Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Angus Barbieri's fast (wikipedia.org)
61 points by nixass 4 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 62 comments

I did a 60 day water only fast, minor electrolyte supplementation, and a handful of vitamins & other supplements later in the fast.

Lost 80 lbs in 60 days, kept off around 60 of it for 3+ years. Here's my spreadsheet log.[1] Note this is NOT how I would do things now.

I'll be around for the next hour or so and do my best to answer any questions, if I don't catch you, my e-mail is my username here at gmail.


How would you do things now?

Two major mistakes I made on that fast.

1) I was drinking too much water. During the early phases I was up to 5 to 7 liters per day, now I keep it around 3 to 3.5 liters unless I'm on my feet or sweating quite frequently. Too much water can be just as bad (or worse) than not enough.

2) Doing salt only (probably combined with the excess water intake) was demonstrably stupid. Now I supplement sodium/magnesium/potassium every day on an extended fast. I personally shoot for around 3k/2k/1k mg daily of each of those. Do not take them all at once, they'll go right through you. Remember 3k mg sodium is roughly 7k mg table salt. Avoid Magnesium Oxide, shoot for Chelated Magnesium or Magnesium Citrate, they have much better bio-availability. This may seem excessive for electrolytes, but I think it's a good starting point regardless of body size, and the solution to it being 'too much' is 'just drink water'.

One Minor mistake -- I'd keep my diet much less full of junk leading in to the fast. That 60 days started over an argument with my significant other about about weather to cook two pizza's or one, and beer was involved, so... let's just say I didn't have the cleanest of slates going into the fast the next day.

Other than that, I'd take better notes, journal more, and test my bloodwork more frequently -- both with my ketone meter and in a lab by professionals.

What form did you take your supplements in? If the goal is to spread out the dose, sounds like powdered would be better than pills?

I assume you've heard of snake juice then? Is that recipe, in your experience, decent?

For those not aware, Snake Juice is a recipe used by a prominent YouTube host who likes to do the drill sergeant routine in whipping people into shape, so is quite divisive. Here’s the recipe:

For 2L water: 1tsp potassium chloride (NoSalt / SaltFree)

1/2tsp Himalayan pink salt

1tsp sodium bicarbonate (Red Mill. Not processed Arm & Hammer)

1/2tsp magnesium sulphate (Epsom Salt. West Point. Must be Food Grade)

Thanks for clarifying :)

Yeah I can only take that channel in small doses, but I've heard the recipe works well.

How was your muscle mass and health after this?

Any other side effects?

I lost 30kgs over 12 months in 2013, half of it through intermittent fasting over period of 3 months. I have also fasted for 2 weeks once (not during that year).

> How is your muscle mass and health after this?

Literally the best I've felt in recent memory was day 61 after I started eating again.

Muscle mass was fine, I'm sure there was some decline in muscle mass, but I wasn't working out excessively during the fast. Mostly just long walks. I'd guess no more muscle mass than just sitting in front of a computer and not moving.

I leveled out around 225/230 post fast and I was able to deadlift 450 for 3x reps within weeks of starting to eat again.

> Any other side effects?

Completely re-calibrated sense of taste post fast, probably partially due to a much healthier gut microbiome -- though I have no way to back that statement up.

Massively heightened sense of smell during the fast too. Focusing seemed easier when running on ketones.

Long term, it took a while until literally everything didn't taste obscenely sweet.

One of the warnings I read going in to my own (only 10 day) water fast was that it can have a detrimental effect on the muscle mass of your heart. Did you observe any decrease in cardiovascular function?

Did you have your blood work done? Any data you can share there?

I would expect some muscle mass loss from a long-duration fast because your liver needs to consume protein to synthesize some sugars for the small number of cells that require sugar (e.g. red blood cells).

I think consuming a bit of yeast (as Mr. Barbieri did) is probably a good idea to prevent your body from catabolizing muscles.

I believe biggest sink for glucose are portions of brain that cannot use ketones for fuel.

As to yeast -- that's right, that is exactly the point. Rather than eat yeast extract which is basically proteins and nothing else, I would take a look at a small amounts of broth in daily diet. It is possibly safer (people can survive on broth alone so small dose of it daily shouldn't be a problem) and it tends to contain a lot of useful stuff for the organism.

It is not strictly zero calorie diet but I think if your aim is health this is probably for the best rather than seeking ideal of zero calories.

What parts of your brain can’t use ketones?

