Our senses are bombarded with stimulation about eating a lot of food on a daily basis. Even though we may not feel hungry, the scent of chocolate or fried food can make us give into temptation. Although water fasting is a difficult discipline, it gives the digestive system a chance to rest. This leads to removing of old or diseased cells and producing new fully functional ones.
During sleep, our bodies attempt to heal and restore (1), and breaking a fast begins the process of digestion once again. Initially, when the word breakfast is broken down, it means to break the fast. When we eat three meals a day, the digestive system is constantly at work in digesting the food. Depending on the food source, several hours may be needed to digest fully.
Aim to eat a healthier diet prior to water fasting, which will encourage the body to enter the ketosis stage (2) far quicker and reduce hunger pangs that can lurk during the first forty-eight hours. A water fast can be even more difficult than a dry fast, which involves no food or water for a short period up to ninety-six hours, so build up to a longer water fast with shorter fasts of three to five days.
What Happens When the Digestive System is Given Time to Rest?
The most dramatic effects of water fasting occur during the first three days, when the body switches from one energy source to another. When we eat, the main source of energy is glycogen, sourced from food and stored in the liver. In the first twenty-four hours of water fasting, the body is depleted of glycogen stores, and the body is forced to dip into fat reserves for survival (3). By the third day, the body is completely reliant on fat reserves giving the body the essential energy it requires to survive.
The breakdown of fat tissue hits its peak toward the tenth day, while the seventeenth day is a period when the body breaks down most of its fat reserves. The body is given time from digesting food to seeking out foreign bacteria that are causing imbalances in the body, including viruses, degenerative tissue, and fibroid tumors. This detoxification period can lead to fatigue, nausea, bad breath, strong scented urine, and even sensitivity to emotions.
Dependent on the health of the body prior to the fast, the detoxification symptoms may not last long and the health benefits of the water fast may be felt after only forty-eight hours. Look forward to enhanced mental clarity, lack of hunger, improved digestion, a reduction in fungal infections, no more constipation, healed hemorrhoids, an increase in energy, creativity, a sense of gratitude for life, better skin, and weight loss.
Water Fasting and Muscle Mass
The human body is a very intelligent system. It knows exactly what to preserve, so do not worry about the body eating significant muscle mass. As it becomes clear from this article (4) about 20% of the the muscle tissue is made of protein, the rest is water.
Due to this fact when you are water fasting you lose smaller amount of structural protein compared to water in overall decrease of muscle mass.
Daily Loss of Structural Protein and Body Mass Over 21 Day Fasting Diet
|Days||Daily loss of structural protein in grams||Daily loss of body mass in lbs|
As you can see only a small amount of muscle mass is lost on a water fast. Approximately a half to two ounces of muscle mass per day of water fasting.
Have in mind that longer plan for 21 or 30 day water fast can have significant effect of muscle mass. You can lose from 13 – 17 pounds during this period some of which are pure muscle mass.
The body can hold onto a vast amount of water weight, up to twenty pounds, and water fasting supports the loss of excess water weight.
Water Fasting Effects On People With Hypertension
A clinical study involving 174 subjects with hypertension (high blood pressure) was performed with water fasting. The subjects were told to eat a diet of only fresh fruits and vegetables for three days before the water fast, which was then followed by a maximum eleven-day water fast. Post water fast, the subjects were told to eat a low fat low sodium diet for a further seven days. After the study, the subjects with high blood pressure reported a normal blood pressure of around 140/90. Their blood pressure was taken prior to the study, and subjects who had high blood pressure experienced significant health benefits. All 174 subjects were able to discontinue their blood pressure medication afterward. These findings are published in the Journal of Manipulative and Psychological Therapeutics (JMPT) (5).
Water Fasting on Food Addiction
Water fasting is also effective in breaking bad food habits and addictions. Some of us drink too much alcohol, others comfort eat during emotional discomfort, and cigarette smoking is another difficult addiction to break, which is why water fasting improves willpower and helps one to gain mental clarity about decision making. After several days of water fasting, the appetite will decrease and this is perfectly normal.
Although water fasting is a difficult discipline, look forward to the health benefits that take place during the fast. It can also be encouraging to watch videos on YouTube of other fasting enthusiasts who will inspire you to continue. Below is very illustrative video guide of how water fasting works and how to do it properly.
When people with obesity are due to go through gastric bypass surgery, they often have to lose an amount of weight and this is often obtained through a strict diet, or fasting. Fasting provides rapid weight loss for obese patients, as the consultants must ensure that the patient can handle the surgery.
How To Prepare For Water Fasting in 3 weeks
The most essential and must do thing before water fasting is proper preparation of your body. Every human will react in different way to it, so preparing it to do water fasting for first time is a thing you must consider. It is very easy to do by doing intermittent fasting for a 3 weeks and on the fourth you can start water fasting. In general you have to decrease the intake of food during these weeks. In the first week start by skipping breakfast and in the second make sure to skip both breakfast and lunch. The third week will be the most difficult when you have to skip these two meals again and reduce the portion of your dinner to zero. When you are done your body will be prepared for water fasting in the fourth week. This is illustrated in the table below.
|Week 3||Skip||Skip||Decrease portion|
|Week 4||Drink water||Drink water||Drink water|
Types Of Water Fasting
1 Day Water Fast
The most easy to do water fast which gives rest to your body and organs. You have to abstain from any food for 24-hour period one day a week. This gives your body time to heal itself and improve how the digestive system works. Try this one if you are beginner at fasting.
