5 Day Water Fast: Frederic Patenaude tells his story

Sunday Dec 15 | BY |
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I’m currently in the middle of a five-day fast at the TrueNorth Health Center in beautiful Santa Rosa, California.

This fast is actually a 10-day cleanse. Here’s the structure.

  • 2 days of preparation. During those days I only had fruits and vegetables. I only had fruits the last day before the fast.
  • 5 days of complete water fasting (pure water and nothing else)
  • 3 days of refeeding, reintroducing healthy foods progressively (starting with only fruit and juices).

Why this fast, at this time of the year?

I’ve fasted before so I know the benefits of fasting. I’ve done a 23-day fast, a couple of 3-day fast, one 4 day fast, and of course many 1-day fasts.

I always found that water fasting is a great “re-calibrator,” pushing you towards healthier eating habits. It’s a great “reset” button. It also has many great health benefits for people with more serious health challenges. I’ll get to that in a moment.

My goals for this fast were:

– Get a fresh new start for the year. Fasting is a great way to rethink your priorities and get clarity in your life.

– Experience the rejuvenating effects of fasting. Fasting and calorie-reduction is the only proven way to increase longevity in all animals. I also believe that a fasting cure once a year can prevent many diseases.

– Move back into a healthier eating pattern. My diet is very healthy, compared to 99% of people, but I know it hasn’t been optimal lately. Fasting is a great way to recalibrate your system and get started into a healthier lifestyle.

– Release a bit of fat. That’s the part that most of my friends don’t understand. “You’re so skinny already” they say. But I know better myself. Although I appear thin compared to most people, I was at about 10 pounds more than my ideal. Already at this stage of the fast, and with the changes I made prior to it, I almost reached my goal!

I’ve met a lot of incredible people at the True North Center.

First of all, the team of doctors is outstanding.

Dr. Michael Klaper, one of the most trained M.Ds and big-time plant-based diet advocate, works full-time here at the center.

Dr. Alan Goldhamer is an extremely knowledgeable MD who directs this center and is one of the worldwide experts on water fasting.

There are other extremely qualified health professional here as well.

The fast is fully supervised. Blood tests and a full consultation with one of the doctors insures that you’re healthy enough for fasting. And every day doctors come to check up on you.

There are daily health lectures to keep you busy, and of course you get to meet people from all over the world who are also here fasting, or during another type of cure like a juice fast.

The most incredible thing is to hear the stories of people who have fasted and recovered from serious conditions, when nothing else they tried has worked before. I’ve already heard several of those stories first-hand from people here, at different stages of their health journey.

Juice Fasting: What’s the Difference

I could have done a juice fast. But I had a limited amount of time, so I decided to do a water fast.

There are different approaches to cleansing. You can do:

1) A juice “fast” — typically that’s a 600 calorie liquid diet. A juice fast tries to replicate the fasting experience but the some liquid nutrition (fresh fruit and vegetable juices) makes the fast less intense and more indicated for people who can’t fast.

2) A juice “feast” — That’s like a juice fast, but you get way more calories. So you’re allowed to drink more juice every day. This makes this cleanse a perfect one to follow at home, without supervision. And this is a cleanse that can be done while continuing your daily activities.

3) A water fast. This is a true fast. Nothing but pure water is taken, and the faster must avoid exercise, stress and work. Any water fast beyond 3 days should be done with professional, medical supervision.

All of those cleanses are great, but water fasting is the most powerful one of them. It’s also the most difficult one.

There are some important physiological changes that occur during a water fast. I’ll go into more details in a future article on fasting that I’m working on, but for now let’s just cover the basics:

1) During a water fast your body goes into full fat-burning mode. If you stay inactive during the fast there is no muscle loss.

2) A water fast activates the detox systems. Enzymatic changes occur in the body that boost your “detox systems” – getting rid of unwanted substances in the body (excess cholesterol, uric acid, and environmental toxins, etc.). These changes persist after a fast.

3) Insulin sensitivity improves during a fast. A water fast has a powerful effect on insulin, making it more effective.

4) A water fast flushes out excess sodium and dramatically lowers blood pressure. It’s the most powerful, clinically-proven cure for high-blood pressure.

5) Fasting has a normalizing effect on the autonomic nervous system. In simple terms: it lowers or eliminates stress-related problems such as anxiety and digestive disturbances.

6) Water fasting creates neuroadaptation to healthier food. After a fast, any food tastes good! Including plain lettuce. It makes it much easier to switch to a healthier, lower salt, oil-free diet. That’s certainly the reward of the faster: every simple meal after the fast tastes like heaven!

Many of these benefits can also come from a juice fast, but it may take more time. So that’s why I try to include some water fasting in any cleanse that I may do every year.

So in summary water fasting is the most intense form of fasting, but also the most powerful. Unfortunately it’s the most difficult and should be done under supervision. Juice fasting (with limited amounts of juice consumed) is also best done under supervision, but many people can do it at home. Juice “feasting” is the most accessible method and can be done anywhere.

So Far So Good

So far I’m on the third day of the fast. The first day was easy. On the morning of the second day, I felt weird, but okay. Last night I was thinking a lot about food. But this morning I’m not hungry or thinking about food. I feel great overall, for someone who hasn’t been eating for nearly three days.

I’ve fasted before, and it’s always the same process.

Water fasting is not a “fun” thing to do by any stretch of the imagination, but it will bring about great rewards.

However, fasting is easier than most people think.

Fasting is really about resting. So that’s why you should not attempt to fast more than a day if you’re going to stay active. The point of a fast is to rest, so most of your time fasting should be spent resting, reading, and essentially doing nothing. Of course, most fasters cheat by watching plenty of DVDs!

It’s a great time to catch up on sleep. I’m sleeping 10-12 hours a day, as I do in every fast. That’s an incredibly rejuvenating part of the fast in itself.

I’ll get back to you next week with my full fasting story. For now let’s just mention that some people with certain medical conditions should never fast. Also, nobody should fast for more than a day without medical supervision.

Note: I’m in no way affiliated with the True North Health Center. I do not get any compensation for writing this article. 

Question of the day: Have you ever fasted (on water) before? If so, what results did you experience? Would you consider water fasting in the future?

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998, first by being the editor of Just Eat an Apple magazine. He is the author of over 20 books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies. Since 2013 he’s been the Editor-in-Chief of Renegade Health.

Frederic loves to relentlessly debunk nutritional myths. He advocates a low-fat, plant-based diet and has had over 10 years of experience with raw vegan diets. He lives in Montreal, Canada.


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  1. Alec says:

    Hi Fred,
    Your 10 day cleanse is very inspiring. I’ve tried cleansing but my method didn’t get to be half good as yours.
    I didn’t go without food.(is that necessary?)
    All I did is eat raw vegetables,plenty of water and a lot of fruits.
    I’m thinking whether to give your 10-day cleanse a try.I know it might be hard because I’ve never gone without food for more than two days and I see I’ll have to give it FIVE DAYS!
    I’ll do it then I’ll let you know.
    Best regards ,

  2. Barbara says:

    Yes, i fasted last year around this time for 23 days and getting ready to do another one. The results were incredible. I completely cleared a tooth infection (which my dentist insisted on either extracting or doing a root canal, said it was the only way to clear it but i knew the water fast was the solution. I checked my vitals every day and did do blood work. My blood pressure went from 135/80 to 111/75 by the end of the fast. I did lose about 17 pounds. I knew my liver was cleansing because i broke out in a rash on my back after about 2 weeks. It’s also interesting to see your urine change colors as the liver cleanses. The water fast also corrected incontinence, cleared varicose veins. The spiritual aspects of water fasting are truly mind blowing. Two weeks into the fast, i felt a euphoric feeling many days. My eye site improved, hearing and most of all smell. Oh my gosh, you are able to smell everything. All of these benefits are still with me a year later. Your body goes into full ketosis after 48 hours. I could also feel my body healing itself. I feel the body will heal it you just move out of it’s way. I have done several juice fasts but water fasting is the quickest and best way to spiritual, physical and emotional rejuvenation. I highly recommend a book called, The Transformational Power of Fasting, best book I’ve ever read on fasting. I’m looking forward to continued health benefits from this next fast. I also wanted to stress the water you drink during the fast is most crucial. I live in Asheville, NC and have pure mountain spring water.

  3. Sol says:

    I enjoyed your article. Thank you. I’ve done juice fasting in the past and I’ve done intense cleansing. One time I did the Arise and Shine cleanse (very intense), consuming only juice and lots of herbs for a number of days (I forget exactly how many). I had the unpleasant experience of losing a fair amount of muscle mass so the question of how much muscle mass is lost in a water fast, which I’m thinking of doing, is a big one for me. Also, on Arise and Shine I woke up a couple of mornings being incredibly nauseous. I knew enough to give myself water enemas and within minutes the nausea passed. So, my second concern with water fasting is too rapid a detox. In the case of Arise and Shine I’m sure that it was all those herbs plus the psyllium and bentonite shakes (and the fruit juices and lack of solid food) that caused too rapid a detox with some auto-intoxication (minimized by the enemas.)

