heard that too. But it does NOT make it true. It’s just clever PR and propaganda, made to sell you bacon and cereal.
How do I know if I break the 2-Day Fast and activate my digestion?
You will notice if you break your 2-Day Fast by consuming too many calories, because then your stomach will start to growl and you will get hungry again. You will stop feeling clearheaded, and will start thinking about food instead.
I am afraid to try fasting for such a long time because I don’t know anyone who has done it.
The stoics did it to practice their discipline. Benjamin Franklin did it. Jakob Walter and other soldiers often did it. Check out the comment section for other (living) people who did it.
How much sleep do I need when I am fasting?
Less than normal.
I can sleep for 3-6 hours when I do a 2-Day Fast and feel completely fresh.
Are there any other benefits to doing a 2-Day Fast?
Yes, I can think of two:
- The immersion of uninterrupted focus provided by the 2-Day Fast can help spark ‘passion’ for a topic. (It creates psychological commitment).
- You can eat a lot more at buffets. (And save money).
Can I end The 2-Day Fast by working out?
I often end my 2-Day Fasts after 40-48h fast by drinking some coffee, creatine, glutamine, and heading to the gym. I usually lift for about 40-60 minutes. This is no problem for me.
I have also tried lifting weights to end longer periods of fasting (50-80 hours), but I find myself becoming physically weaker and fatigued. So I don’t recommend doing that.
I also wouldn’t recommend doing any extended cardio.
Now do a 2-day fast and thank me later.
For other comprehensive articles like this one, check out my “Start Here” page.