I mean, I probably have/had a lot of junk proteins floating around in my blood stream, walls of my blood vessels, scar tissue, etc. (Warning -- speculation on my part)

I may have lost absolute muscle mass, but glycogen is a bunch of that mass, and my muscles had none of that by day 60.

My feeling was something along the lines of -- sure I lost some muscle mass, but it was a small amount and relative to overall mass lost and the other health benefits of not being obese.

Also, subjectively, I feel like I lost little to no actual strength.

I think part of this can be explained by lost mass in general as you no longer need to lug that fat around with you, making it easier to move around and generally feel better at least for a time before body accommodates.

True. I guess what I'm trying to get across is subjectively it felt like there was nothing but gains.

To me quibbling over if 5% or 25% of overall mass lost was muscle is immaterial and completely outweighed by the benefits regardless of what that number is.

I fasted for 3 weeks once (water only) after I broke my jaw. It was strange going back to eating actual food...

I fasted for 2 weeks. Only water, tea (no sugar or milk) and a tiny bit vitamins just for safety.

I actually loathed going back to eating. At a point I thought it strange that I am actually dragging switching back to eating -- before the experiment I thought I will be looking forward to it.

I have fasted many times before and after, though no longer than a week. I think it is easier to fast if you are already doing something like intermittent fasting and are used to skipping whole days of eating.

My experience is that the worst is 2nd and 3rd days of fast, it gets better after that and about a week later headaches stop and you are feeling light and slightly energized.

I will not repeat fasts over 1 week in length again as I have some data to suggest that my muscle mass and physical fitness decreased due to that fast. So if you are looking to loose weight by going radical fast you need to be mindful you can be loosing muscle mass that is really important to burning energy, and this could undo any benefits. I think if you are very, very overweight and very, very determined you could use this as a drastic measure with intention to build the muscle mass back after you finish fasting.

On the other hand shorter fasts (1-3 days), though not so enjoyable, don't seem to be leaving any lasting harm (for me) and over time you get used to it and can control calorie intake better.

I suffered from anorexia and fell down to 117lbs at 5'8" at my worst. when I was in rehab, they told me I had to force myself to eat on a schedule - after you stop eating for long enough your body's sense of hunger becomes disrupted. refeeding was torture.

(I'm doing much better now!)

If I've learned anything from Survivorman it's that you figure out how to get clean water first and the rest is a nice-to-have.

I keep a couple of Sawyer water filters on hand as a "just in case" because losing access to drinkable water is something I don't ever want to experience if I can help it.

It's not nessasarily painful but it will kill you in 2-5 days.

Are you saying humans can't survive without water for 2 days? That seems quite short.

GP listed a range. 2 days probably won't kill most people if they're starting at a healthy point and aren't too active or in an arid environment, but it will probably kill a lot of people if they start off somewhat dehydrated or are too active (by necessity or stupidity) during that period. The usual number tossed out is 3 days, but it's not like people will magically all drop dead after 72 hours from their last drop of water. It's an average or expected value.

Yes that's about right. It depends on where you are. On a very hot day in a desert you can die in less than a day. I can't find any exact numbers for this though.

3 days is the rule I've heard.

The wikipedia article says he died at age 50/51. He did the fast at age 27. What happened after the fast? What killed him?

I was curious about that too. Though I lost a lot of excess fat through intermittent fasting a few years ago. Slipped back into old habits after my relationship broke up and I’m almost back to square one!

125 kg of fat is approximately 1.12 billion calories, enough to last a human for more than 400 days. Rough math checks out.

Yes and no – he lost 125kg of adipose tissue, which is something like 60-85% fats with the rest being other bodily tissues and water. It's hard to say exactly how many calories were used in pure fat, but in any case, the rough math still checks out.

Are there any guidelines about safe fasting?

I know 2 people that developed gallbladder stones and had to undergo gallbladder surgery after a sudden switch to plant-based diet for a month. Doctors say a rapid weight loss might be the cause.

I imagine it is only worse with real fasting.

Absolutely necessary: drink water.

Also, if you have any medical conditions or plan to fast longer than 2 weeks -- seek medical observation.

I would also suggest eating a tiny bit of vitamins, electrolytes and proteins, just for safety. Your organism cannot synthesize all proteins that are needed and can't produce vitamins (by very definition) even if it gets good at conserving them.

For example tryptophan is precursor for serotonin and melatonin and cannot be synthesized by human body. You are risking depression and sleep problems without any intake of it.