    Back to water fasting, I found this article to be of interest:


    “Even during complete water fasting, which puts you in the fullest state of ketosis, there is some muscle loss. Dr. Fuhrman, who has fasted thousands, states that it decreases to less than 0.2 kg per day once full ketosis is reached, usually by the third day. There are other bodily/cellular processes that continue to require glucose and some tissue will be broken down to metabolize it.”

    The comment above implies that the body can lose .2 kg per day (.44 pounds) of muscle once one is in full ketosis. The comment implies that one could lose muscle mass at a faster rate before one is in full ketosis. I’m curious to know more about the basis for your statement that “If you stay inactive during the fast there is no muscle loss.” I imagine that supplementing with L-Glutamine and/or BCAA would help. In any case, even with some muscle loss, each individual can decide the cost and benefit of doing a water fast and give up some muscle for a greater cause. And, of course with some weight training, the muscle will come back.

    By the way, I’ve ordered Joel Fuhrman’s book: “Fasting and Eating for Health: A Medical Doctor’s Program for Conquering Disease” and I’m looking forward to digging more deeply into the subject.

    One other thought. I’ve done many different diets in my life — raw vegan, raw animal food, paleo, and everything in between. The diet that is helping me the most these days is a moderate carb, moderate protein, high fat ketogenic diet. It’s interesting that the ketogenic diet can be done as a vegetarian diet (lots of coconut oil, carbs from veggies, and eggs, nuts, dairy for those who do well with it, and seeds for protein.) I bet one could even do a raw vegan ketogenic diet. I’m particularly interested in the intersection of the ketogenic diet and cleansing. There’s a lot of neurological stuff in my family hence the draw to high fat for protecting and healing my brain.

    Of particular interest to me is this interview by Dr. Mercola with Dr. Brian Clement, medical director of the Hippocrates Health Institute. That’s the institute founded by Anne Wigmore, who popularized wheat grass juicing.


    Dr. Mercola notes the following as one of the “four truly powerful nutritional approaches taught at the institute.”

    “Intermittent fasting and shifting from burning carbs to burning fat as your primary fuel”

    I’m very excited to see a potential convergence between two diets that seem as far apart as a live foods cleansing diet and a high fat, moderate protein, moderate carb ketogenic version of a paleo diet. In fact, one statement I’ve read a couple of times that has piqued my curiosity is that potentially one reason that vegetarians are frequently healthier than meat eaters (aside from lifestyle factors) is that they consume less protein rather than that they consume less meat.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. I’d love to hear thoughts about this comment.

    • All the doctors at the center say that water fasting with complete inactivity doesn’t create any significant muscle loss. I have fasted before and never found that to be a problem. Your muscles appear smaller after the fast due to water weight loss, but strength comes back easily. A few weeks after a fast (if it’s relatively short) and you’re stronger than before.

  4. Sol says:

    Thanks, Fred. It’s comforting that you and the center haven’t experienced such problems. As a former weight lifter I know how to grow the muscle back if need be.

    And, thanks, Barbara. I’ve ordered the book you recommended.

  5. Stephen says:

    I commend you for trying to increase awareness to the benefits of fasting which has the capability to save many lives. I have fasted myself for thirty days as part of a weight loss program which Dr Klaper does not recommend. But my experience is that it is the most powerful weight loss strategy and the only one guaranteed to work. Klaper’s objection to using it for weight loss is that much of the weight comes back with indiscriminate refeeding. So, I just was careful about my refeeding program to make sure that did not happen. Do you know of any argument against that?

    • I don’t know about the program you’re referring to, but I know that refeeding is definitely tricky after a long fast. As long as you did it right, sounds like you did the right thing.

  6. Jack says:

    Great info, will keep it in mind for the near future! one thing that was unclear regardin unsupervised fasting, is that you wrote “Any water fast beyond 3 days should be done with professional, medical supervision”, and then you wrote “nobody should fast for more than a day without medical supervision”, so as far as unsupervised fasting, is 3 days too much? did you mean one day? would be great to know how many days you think are ‘safe’ (I don’t think I’ll be going into a supervised placed soon, but will give fasting a chance), thanks for the info!

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