I felt refreshed, and these effects seemed to have sustained over the course of at least a few days. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a simple, easy way to reset your system and eliminate unwanted symptoms tied to your energy, appetite, or gut health. (6)Priscilla Tang – Vunela
3 Day Water Fast
It is more intensive than the 1 day water fast but have more benefits to your health. The three day water fasting will move you to next level. You are supposed to drink only water for three days and this will start rebooting your body. By fasting for 3 days you lay the foundation for longer fasting periods in future.
Finally, it’s worth noting that I’m feeling an incredible amount of elation and clarity. It’s difficult for me to compare this to before the fast. In general, I’m feeling pretty good and know how to enter the flow state periodically throughout the day. (7).Justin Brown – Ideapod
7 Day Water Fast
This week long water fast can have great health benefits. It can make you lose weight in a much better way that the previous two. This period of seven days without food is difficult to handle and is meant for people experienced in fasting. I recommend you to start with one or three day fasting if you haven’t done it before.
I plan to take advantage of the fact that my body has been completely cleaned out and detoxified by being much more conscious of what I eat and how much I eat. I plan to cut out as much processed food as possible and substitute it with whole foods (8).Jonathan Puc – Hacker Noon
21 Day Water Fast
The 3 week water fasting is a form of extreme fasting if you are asking me. Despite of my opinion it is proven to have significant health benefits for those who can endure it. This long fast activates many functions of your body that remain hidden in normal conditions. It will replace most of your immune system cells by activating a process called autophagy.
Yes. It opened my eyes to a few things about the way my body works and gave me some clear air for deep reflection on what I want and how I might move towards oxptimum health. (9)Andrew Leunig – Leunig Advisory
What is Autophagy and how it is related to water fasting?
Autophagy is when the body cleans itself from dead, worn-out and diseased cells. It is activated when we stop taking vital elements from food. When we starve this regenerating process is started to give all of our body parts the best care. After all everything requires maintenance, our bodies too.
Think of it as our body’s innate recycling program.Colin Champ – University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
9 benefits of activating Autophagy
- Suppresses cancer.
- Heals neurodegenerative disorders.
- Helps you battle with infections.
- Cures inflammatory diseases.
- Improves your skin health.
- Reverses aging process.
- Regulates insulin resistance.
- Improves digestive health and metabolism.
- Improves your overall quality of life and life expectancy.
Recover Your Food Intake After Water Fasting
It is important to start eating slowly and in moderate quantities when breaking your fast. This is essential to prevent shocks to your body from huge quantities of food or drinks. Make sure to include foods that can be digested fast like fruit or vegetable juices, raw fruits, yogurt and soups. Eat small quantities over small period of time (between 2 – 3 hours). Spread the process over several days while starting to consume grains, beans, dairy products, meat and fish.
Contraindications to Water Fasting
Not everyone should attempt water fasting on his own. It is important to consult your physician before you attempt a more advanced fast like water fasting. Those who should not attempt water fasting include pregnant diabetic women, breastfeeding mothers, those with chronic anemia, and people with anorexia and/or bulimia.
Hidden Dangers Of Water Fasting
You must be aware that this loss of weight due to water fasting will result in losing vital organ tissue too (10). This can be very dangerous in some situations for many people especially to those suffering from heart conditions. The most dangerous things that can happen to you during water fast are:
- Breakdown in electrolyte homoeostasis
- Heart arrhythmia
- Orthostatic hypotension
- Normocytic or normochromic anemias
- Lactic acidosis
There is good article about the little known health dangers related to water fasting (11). I can suggest that everyone should read before trying water fast even for a day.
10 Tips For Safe Water Fasting
- Start with a short fast (up to 72 hours for beginners)
- Increase the days step-by-step, if you are planning long time fasts.
- Make sure to give your body enough time to recover. A timespan of three weeks between each fast is recommended for best results and healthy outcome.
- Don’t drink too much water.
- Do it under medical supervision.
- Stop fasting if you feel dizzy, have severe stomach discomfort or headache.
- Give yourself plenty of time to rest.
- Minimize physical work to minimum and avoid exercising.
- Water fasting must be done if you are fully developed adult. It is not suitable for children.
- Consider other fasting methods if you have medical conditions.
Water fasting is a difficult discipline that requires strict willpower (12), but the benefits far outweigh the discomforting symptoms of detoxification. Perform your own research before you attempt water fasting to find out what type of discomfort your may experience. If you have any medical conditions they may have effect on this discomfort symptoms. Make sure to have a consultation with your physician too.
It is better to fast during a period away from work where there is no temptation from food. Also, people who have no prior knowledge of water fasting may state that it is dangerous. This is untrue. Aim to steer clear of television too, as this is loaded with food advertisements, which may cause temptation and unnecessary distractions back onto food.
Water fasting can have tremendous benefits of your health. It will improve your body composition and boost metabolism. Cardiovascular health is improved by lowering blood pressure and blood sugar. It also supports fat loss and ketosis. Try it if you need a sharp increase in your body vital functions.
- Sleep, recovery, and metaregulation: explaining the benefits of sleep
- Ketosis, ketogenic diet and food intake control: a complex relationship
- Glycogen shortage during fasting
- The State of Water in Muscle Tissue as Determined by Proton Nuclear Magnetic Resonance
- Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of hypertension
- I fasted for 24 hrs. Here’s what happened.
- My personal experience of the 3 day water fast
- What I experienced on a 7 day water fast
- My 21 Day Water Fast – what happened
- Protein, fat, and carbohydrate requirements during starvation: anaplerosis and cataplerosis.
- Little-known health dangers of water fasting
- The Number One Secret to Superhuman Willpower