Sunday, June 25, 2017

What I learnt from fasting for 30 days

Few of my Muslim colleagues and friends were starting the month long Ramzan Fast.In Tools of the Titans book I had read how the health nuts go on long fasts and the health benefit they get.

I had to jump into the fray. 

I started researching on the month long 12 hour fast without food or water. I knew I could manage without food but water - that was the big doubt I had. I am someone who always goes around with a water bottle in hand.

Here is the story on what I discovered in the 30 day fast. 


Keto State

First some Biology.

There are 2 mechanisms how energy is distributed in the body.  The first is the normal one. We eat food - and the Carbohydrates gets broken down to glucose and blood carries this to all parts of the body. When glucose content is low we feel depleted and low on energy. Body refuses to move, brain usage slows down - and it will start searching for the next food - and the whole cycle repeats. 

However, when things are not normal - when food is scarce - an alternative energy distribution mechanism called the Keto State will kick in. In the early Neanderthal humans - when a drought or famine comes along or there is no more game to hunt -  these pre-historic humans will have to go for days without food or water - they cannot sit still and complain but they have to migrate or travel longer distances to find food. During these emergency situations the body then starts breaking the stored fat and produces “Ketos”. These Ketos give the energy to move and also burn their brain cells to find new territories and fend off hostile predators and environments. 

The performance of both mind and body is enhanced - significantly.  Otherwise because of lack of Carbohydrates if the human body had shut down - we as a species would have got eliminated long back. 

This enhanced state is the “Keto State”. Body burns Fat instead of Carbohydrates. 

This is the same thing that happens during Full Marathons - after the runner depletes the stored glucose between 24-28 KMs - they come across this wall when the body has to start burning Fat. If they cross this barrier - then they can keep running - even beyond the 42KMs - even 100+ in a day.. what Ultra Runners do regularly.

My experience in Keto State

Once the body switched to Keto state -  I had a  certain euphoric feeling throughout the day and I felt always energetic and alert. I had dropped coffee - being a diuretic I was sceptical of having coffee during fasting. Yet did not experience any slow down or lethargy in spite of no caffeine in the blood. 

At times for longer periods during the day - I felt the exact “clear mindedness” I get after running for 2 hours / a hour long Sudarshan Kripa / dip + meditation in Isha dome - It was amazing. 

I seemed to have tapped into an infinite energy source within myself. Once I went on a marathon training session from 10AM to 4:30 PM. Around 1PM the participants took turns for lunch. I kept going. Even at 4:30 I was still going strong. I am someone who gets drained after a couple of hours - not a human interaction types person - meetings and training’s mentally drain me. I was pleasantly surprised it was the same me - that too running on empty.

Another time - I had to walk around a bit - and around 1:30 PM I was totally drained. I think morning whatever little carbs I ate - got used up and body was shutting down. The next meeting was at 2 and I found a chair and slumped into it. Took a quick nap and once the 2PM meeting started - I had a tremendous burst of energy. Kept going till evening. 

Yes, there were some down moments in this as well. 

First few days in the evenings I will get a mild headache which went off after breaking the fast. Did get angry and irritated more than my regular quota. Also noticed in a few people who were fasting were getting irritated and were short tempered. Or could be it was me - the world gets coloured with the vision of ourselves.  Started my regular Sahaj meditation and it was brought under control. Had to start using Mouth wash twice a day - to fend off the bad breath. Other than these there were no other issues I faced.  

The Vegetarian Faster

Fasting is the only way to get to Keto State. We have to starve the body of Carbs. I picked this from Paleo diet -  they eat Fat and only fat and they completely avoid Carbs. 

It is tough for a plant eater. To get to Keto state fast - one has to cut down all carbs and switch to a fully fatty diet. Fat is in abundance in meat. Vegetarians get fat mainly from Milk products and Egg. If you are a Pure vegetarian - Eggs are a no go. If you are a Vegan - even milk is a no go. I don’t think Vegans can go to Keto state. 

I am in the path to be a Vegan - so had cut down on Milk and Egg. My morning cup of coffee is my only milk intake. Eggs are rare. 

I had to go back to my Milk and Egg diet. Milk in the form of Paneer, Butter and Cheese. 

I will wake up around 5:00 AM and stuff myself with Paneer, 2 Eggs, Sprouts, Butter with 1 bread, a banana and chug half a jug of water. After a week I reduced to half of what I was eating. I will try to finish it all off before 6:00 AM. I was not following the strict sunrise to sunset my Muslim friends were following - but from 6AM to 6PM or to 7:30 PM depending on when I get home.  

Dinner I will eat a roti or two with some Chenna or Paneer based Sabzi - and will have lots of veggies, sprouts, soaked peanut, fruits etc. 

In my research Sprouts and Dates are a must - and are the magic food that kept me going. Once I broke my fast in the evening, but did not eat sprouts. Dinner was not ready and I felt drained and almost slept off without eating dinner.. Later I made sure I eat the sprouts both times of the day. 

Is this healthy?

I should have done a blood test before and after. Kicking myself for not having done it. There is scientific evidence on the cleansing of accumulated toxins these intense fasts do. I checked my weight before and after - remained the same. Might have dropped in the middle. 

However, it is not to be done for elongated periods of time - beyond a month. Then the returns diminish and might end up hurting the fragile ecosystem of our body. Paleo dieters should do the carb free diet once or twice a year for a month. 

Another tweak I am doing going forward is to reduce Carb Intake. Swap the portions of Rice and Side dish. That is Side dish takes over the Center plate, and rice moves into a cup where the side dish was. 

Fasting is present in every religion - Hindus typically do it around Moon cycle - planning to adopt this in my routine. Christians have Lent. Muslims have Ramzan. Jains have even more intense fasts - 24 hours I believe. 

I will be back in 2018 and will do the the Ramzan fast. So I can continue dishing out such dialogues as “I am a Buddhist, who fasts like a Muslim and listens to Shiv Slokhas”.

New Achievement unlocked in Game of life.

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