Water fasting has gained popularity over the past years, and if you are looking to gain more insight on this fasting method, then you might want to take some time and read this post.
In this post, we will tell you all you need to know about water fasting, and also provide you answers to some commonly asked questions.
So, if this is what you came in for, then keep reading this post.
Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Table of contents
- What Is Water Fasting?
- How Does Water Fasting Work?
- Preparing for a Water Fast
- What Are Some Benefits Of Water Fasting?
- How To Water Fast:
- What Are The Dangers Associated With Water Fasting?
- Expert Perspectives on Water Fasting
What Is Water Fasting?
Water fasting is a strict weight loss diet where you fast or do not consume any other food (both solid and liquid foods) but water. This means you cannot consume tea, coffee, or gum. However, if you are sick or if you do not have the adequate nutrient reserve to go through the day on just water, you may take some liquids such as coffee, tea, or your multivitamins. However, if you do not have any medical condition and you have excellent nutrition, then we recommend you stick with this strict diet.
It is recommended that water fasting lasts anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, and if you are looking to go beyond the 72-hour limit, then we highly recommend you do so under strict supervision.
There are various reasons why someone may attempt water fasting besides weight loss. Some water fast to prepare for surgery (usually they water fast for 12 hours), others water fast as a way of spiritual purification, while others fast to detox their body.
How Does Water Fasting Work?
First of all, you are considered to be fasting when you do not eat any food from 12 hours to a month after your last meal. This means anything below 12 hours isn’t considered fasting.
When we eat, our body stores energy in the form of fats and sugars. Sugar (glucose) is used as the body’s immediate source of energy for our day-to-day activities, and the fat, on the other hand, is stored to be used when necessary. As we continue to eat, these fats are continuously stored and they accumulate and cause us to gain weight.
So, when we fast, our body immediately uses up all the glucose, and when the glucose is finished, and there is no food in the stomach to be digested, then the ghrelin (the hunger hormone) sends a signal to the brain to indicate that you are hungry. Well, when this happens, the brain causes you to feel hungry, and when you do not eat for 12 hours, the body then readjusts and then goes into survival mode to feed itself.
Since there is no food for the body to digest for energy, the only way the body has to feed itself is by breaking down stored fat and also, some muscle to produce energy, and this process is known as lipolysis. And when this process starts, you will realize that you do not feel hungry, even though you aren’t eating.
Preparing for a Water Fast
Preparing for a water fast is essential to ensure that you embark on this practice safely and effectively. Here’s a guide on how to prepare for a water fast:
1. Consult Your Healthcare Provider:
Before starting a water fast, consult your healthcare provider, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions, take medications, or have specific health concerns. Your healthcare provider can help determine if water fasting is appropriate for you and provide personalized guidance.
2. Choose the Right Time:
Select a period when you can focus on fasting without major commitments or strenuous activities. Choose a time when you can rest, relax, and listen to your body’s cues.
3. Gradual Transition:
Begin transitioning to a whole foods, plant-based diet a few days before the fast. This can help ease your body into the fasting state and reduce the shock to your digestive system.
4. Stay Hydrated:
Hydration is essential before and during the fast. Drink plenty of water in the days leading up to the fast to ensure you start well-hydrated. Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol, as they can dehydrate the body.
5. Nutrient-Rich Foods:
Focus on nutrient-dense foods in the days before the fast. Incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to provide essential vitamins and minerals.
6. Plan Your Fasting Period:
Decide on the duration of your water fast. Beginners often start with shorter fasts, such as 12-24 hours, while more experienced individuals may attempt extended fasts. Remember to set realistic goals based on your health status and experience.
7. Gather Information:
Educate yourself about the potential effects and challenges of water fasting. Understand the symptoms of hunger, fatigue, and electrolyte imbalances that may arise during the fast.
8. Stock Up on Supplies:
Have enough filtered water on hand to stay hydrated throughout the fast. You may also want to keep herbal teas and natural electrolyte sources (like lemon or cucumber) for variety.
9. Mental Preparation:
Mentally prepare yourself for the challenges of fasting, such as potential hunger pangs and cravings. Set clear intentions, and remind yourself of your reasons for fasting.
10. Monitor Your Body:
Pay attention to any signs of illness or discomfort in the days leading up to the fast. If you feel unwell, it might be best to postpone the fast or choose a different time.
11. Emotional Support:
Inform friends, family, or a support network about your fasting plans. Having someone to talk to and share your experience with can provide encouragement.
12. Breaking the Fast:
Plan how you’ll break the fast gradually and with easily digestible foods. Avoid consuming heavy or rich foods immediately after fasting.
Remember, water fasting isn’t suitable for everyone, and individual responses vary. It’s crucial to prioritize safety and listen to your body throughout the process. Consulting a healthcare professional before starting a water fast is highly recommended, especially if you’re new to fasting or have health concerns.
