- So, you're curious about water fasting huh? Well, you've come to the right place. We have compiled a pretty complete guide here for you to answer any questions you might have regarding water fasting, whether you're an experienced faster or are looking to complete your first water fast.
What is Water Fasting?
As obvious as it may seem to some, water fasting is quite simply the consumption of only water for an extended period of time. You will find a divisive line within society. There are those that are aware of water fasting, or do not find the practise extreme or drastic. On the other side of the coin, the majority of the population (at least within the Western world) throw their hands up in the air and raise their voice in astonishment.
"You mean you only drink water?! Like, nothing else? Not even dinner?!?"
This is usually the response that you'll get if you discuss water fasting with your average person. They'll usually continue to advise you against it, warning of the various health risks and how it is unnatural. In fact, in the eyes of many, that could not be further from the truth. There are many benefits associated with water fasting; spiritual, health and various other positives that can be taken from completing a water fast successfully.
- Unlike Juice Fasting and other types of fasts, water fasting is typically considered as having the greatest effect on your body and mind, due to the nature of consuming only water. The only type of fast that is more extreme than water fasting is known as a dry fast, which is consuming literally nothing. In some cases of dry fasting, you do not permit water to even touch your skin. This is known as a 'hard' dry fast. Though not quite as radical as this, many believe a water fast to be the optimal fast, bringing the same benefits as a dry fast without the perceived dangers.
Anyway, to recap; water fasting is defined as 'the consumption of only water'.
What are the Benefits of Water Fasting
Well, there's quite a few, which has led to a lot of interest in water fasting in recent years. Of course, each individual can have quite different goals, so what some may define as a benefit, would not be considered healthy for others e.g. weight loss.
Probably one of the most often associated benefits of water fasting is weight loss. I hate the term weight loss, as it doesn't really describe what most people are seeking. The majority of people want fat loss, not weight loss. For example;
If you weigh 200lbs, and lose 20lbs of weight, that 'weight' could be anything; fat, muscle, water. So often people seek drastic 'lose weight quick' schemes and end up losing 20lbs, which is really made up of 5lbs fat and the rest water (possibly with some minimal muscle loss). If you lost half of that, but the weight loss was primarily fat, the likelihood is most people would be much happier due to a lower body fat percentage and better body composition.
I'd argue that weight loss is not generally a benefit, except perhaps for the morbidly obese who need to lose weight for health reasons.
Weight LossFat Loss
Now, fat loss is definitely something I can get on board with. Whilst you will lose drastic amounts of weight on a water fast, how much of that is really fat?
Well, it's still debated now and it's difficult to put an exact figure on it. After the first few days of the water fast, your body starts to alter the way that it works. Let me explain. On a normal, balanced diet your body would use carbohydrates for energy throughout the day, specifically glycogen. In a water fasting, you aren't consuming any carbohdrates whatsoever, so you body adapts to this and enters in something called ketosis.
If you've tried any low carb diets before, you'll probably have heard of ketosis. To explain ketosis extremely simply, instead of using carbohydrates for energy, your body turns to the other sources in your body for fuel. What other sources? You guessed it. Fat, amongst other things, is the main source of energy to fuel your body after you have fully adapted to ketosis.
Well, from eating a balanced diet it would usually take anywhere between 8-12 hours for the glycogen stores to be depleted. One day is the normal rule, so by the time you have woke up the next day, your body will be completely empty.
According to Stephen Harrod Buhner, most of the muscle loss will occur on the second day whilst the body is adapting to ketosis. During this time, there are no carbohydrates to use for energy but the body has also not fully adapted to ketosis yet. So our bodies catabolize a small amount of muscle during this time to use as energy, as well as ketones (the fatty acid produced through ketosis).
How much fat/weight can I expect to lose on a water fast?
Well, the generally accepted rule for fasting is that after an initial big loss of water weight in the first few days (this can be anywhere up to 10-15lbs in my experience), you will continue to lose anywhere between 0.5-1lb of fat per day, as per the calories in/calories out theory. As each pound of fat is approximately 3500 calories, you will likely burn this over a day or two, depends on your metabolism and size.
There are those who argue that the calories in/calories out method doesn't explain the full story, and they're right; calories control your weight, whereas what you eat (or what you don't eat, in this case) controls your body composition, or how much muscle/fat your body is made up of.
Well, before I start less me just say that I am not a medical professional. Everything here is my own opinion, and if you really want to ensure water fasting is safe, you should do your due diligence. Consult your doctor before practise. Water fasting is safest under professional supervision.
Is it safe to drink nothing but water?
In my humble opinion, one of the most dangerous things about all forms of fasting is the misinformation given out by various sources. And by various sources, I really mean the internet. Have a quick look through these two posts from lifehack.org. They will give you a good example of what I mean;
Both posts on the same page, on the same website, but preaching very contradictory views. Why? Well, in this case it is two very different opinions.
The first article is full of scientific references... from the 1960s.
The second article carefully references positive effects of drinking water.. with no mention of water fasting.
See what I mean? Though this is just an example, the point here is that you can find pretty much anything you want to online to validify your query. As stated, do your due diligence beforehand. Anything you see here will be carefully referenced, or intended to be taken as my personal opinion. You don't have to trust me, though I am pretty trustworthy.