The water fast involves drinking only water and not eat any food for a period of time. Fasting for one, two, or even more days has many health benefits. A water fast can help you lose weight, regenerate your immune system, and even slow aging. However, for water fasting to be safe and effective, you must fast correctly.
Although just drinking water for 2-3 days can have its benefits, water fasting may not be for everyone. There may be dangers associated with fasting water if you are underweight, pregnant, or have underlying health problems. However, if you want to lose weight, a water fast can jump-start your diet.
In this article, you will learn about the benefits of water fasting and how to do it safely. You’ll also find out what to do before and after your water-only fast to get the most benefits.
What is a water fast?
Water fasting is when you don’t consume anything but water for a set period of time. A water fast can last up to 24 hours or up to 5 or 7 days.
A 2015 review of the benefits of fasting reported that there are different types of fasting. On a water fast, you will generally only drink water at regular times throughout the day. People use water on an empty stomach to control weight and to help prevent disease.
Some people like to add lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and honey to their water on an empty stomach . One of the popular methods of water fasting is cleansing using the lemon water detox. Other popular water fasting recipes include adding cucumber, watermelon, or ginger to the water.
What are the possible benefits of a water fast?
- Fasting every now and then for 1 or 2 days while drinking only water can help boost your metabolism and regenerate your cells.
- Studies have shown that fasting produces changes in the body’s metabolism. This is why water fasting is good for short-term weight loss.
- It improves cognitive performance, regenerates cells, reduces body fat and reduces the risk of chronic diseases.
- Water fasting can also protect your heart against the effects of inflammation.
- One of the biggest short-term benefits of water fasting is a process called autophagy. This is where metabolic processes in the body eliminate dysfunctional components of cells. This helps to recycle cells and protect against chronic diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.
Is water fasting bad or good for you?
Water fasting is good for most people when done safely.
A 2018 analysis of the possible side effects of water on an empty stomach found that there was only a minimal risk of adverse side effects. Restricting food intake and drinking only water mainly caused short-term problems such as fatigue, headaches, and insomnia.
One study showed that drinking only water on an empty stomach may slightly affect kidney function during fasting. However, in this study, the water-only fast was 11 days and longer than most people fasted. The study found that fasting has benefits such as reducing oxidative stress, body weight, and blood pressure.
Fasting is not good for children, pregnant women, some diabetic conditions, and if you have an eating disorder. Also, people with other health conditions should not do this type of fast without first consulting with your doctor.
Are there any dangers associated with a 2-3 day water fast?
One of the reasons that water fasting is not recommended for people with eating disorders is that it can promote bingeing and bulimic behavior after fasting.
Study results indicate that most of the side effects of this fast are short-lived. People who fasted for 2 days or less complained of fatigue, insomnia, headaches, back pain, indigestion, and other gastrointestinal disorders. Researchers found that fasting only causes minimal short-term side effects in healthy people.
However, anyone who fasts on water for long periods (more than 3 days) or who has a medical condition should do so only under close medical supervision.
How to fast on water
There are no specific guidelines on how to fast on a water diet , other than just drinking water.
During a 24-hour water fast , you should aim to drink 2-3 liters of water. This means that you should drink a glass of water every hour or so.
A water fast typically lasts 1-3 days for best results. If you want to fast safely for longer, it is important to consult with your doctor. Water fasting diets that last 4-7 days may not be suitable for everyone .
What to do before and after the water fast
To get the most benefits from fasting on a water diet, it is important to prepare your body for the fast. For example, you should eat the right foods before and after your water fast. This can help prevent some of the side effects that some people experience from water fasting.
It is also important that you break your fast correctly to avoid weight gain and to keep your body in ketosis after the fast.
Before starting a water fast, you should eat the correct foods so that your body adapts better to water consumption.
For example, in a 2018 study, participants were instructed that two days before the planned water-only fast, they should eat only steamed, starchy vegetables, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. They also began to increase their water intake and minimize physical activity.
Before the water fast, you should also eliminate alcohol and caffeine from your diet. Also, try to cut down on sugary foods and drinks. This will help reduce any adverse reactions from just drinking water for 2 to 3 days.