What Are Some Benefits Of Water Fasting?
There are tons of benefits associated with water fasting.
1. You Produce BDNF
The Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor is an essential brain protein that is boosted when the body is under stress. When this protein is triggered, it causes our body to produce new neurons or brain cells. Besides producing new neurons, BDNF also protects existing neurons from neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.
The body producing new brain cells due to BDNF can be helpful to those with cognitive issues, less focus, and memory problems. There are various ways you can boost BDNF, however, fasting is one of the most effective ways to do so.
Studies have shown that fasting produces 3.5 times more BDNF than exercise does. The catch here is that you would need to fast for more than 48 hours for your body to induce the production of BDNF.
So, how does fasting produce BDNF?
When the body notices that there is no food coming in, the body and brain get stressed as a result. When this happens, the body has to find a way to counter the stress produced by the brain. And to counter this stress, the body stimulates the BDNF protein to produce new brain cells to deal with the stress.
2. Increase In Ketones
You do not need to be on a ketogenic diet to get into ketosis. When you water fast, your body starts to produce ketones. This happens as a result of the body-switching from burning glucose to burning fat, as a result of the deficiency of glucose in the body. And when fat is burnt, ketones are produced, and as a result, we lose fat.
Ketones are an alternative form of energy to glucose, and studies have shown that ketones (BHB) are a more efficient energy source than glucose. Therefore, you can gain more energy to go about your daily activities when your body runs on ketones.
Another advantage is that ketones prevent you from consuming unnecessary calories by lowering your appetite. It achieves this by suppressing the ghrelin hormone (the hunger hormone), and when this happens, you do not feel hungry, and this means you wouldn’t feel like eating; therefore, your body will keep on burning the stored fat, which will help you lose weight.
In addition, the increase in ketones in the blood is a great stress reliever. This is a result of ketones increasing the levels of GABA in the blood and brain. Gamma-amniotic acid (GABA) is a neurotransmitter that regulates impulses between nerve cells. Studies have shown that low levels of GABA in the blood cause bad moods, stress, and depression. Conversely, when levels of GABA are increased in the blood, it boosts your mood and gives you a calming effect, which is known to help deal with depression.
Finally, ketones are great for improving cognitive function. Higher levels of ketones have been proven to lead to improvement in brain performance. Unlike other parts of our bodies such as our muscles, the brain, and heart love ketones. They run on ketones. Studies have shown that when the brain runs on ketones, it helps suppress neurodegenerative disorders. In addition, increased levels of ketones are known to help people with heart failures.
3. Helps Improve Your Skin
If you want clearer skin, then one of the ways to achieve this goal is by water fasting. Fasting has also been proven to reverse the effect of aging skin by increasing the production of collagen. And when we drink water, our skin is hydrated and we get young-looking and soft skin.
When we fast, the Human Growth Hormone gets induced into the blood, and when HGH levels increase in the blood, it causes the synthesis of the collagen protein to produce more collagen in the blood. Collagen is the protein responsible for repairing and building the skin’s tissues, hair, muscles, and ligaments.
In addition, water is an essential nutrient that gives us clearer skin. When we drink water while we fast, we get the added benefit of hydrated skin and elastic skin. In addition, when you drink water, you prevent the build of wrinkles and scars on the face.
4. Improvement In Gut Biome
Water fasting is a great way to improve your gut biome. One way water fasting helps with your gut health is the production of immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA is an important protein that is responsible for negating the effect of bacterial toxins in the intestine.
Also, studies showed that water fasting improved the homogeneity of gut microbes.
How To Water Fast:
Water fasting is simple, all you need to do is to avoid food or any other liquid for at least 24 hours. However, if you have any medical condition, then you must visit your doctor before you try water fasting.
What Are The Dangers Associated With Water Fasting?
Even though water fasting can be beneficial, there are some risks associated with it. And in this section, we will discuss some risks associated with water fasting.
Some people that try to water fast for the first time are going to feel dizzy within the first few hours when they try to get up or engage in any activity. The dizziness is caused as a result of orthostatic hypotension, which means there is a drop in blood pressure. When this happens, you tend to feel lightheaded, and some people end up fainting.
This is why you must be healthy before you try water fasting.
2. Electrolyte Imbalances
Because we do not consume any liquid or food when water fasting, there is a deficiency in certain electrolytes of the body, most commonly sodium and potassium. And when we water for longer periods such as 48 hours to 72 hours or more, there tend to be low levels of these two electrolytes.
Sodium and potassium are essential elements responsible for regulating body fluids and blood circulation. Low levels of sodium and potassium cause us to feel fatigued momentarily, muscle cramps, and tingles; however, with time, we start to feel better because the body causes the kidney to release sodium and potassium into the bloodstream.
However, when you start noticing any of these signs, it is important that you quit your fast immediately. Or, you can supplement your fast with some electrolytes, minerals, and vitamins.
Expert Perspectives on Water Fasting
- Medical Professional’s Insights:
“Water fasting can have potential benefits, including weight loss, improved insulin sensitivity, and autophagy. However, it’s important to approach fasting with caution. Not everyone is a suitable candidate, especially individuals with certain medical conditions. Consulting a healthcare provider before attempting water fasting is crucial to ensure safety and minimize risks.” – Dr. Lisa Anderson, MD, Internal Medicine Specialist
- Nutritionist’s Take:
“Water fasting can lead to rapid weight loss and may offer metabolic benefits. However, it’s important to remember that long-term success relies on sustainable practices. Fasting should be approached mindfully, focusing on nutrient-dense refeeding to support the body’s nutritional needs. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, and guidance from a registered dietitian can help tailor fasting to individual goals.” – Emily Carter, Registered Dietitian
- Fitness Expert’s Opinion:
“Incorporating water fasting into a fitness routine requires careful planning. While some athletes experiment with fasting to promote fat oxidation, it’s vital to prioritize hydration and electrolyte balance during fasting periods. Performance may be affected, so considering the timing of workouts and post-fasting nutrition is key for maintaining fitness goals.” – Mark Harris, Certified Fitness Trainer
- Mindfulness Coach’s Viewpoint:
“Water fasting can have both physical and psychological effects. It’s an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness, observe eating habits, and gain a deeper connection to hunger cues. However, fasting can also trigger emotional responses and disordered eating patterns. Practicing self-compassion and seeking support from mental health professionals can be beneficial for a balanced approach.” – Sarah Thompson, Mindfulness Coach
- Holistic Health Practitioner’s Perspective:
“Fasting has been practiced for centuries for spiritual and health reasons. It’s important to view fasting as part of a holistic approach to well-being. While water fasting can promote detoxification and autophagy, it’s essential to focus on overall lifestyle choices, stress management, and nourishing the body with whole foods post-fast.” – Dr. Maria Rodriguez, Holistic Health Practitioner
- Endocrinologist’s Opinion:
“Fasting may impact hormone regulation, including insulin and cortisol. While intermittent fasting and short-term water fasting may have benefits, prolonged fasting can stress the body. It’s advisable to monitor blood sugar levels, especially for individuals with diabetes, and seek guidance from a healthcare provider to ensure a safe and balanced approach.” – Dr. Alex Johnson, Endocrinologist
The recommended period for water fasting is between 24 to 72 hours. You can fast for more than 72 hours; however, you need to consult your doctor first before you do so. Also, fasting for more than 72 hours can lead to medical complications.
Due to the strictness and intensity of water fasting, this type of fasting isn’t for everyone. In this section, we will take a look at certain people that should avoid water fasting.
– Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers
– Diabetic Patients
– People with blood pressure issues.
– Patients with heart disease.
Also, if you have any health condition, make sure to check in with your doctor before you try water fasting.
When you are done fasting, do not want to eat any meal. It is advised that you eat a snack, a mixture of apple cider and lemon juice (especially for those fasting for 72 hours), soup, and probiotic foods.
Yes, water fasting can potentially affect the menstrual cycle, particularly if the fasting is prolonged or done without proper consideration of individual nutritional needs. The menstrual cycle is influenced by various factors, including hormonal balance, stress, and nutrition. Here’s how water fasting can impact the menstrual cycle:
Hormonal Changes: Fasting, especially extended fasting, can disrupt hormonal balance in the body. Hormones play a crucial role in regulating the menstrual cycle. Stress from fasting can affect hormones like cortisol, which in turn can impact reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone.
Amenorrhea: In some cases, extreme calorie restriction or rapid weight loss from fasting can lead to a condition called amenorrhea, which is the absence of menstrual periods. This is more common in cases of severe or prolonged fasting and can be a sign of hormonal imbalances.
Irregular Cycles: Fasting-related stress or inadequate nutrition can cause irregular menstrual cycles. Women may experience changes in cycle length, missed periods, or spotting.
Delayed Ovulation: Fasting can delay or suppress ovulation due to hormonal changes. This can result in a longer menstrual cycle or even skipped ovulation, leading to missed periods.
Nutrient Deficiency: Prolonged fasting without proper nutrient intake can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients like iron, which is important for healthy menstrual function. Deficiencies can contribute to irregular or disrupted menstrual cycles.
It’s important to note that individual responses to fasting can vary. Some women may not experience any changes in their menstrual cycle, while others might notice more pronounced effects. If you’re considering water fasting and have concerns about how it might impact your menstrual cycle, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before proceeding. They can provide personalized guidance based on your health status, nutritional needs, and any existing conditions. Additionally, practicing moderate fasting approaches and prioritizing balanced nutrition can help minimize potential disruptions to the menstrual cycle.
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