What is Water Fast Week?
In 2015, Dr. Thomas Seyfried – the author of Cancer as a Metabolic Disease: On the Origin, Management, and Prevention of Cancer – came on the show to speak to us about metabolic fasting as a means of cancer therapy – and (possibly) prevention.
For a more in-depth explanation of how exactly that works, click here to listen to the episode.
The short version? It may be that we have the ability to “starve out” stray (pre-tumorous) cancer cells by simply not eating. Cancer cells don’t survive nearly as well as healthy cells in a low-glucose (ketogenic) internal environment. And the quickest way into ketosis is, well… by starving.
Dr. Seyfried cited “a 7-day water fast, once per year” as a possible way for a healthy person to remain cancer-free by starving any errant cancer cells before they can establish a foothold in the body.
This means that for a comparatively small investment of time (and a larger dollop of willpower), we might be able to significantly extend both our lifespans and our “health-spans.” Cancer remains a distressingly prevalent killer and misery-bringer – so anything to safely lessen its likelihood is great news, right?
Why a water fast?
While there are many variations on this theme – different fasting methods promoting slightly different health benefits – research suggests that a water-only fast of at least three days is the most effective method to achieve a deep ketogenic body state in the shortest amount of time.
Why not just do a ketogenic diet?
Ketogenic diets can be great, but they don’t necessarily achieve the goal here. Most people pursuing these diets remain in “shallow ketosis,” bouncing up occasionally into normal glucose (sugar) burning metabolism when enough carbs or protein enter their diet. This lighter ketogenic state takes longer to achieve (since you’re still eating) and much more measurement to maintain, and probably won’t ever provide as hostile an environment for any cancer cells.
Short Version: A ketogenic diet is a lifestyle. An acaloric fast is an acute shock to the body, meant to create a hormetic (beneficial) response.
During the Water Fast Week, we’ll be guinea-pigging ourselves on the chance that Dr. Seyfried is right and a once-a-year practice can significantly reduce the chance of cancer (nipping it in the bud, as it were).
“Nutritional ketosis” starts at 0.5 mmoL/liter of circulating “ketone bodies” in the blood, but the “deep ketosis” that Seyfried talks about is 3.0+, which would not be achieved during just 3.5 days of reduced-carb eating. Here’s the progression of Jesse’s ketone bodies during Water Fast Week 2015. It wasn’t until over 3 days without food that he broke through the 3.0 barrier marking “deep ketosis.”
Why not a 1000-calorie-a-day diet (or something similar)?
It’s been suggested by some that one can achieve the same benefits of a water fast on a specialized 1,000 calorie per day diet. While this may be possible, we’re sticking to what we know: a zero-calorie water fast.
Why a week?
Three-to-four days to get firmly into “deep ketosis,” and then the rest of the week to give any theoretical freeloading cancer cells in our bodies time to starve.
A day or two shorter might not be enough time to starve out the stray cancer cells. Any longer might be (pardon the pun) overkill. Plus, a week just sounds nice.
You’ve done this before?
Yup. In 2015, a motley band us of willpower-imbued longevity seekers consumed nothing but water from February 16th-22nd. (You can read about Jesse’s experience here.)
In 2016, we did it again from June 5th – 11th. (Switching to the summer months made it a lot nicer – at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere.) Having two years’ worth of data points gave Jesse some added perspective, and he wrote about it again here.
Let’s be honest. Doing this isn’t a walk in the park. But it won’t be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, either. And banding together in an online forum to share experiences, tips, and questions makes it a strangely fun social activity. We’ve also been lucky to have a few very experienced fasters – as well as a medical doctor – join us in past years, to chip in with info.
And that’s how Water Fast Week — now an annual ritual — was born.
Water Fast Week 2017
This year’s dates are July 10th – 16th.
That means last legal eating takes place at 11:59pm on July 9th. Re-feeding will begin following the stroke of midnight as the date changes to June 17th. (If you’re really hardcore, you can wait for breakfast-time on the morning of the 18th, but we doubt you’ll want to.)
Want to join us?
If you somehow got here and haven’t yet signed up for the Water Fast Week mailing list, get back here and do it.