If you are planning a long fast of 4, 5 or 7 days, it is also a good idea to try to reduce stress as much as possible before and during your fast.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make after a water fast is eating a large, calorie-laden meal.
Doctors recommend breaking your fast gently and this should last for half the time you fasted. So if you had a 48 hour fast, then you should take a day to break the fast. If you had a 7-day water fast, it can take 3-4 days until you can return to normal food servings.
The first phase of breaking a fast should consist only of consuming fruits, vegetable juices, or bone or vegetable broth. You can gradually start introducing solid plant-based foods that do not contain salt, oil, or sugar.
During a long fast, your body goes into ketosis. This means that your body uses fat and ketones instead of glucose (sugar) as its main source of energy and. If you break your fast gently, it should be possible for a short time to stay in ketosis after the water fast.
Tips for fasting using only water
Water fasting that lasts 2-3 days can be challenging, especially if you’ve never done one before. So, if you’re new to water fasting, trying such a 1-day fast will help you know what to expect.
Other ways to make your fast a success to get the most benefits:
- Avoid stressful situations or demanding tasks during the fast.
- Preparing well before your fast and not starting abruptly.
- Do not fast if you are sick, recovering from infections, or if you do not feel well.
- Do low-impact exercises to help keep your body moving, but avoid excessive exercise.
- Gradually increase your intake of solid foods after the water fast.
- Try to eat light meals before and after the water quickly.
Benefits of fasting with water
Let’s take a closer look at the many benefits of enjoying a 24-, 36-, or 48-hour water fast.
Water fasting can promote autophagy
Autophagy literally means “self-devouring” and is a type of recycling process in which old parts of cells are broken down and removed from the body. A 2018 review found that fasting and calorie restriction induce autophagy in the body.
Several studies have linked autophagy to the prevention of certain chronic diseases, such as cancer. Also, autophagy can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Water fasting can help you lose weight
Some of the most notable effects of water fasting are lower body weight , less belly fat, and a slimmer waist.
The International Journal of Obesity reported that fasting can help you lose weight. Following a fasting regimen helped decrease the hormone leptin that is associated with obesity and body fat. Additionally, fasting reduces inflammatory markers, blood fat (triglycerides), and cholesterol, which are all complications of obesity.
One of the reasons that water fasting promotes weight loss is that it puts your body in ketosis. So while you will initially lose water weight, because your body cannot depend on glucose for energy, it begins to use up your fat stores. Fasting causes ketones to be produced that provide food for cells. This can help with weight management and weight loss.
Water fasting may help lower blood pressure
Some studies have shown that fasting provides similar benefits to regular aerobic exercise. One of these benefits is a reduction in blood pressure and heart rate.
One study found that water on an empty stomach can be used effectively to treat hypertension. Patients with hypertension greater than 140/90 mmHg were put on a 10-day water fasting diet under the supervision of medical personnel. By the end of the study, 90% of the patients’ blood pressure had dropped to less than 140/90 mmHg. This meant that most of the participants were able to stop taking their blood pressure medications.
Water fasting can protect against chronic diseases
Regularly dieting for a few days of only water and no food can also help protect against serious illness.
- A study on the benefits of fasting found that it can help protect against diabetes.
- Fasting also has a protective effect on cellular health and can help protect against certain types of cancer.
- Other studies have shown that fasting with only water is good for your heart health. Research has found that fasting induces positive changes in cardiovascular health.
Fasting can help protect your brain health
Eating a water-only diet for a day or two can also help protect your cognitive function.
- Water fasting, as with other types of fasting, helps your brain protect neurons against genetic and environmental factors that cause cognitive decline.
- Other studies have shown that fasting may play an important role in helping protect against Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Fasting can slow down the aging process
In addition to helping reduce your risk of chronic disease, fasting can help you live longer.
Several studies have shown that fasting has an anti-aging effect on the body. However, to feel the anti-aging benefits of fasting, fasting must be used in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle changes.
Fasting can regenerate your immune system
The positive effect fasting has on your body, in general, can help strengthen your immunity.
Researchers from the University of Southern California reported that 2-day fasts or 4-day fasts can help generate new immune cells. The metabolic changes that occur with fasting cause the production of new white blood cells.