Also I am not medical professional. You should probably not base your health and safety on word of a layman dropping his opinion on HN:)

Why “a little bit” of vitamins? I would expect “top of recommendations if not more”

Because something funny happens to organism on fast and it starts conserving absolutely everything. So what is recommended amount during "normal operation" is probably too much while your organism is in emergency preservation mode.

Now, fast is no magic, the organism still uses up stores of various chemicals, just slower, so it still can "run out" of some things even if it still has a bunch of fat available for energy.

One way organism can preserve chemicals is the simple fact it no longer has to digest stuff and then expell a lot of waste products. All of this is normally huge drag on your body, mostly on your liver. When on fast, that process is no longer necessary (mostly) and your liver gets much more efficient at the smaller number and volume of metabolic pathways.

So when you are on fast and drop a vitamin, your body has not much else to do and will be very efficient at incorporating those vitamins into your body when normally most of these vitamins would not be used because the pathways necessary would be busy doing something else.

It is also really funny to observe you can be not eating anything but still poop for at least a weak.

>It is also really funny to observe you can be not eating anything but still poop for at least a weak.

Isn't that because the body will still be excreting dead red blood cells and other short term cells. I had read somewhere that's often the bulk of feces anyway plus undigestable fibers

1) Have the bodyfat stored as energy if you're going to do an extended fast. I wouldn't push anything beyond a week if you're below 10% bodyfat for men, 15% for women.

2) Drink water, not too much, not too little.

3) Supplement electrolytes. Sodium, Magnesium, Potassium.

You can see my comments elsewhere in this thread for more details on that.

* Don't start with longer than 2-3 days fasts * Drink plenty of water and you can supplement with some electrolytes to replace what you lose * Read about re-feeding syndrome. Don't eat a lot when you start eating again and avoid high sugar stuff in the beginning.

> * Don't start with longer than 2-3 days fasts

Oh, absolutely right. If you have never missed a meal in your life and you plan to start multi-week fast you are in for a rude awakening.

As with any other change for your organism, you are best doing it slowly and letting your body adapt.

The metabolic pathways needed for operation while fasting are different from the ones you train on 3 meals a day. You need to let them develop a little bit before you go for a long fast.

It would be like trying to run a marathon without any training.

Well, you could supplement with ursodiol, lecithin, and peppermint gel caps taken as a bolus at bedtime during fasting.

As it turns out, I just ran out of food two days ago and have been on a water fast. I'm homeless. Auspicious timing of hn articles, as usual.

Are you ok? Where are you?

I've been living out of my vehicle for a long time which is about to fall apart.

There is help here but I've refused it. Thanks.

It's so tempting to just end it now, it's difficult to convey how overwhelming the feeling to self-terminate has been these past few years. If history is any measure, I'll back out, though.

Why have I heard or read about water fasts from multiple independent parties in the past 48 hours, incl this article? I'm creeped out beyond words.

What happened man? I know I’m a stranger on the internet and I’m probably half a world away but I’m listening.

I’ve been in some real rough holes too and I know what it feels like to lose all hope but I’ve never been without a home. Can’t imagine how hard that is for you mate.

I planned out my suicide and here we are.

What led up to you living in your car?

Gave it all away! All of it. My nest egg, my credit, my reputation. It's all gone. I did this to prepare for suicide. Still afraid to follow through, so I tend to complain online when food runs out.

How did you give away your reputation?

And why do you want to commit suicide?

Why? I find this species and human existence to be intolerable and loathsome. I think humans are shit. I have hated being alive for decades, and have held on for too long only to see everything deteriorate.

In my view, it's better to self terminate now and save resources. To be clear, I am destitute and have zero intention nor desire to participate in human culture again. It's why I gave everything away in preparation for suicide.

__Practical Reasons__

I've dealt with unresolved bullying and abuse for decades and decided enough was enough. Past the point of no return now.

I also have an untreatable medical condition that has wrecked my quality of life for decades.

Hoping to finally do it this time. Too many false starts.

Who is bullying you and what are they doing?

Ouch, what medical condition do you have man?

All of that would get me down too. I get why you want to throw in the towel, it’s not easy. But please don’t. Please let’s just keep the conversation going so I can fully understand.

I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing that you died alone, hungry and completely broken.

If you’re still reading this, please let me know you’re okay!

