Water fasting for a day or two a week can help improve your health in many ways. Water fasting benefits include weight loss, reduced toxins, and lower blood pressure (1). The practice of fasting has been around for ages, and it helps rejuvenate the body and mind. But how can you start water fasting?
You can start by water fasting for 24 hours. Once comfortable enough, you can water fast for 24 hours twice a week. However, do not go beyond that. Continue reading to learn about the benefits of water fasting, its dangers, and if you should avoid it.
In This Article
Is Water Fasting Good For You?
Fasting is a great way to boost metabolismi XA life-sustaining process in the body by which it changes the consumed foods and liquids into energy. and ensure rejuvenation of the body. But complete water fast for more than 72 hours is not scientific or healthy.
A short-term fast (water fast) is linked to autophagy (a process which involves cleaning out damaged cells and replacing them with newly formed ones by the body) (2). However, prolonged fasting may pose many health risks and prove to be dangerous.
To boost metabolism, you can try out one day of water fasting under proper medical supervision. But if you intend to lose weight, do not try this unhealthy practice for long. Water fasting is only a short-term approach that can be followed once in 15 days for a maximum of 1-3 days.
Who Should Water Fast
You can do water fasting if:
- your doctor asked you to.
- you want to boost your immunity.
- you are overweight.
- you are on a supervised fasting program.
Who Should NOT Water Fast
You should not water fast (or fast according to your doctor’s instructions) if:
- your doctor does NOT recommend fasting for you.
- you have hypoglycemiai XA medical condition in which the level of blood sugar, also called glucose, in the body is lower than the standard range. .
- you have diabetes.
- you are on any medication.
- you had recent surgery.
- you are pregnant.
- you have just given birth.
Water fasting for a short period is linked to mental clarity and many health benefits. They are discussed in the next section.
Benefits Of Water Fasting
1. Promotes Autophagy
Autophagy is the body’s process of eliminating the wastes produced via cell degradation or components that are either dysfunctional or not required by the body. It is basically a clean-up process for your body (3).
Most neurodegenerative diseasesi XDisorders that affect the cells of the central nervous system and hinder mobility, coordination, strength, sensation, etc. are caused by abnormal protein aggregation, which can be reduced by autophagy (4). Water fasting once or twice a week helps to clean up abnormal cells.
There are no short-term interventions to prove that water fasting for a short period can help clean up cell debrisi XThe organic waste that remains after a cell dies, which is an unavoidable consequence of a cell’s life cycle. . More human studies are required to prove this aspect.
2. Lowers Blood Pressure
Drinking more water and cutting down salt consumption is a way to lower blood pressure. If medically supervised, water fasting for long periods can help manage blood pressure.
A research done by American scientists found that out of 68 people with borderline hypertensioni XA common medical condition that affects the body's arteries and results in very high blood pressure. , 82% had reduced blood pressure after they underwent clinical water fasting under medical supervision (5).
However, more human studies are required to establish the effects of short-term water fasting on blood pressure.
3. Lowers Risk Of Cardiovascular Diseases
Periodic or intermittent fasting can help lower cholesterol and triglyceridei XA common type of fat found in the blood formed by the conversion of calories that the body does not need right away. levels (6). However, there are very limited studies to support this.
A pilot study established that a day of water fasting could lower triglyceride levels and improve total cholesterol and HDL levels (7).
The study also states that the long-term effects of these short-term changes are unknown. More studies are required to understand how water fasting can be used as a preventive treatment to reduce the risk of metabolic disease.
4. Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin and leptin are hormones that help regulate blood glucose levels and hunger, respectively. Fasting generally improves insulin sensitivity and blood glucose regulation.
However, there are no studies establishing the possible effects of water fasting on blood glucose levels. As it is completely water fasting, people with diabetes should consult with a doctor before trying it.
5. Lowers Oxidative Stress
Another benefit of water fasting is to lower oxidative stress. The accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) due to an unhealthy lifestyle and bad food habits increases oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Eleven days of water fasting in 10 volunteers reduced oxidative stress (1).
These are the 5 water fasting benefits. Though water fasting has certain benefits, it also poses a few health risks.
6. May Help Prevent Chronic Diseases
Studies suggest that different types of fasting may aid in the treatment of chronic ailments like cancer. One study linked an improvement in a case report of glioblastoma, a type of brain tumor, to water fasting (9). Water-only fasting, when used with other medical treatments, was found to help discourage the growth of cancerous tumors. Another study notes that water fasting may help reduce oxidative damage in the kidneys (1).
Water-only fasting could possibly be extended to several days or weeks, provided the individual maintains their intake of adequate salts and other key micronutrients.
Ellie, a blogger, shared that her doctor recommended water fasting once a week for Adenomyosis, a gynecologic condition that may lead to very heavy menstrual bleeding. She states in one of her blog posts, “I started last month. I think there is slight improvement with the symptoms (i).”
These are the 6 water fasting benefits. Though water fasting has certain benefits, it also poses a few health risks.
Dangers Of Water Fasting
- Unhealthy Weight Loss: Water fasting for 24-48 hours can help people lose nearly 2 kg. This weight loss cannot be considered fat loss but the loss of water weight, muscle, and carbs. It is an unhealthy weight loss and not a sustainable approach as no food is allowed, except for water.
- Nutrient Deficiencies: Water fasting for even 3 days causes nutrient deficiencies as you will be drinking only water.
- Dehydration: Though you may drink a lot of water during water fasting, it is not sufficient for proper hydration of the cells. We get 20% of the water from the foods that we eat, which is enough to retain water in the cells and tissues. Water fasting increases urinary output, which leaves our cells dehydrated.
- Orthostatic Hypotension: It is a common issue among people who fast for a long period. It involves a sudden decrease in systolic blood pressure of 20 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure of 10 mmHg when you suddenly stand up (10).
- Weakness: During water fasting, your body lacks nutrients, and you might experience dizziness, weakness, and brain fogging. As your brain does not get enough fuel, you might lose focus and concentration.
- May Lead To Binge-Eating: As the calorie intake is totally restricted, you might end up binge-eating once you break your fast.
- Exacerbate Certain Medical Conditions: Both short-term and long-term fasting can worsen certain medical conditions. It can cause a sudden drop in insulin levels, which impairs blood glucose regulation in people with diabetes. It also increases uric acid production (medically known as gout) (11). It may also cause heartburn as it increases stomach acid production.
If you do not do water fasting in the right way, it can cause harm to your body. Scroll down to find out how to fast safely to reap the maximum water fasting benefits.
How To Fast
There are two sub-stages: Exclusive Water Fast (24-72 hours) and Post-Fast Eating Phase (1-3 days).
Exclusive Water Fast ( 24-72 hours)
In this phase, you are allowed to drink only water. No juices, herbal teas, non-alcoholic beverages are allowed. Drink enough water throughout the day. Here are a few pointers:
- If you are new to fasting, try going without food for 4 hours. Have a heavy breakfast at 8 a.m. in the morning and then break your “fast” at 12 noon.
- Increase the fasting duration gradually to 8 hours.
- Try the spiritual practice called Ramadan fasting. Load up on proteins, dietary fiber, and healthy fats before sunrise. Eat again after sunset.
- If you can, increase the fasting duration to 24 hours. Do this once or twice a week.
Ellie also shared her experience with 24-hour water fasting that she practiced to treat her back pain and lower abdomen discomfort before her period. She says, “It’s almost noon. I feel a little bit weak and hungry. But other than that, I feel fine. The slight back pain and lower abdomen discomfort has gone.”
Post-Fast Eating Phase ( 1-3 days)
This phase is crucial as you may tend to binge-eat once you break your fast. Hence, you need to discipline yourself and have self-control post your fasting stage. Do not hog food. Break your fast with some dry fruits, followed by healthy juices or smoothies. Here are a few pointers:
- Include whole grains and lean protein in your diet to replenish muscle loss and improve strength.
- Consume dry fruits and nuts and seeds mixture to restore omega-3 fatty acids.
- Do not binge on fried and processed foods.
Infographic: Tips For Water Fasting
Water fasting may not be comfortable when you first start doing it. If you have never fasted before, you should first try it out for a day to see how well you can manage it. It could get tiring physically and mentally, and being prepared can help you deal with the fast better. Have a look at the infographic to learn a few tips to go about water fasting the right way.
The benefits of water fasting are immense. You can go on water fasting once or twice a week for effective results. However, people with diabetes and hypoglycemia, new mothers, and pregnant women must not take to this fasting. Moreover, weight loss through this method is considered unhealthy, and people may encounter nutritional deficiencies even after a 72-hour water fasting. In addition, people often binge-eat once they are off the fast, which does no good to their weight loss efforts. Therefore, follow this fasting practice under the supervision of a doctor/dietitian.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can you water fast safely?
You can water fast for a maximum of 24-72 hours under proper medical supervision. Prolonged fasting can be fatal, but you can go for a fasting mimicking diet for up to 5 days at a stretch.
Does water fasting reset your metabolism?
As water fasting is calorie-free, it supports metabolism and promotes weight loss. If you fast for 2-3 days, it will kick-start your metabolic process. However, long-term fasting slows down metabolism, and studies are on-going about the longevity and healing aspect of this type of fasting.
Can I drink water with lemon while fasting?
Yes, since lemon doesn’t increase your calories or insulin level, it can be included while fasting.
Does water fasting put you in ketosis?
Yes, water fasting induces ketosis. Since complete food intake is held, water fasting makes the body fall into ketosis and burn fat faster (12).
Will cucumber water break a fast?
depends on the particular fast you are following. For those following a strict diet, only consuming certain foods and drinks, the answer is yes. But for a general liquid diet or fasting from foods only, drinking cucumber water is good as it contains electrolytes that can sustain you (13).
Do you need electrolytes when water fasting?
If a fast extends beyond 12 hours or only comprises of liquids then electrolyte supplementation is a must. Water fasting can cause fatigue and loss of energy due to restricted food intake. Electrolytes can compensate for that and act as fuel for your body.
- For a predetermined period of time, typically seven days, one only consumes water as part of the water fast.
- Water fasting can play a major role in rapidly improving digestion and reducing weight.
- Water Fasting triggers autophagy, which is the body’s mechanism to break down and recycle old cells. This process helps to enhance cellular repair and lengthen lifespan.
- By lowering inflammation and encouraging skin cell renewal, water fasting can enhance skin health.
Experience the power of 3-day water fasting. Check this eye-opening video and learn how to fast to reset your energy and cleanse your being for a healthier you.
Personal Experience: Source
i. 24 hours water fasting
- Effects of complete water fasting and regeneration diet on kidney function, oxidative stress and antioxidants, Bratislava Medical Journal, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy, Autophagy, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Autophagy: cellular and molecular mechanisms, The Journal of Pathology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Autophagy in Neurodegenerative Diseases: From Mechanism to Therapeutic Approach, Molecules and Cells, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Medically supervised water-only fasting in the treatment of borderline hypertension, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Intermittent Fasting in Cardiovascular Disorders—An Overview, Nutrients, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Randomized cross-over trial of short-term water-only fasting: metabolic and cardiovascular consequences, Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Intermittent Fasting: Surprising Update, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
- Fasting as a Therapy in Neurological Disease, Nutrients
- Evaluation and Management of Orthostatic Hypotension, American Family Physician.
- Fasting: the history, pathophysiology and complications, The Western Journal of Medicine, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Is Water-Only Fasting Safe?
- Energizing Effectiveness of Cucumber (Khayarain) For Health. A Review Article