> how reputation

finances, credit, rental, legal, personal, family, work, online rep - all wrecked

> why suicide

lots of reasons, too many to list

Hello Fastly, sorry to hear that you're struggling. I'm no expert on advising you or anyone through what you're going through, but there's an above average amount of mental illness and alcoholism and intergenerational violence in my family - all four grandparents were alcoholic and have seen a lot of scorched earth approach to life, but in every case there was a redemption and a happier life of some form in the long run. I carry a lot of them in me, through nature or nurture I don't know, but seem to have made through a vastly more complex path than was necessary to a contented life, but it's taken a very long time, and it doesn't hold together every day. If you're at the point where you hate the life you have, there are lots of ways to walk away from your current life and start a new one. Plenty of places where a person who can read and write and drive a car can do a lot of good and help a lot of other people. My unexpert opinion is that being open about exactly how terrible you are feeling and functioning is extremely freeing, a lot more people than you would think are secretly ashamed of their hidden chaos. A lot of the people who outwardly seem prosperous and functional are running on maxed out credit and self loathing, and will be very empathetic towards you and willing to help if you show them the truth of where you are at. There's an amazing interview with Hank Azaria from the simpsons about how his athletic physique is actually a symptom of his intense self loathing and his constant unrelenting need to punish his body and shame of his appearance. The people around you are messier than you think. What state or country you in Fastly?

Thanks for detailed reply. A bit late, though. I don't intend to return back to normal. I don't wish to exist off of the system. This leaves one option: self-termination.

As per other comment, I find human existence to be disgusting.

This is not by any means an acute decision. Years in the making. I ran out of food money a few days ago knowing I'd face this decision yet again.

That's sounds rough. I'll probably agree with you point for point on the terribleness of people, but I take a different view on what it means. We've stumbled to this point, not unstained from the a garden of eden, but from simple ruthless RNA lifeforms at the bottom of the ocean, to the point where can ponder our own existence. To look at ourselves and be disgusted means that within us we have evolved the capacity to desires something better, to believe it would be better to live with kindness and integrity. Generation by generation we are becoming kinder and more peaceful, but it's slow lumpy progress that's going to take centuries. Is there any possibility in your mind that depression and deep unhappiness might mean that only the the terrible things about people are resonating with you and not the good and the potential. If your thinking is solid it then it won't be swayed by a good meal, a good night's sleep, getting somewhere warm, somewhere people are kind, somewhere you can do something kind for someone else. But it might give you a moment of relief, and in that moment you might find that there is a way to live, not off the system, not back to normal but a niche you hadn't thought of where you can live with integrity with less pain.

If you're still in seattle, would you be willing to go help these guys feed the hungry tomorrow and feed yourself too:


Email: hello@seattlefoodnotbombs.org Phone: 253-237-6196

or these guys

https://www.ugm.org/volunteer/ : volunteer@ugm.org or (206) 723-0767.

If your current perspective is solid it won't be swayed by seeing people working hard to make other people's existence less shitty.


likely the Baader-Meinhof effect - multiple parties may have recently read the same article in the feed, or it might just be that coincidences are likely in independent sets of conversation topics (e.g. the Birthday paradox), or meta-patterns to complex behavior that we're not consciously aware of but show up.

finding patterns in noise and noticing coincidences can be symptoms of psychosis, though. I hope you give meds another try before you hurt yourself..

Hey, question.

On one of my twitter accounts where I tweet about my suicidal ideations, when I start a tweet to "@coffee", twitter's autocomplete returns the first suggestion as "Death Wish Coffee".

This doesn't happen on my other twitter accounts.

Am I noticing a pattern that is possibly indicative of psychosis? Or is twitter's pattern matching algo matching up my "death wish" (discussions of suicidal ideation) with "death wish coffee"? Or, perhaps there is some other explanation?

Not gonna lie, this response is a bit tone deaf. If someone’s feeling suicidal, do they really give a shit what the type of coincidence is called?

Suggesting psychosis is not appropriate either. Not what someone feeling suicidal wants to hear.

I've never taken meds. Your assumption that I have taken them before is wrong.

Seeing patterns is just that, a pattern matching process of the brain. It's annoying and creepy, like your response. I don't draw conclusions.

It's insulting and counterproductive to make an anonymous diagnosis (or even a suggestion of the possibility of one) to a stranger online. Please don't do that. I am under enough pressure as it is. Your response makes it harder for me, despite your intention. So, kindly discontinue.

What a worthless piece of shit this ape species is, especially the smart ones who think they know more than they do. Good riddance. Seattle / Bellevue was full of pompous self important dicks.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact