Does Water Fasting Help You Lose Weight?
Heard of water fasting? Hoping it’s the holy grail of weight loss practises? Wondering if it means that your diet is 100% water? Scared that it means your diet is 100% water? In this article, Beauty and Tips uncovers what it’s all about, including how it works, how it benefits you and how you can implement it.
Many people are looking for the best ways to lose weight, and we know that, provided we burn more calories than we consume, we’ll lose weight.
But what if we ate no calories at all? What if we survived on just water for a few days at a time?
What Is Water Fasting?
Water fasting is intense, challenging and you’ll probably get emotional. It’s been mooted over the years to be a magic bullet cure for arthritis, chronic pain, migraines, high blood pressure and fatness, but there’s always been a niggling catch – it means your diet consists of nothing but water.
Water fasting is a unique type of fasting in that you consume just water. This means no fruit, no vegetables and not even any vitamins, supplements or juices.
And definitely no burgers.
Fortunately, there’s no actual predetermined time for how long you should fast for.
That said, the general medical advice is that a person should not go any longer than 3 days without food.
Some of us should go no longer than 24 hours.
Also, anyone who is on a prescription medication and can’t safely stop taking it should refrain from water fasten.
Water fasting has been a key part of various religions over the years, and for some religious people, it’s essential. More recently, non-religious folk who have heard about its ability to help us lose weight have started to adopt it, and it’s especially popular among people who meditate and practice wellness.
Typically, it begins with a pre-fast period in which the faster subsists on just vegetables and fruit. This helps to ease them into the fast itself.
When your water fast is over, you should ease yourself back into your normal diet too by eating just fruit and vegetables.
How Does Water Fasting Help Weight Loss?
A water fast can help you lose weight, and it can help you lose weight quickly. How quickly? That depends on how long you fast for, as well as your body.
According to Ben Kim, an acupuncturist and chiropractor in Toronto, water fasters can lose at least a pound per day.
That said, anyone whose diet has consisted heavily of high processed foods will find that they lose weight faster. This is because their diet means that their body has retained more sodium and water.
As a person approaches the end of their fast, the amount they lose in a day might drop off to half a pound.
Water fasting helps you lose weight by putting your body into a state called ketosis. This is when your body uses energy from your internal fat stores, as opposed to its usual source of fuel, which is food.
Water fasting is the quickest way for your body to achieve ketosis. Without any calories to burn, your body begins to burn fat cells, and this is how you lose weight.
Other Benefits of Water Fasting
As well as shifting fatness, water fasting has other benefits:
Water Fasting Slows Down The Ageing Process
Few people are actually excited about the prospect of getting older, and far less of us will be happy if we looked older than we actually are.
However, premature ageing is a sad reality for some people. They go grey early, wrinkles appear in their late twenties and their skin starts to sag. Not cool – but totally preventable.
Although it’s impossible to halt the ageing process completely, you can slow it down by doing the right things.
Water fasting helps to extend animal lifespan by as much as 80%. If it works for animals, there’s no reason why it can’t work for humans, too.
Because water fasting reduces inflammation and oxidative damage, it can slow down the ageing process and return a healthy, youthful glow to your skin.
Where’s that glass of water …
Water Fasting Can Improve Leptin and Insulin Sensitivity
Leptin and insulin are key hormones that help to regulate your metabolism. Leptin helps you to feel full and satisfied after a meal, while insulin helps your body to better store all those vital nutrients you get from your food.
When your body is more sensitive to these two hormones, they both work better. And research has show that water fasting can boost sensitivity. Awesome.
When your body is more sensitive to leptin, your body is better able to process hunger signals. This can prevent you from overeating when you return to a normal diet after your fast.
When your body is more sensitive to insulin, it’s able to keep your blood sugar levels well regulated.
Water Fasting Reduces Risk of Developing Debilitating Diseases
As we get older, it’s not uncommon to be struck down by some sort of chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer.
While fasting or any other kind of diet can completely prevent you from developing a debilitating disease, water fasting can lower your risk.
One study found that 30 healthy adults who went on a water fast for 24 hours managed to lower their levels of triglycerides and cholesterol, both of which are huge contributors to heart disease.
Animal studies have also suggested that water fasting prevents free radicals from causing damage to the heart. Free radicals are bad because they’re essentially rogue molecules that are intent on casing as much damage as possible. If allowed to run free, they can increase your risk of developing a chronic disease.
The same animal studies have also found that water fasting can kill genes that would otherwise allow cancer cells to flourish.
That said, animal studies are animal studies and research on humans is ongoing.
Water Fasting Can Lower Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is bad news. It can lead to heart disease, cause a heart attack and even a stroke.
The aim should be to use our diet to bring our blood pressure down. When our diet isn’t enough, fasting becomes an option.
Water fasting helps to reduce your blood pressure by eradicating a number of variables from your diet for a few days, thus helping your body flush out nasty toxins. It gives your body a chance to hit the reset button, and this in turn lowers blood pressure.
Water Fasting Can Help Manage Diabetes or Even Prevent It Altogether
Diabetes is a nasty chronic disease that’s typically caused by lifestyle and dietary choices. Once a person is diagnosed with it, they’ve pretty much got it for life.
Diabetes is manageable, and water fasting can help with this because it improves your body’s sensitivity to hormones.
Water fasting – combined with the right diet and better lifestyle choices – can even help prevent you from developing diabetes in the first place.
How To Start Water Fasting
Decided that you want to give water fasting a go? Great, but before you throw yourself into a water fast you need to prepare right.
Going straight into a water fast without any proper preparation is akin to running a marathon without doing any prior training! Your body isn’t used to subsisting on just water and no calories, and you need to prepare.
We’re not going to lie – a water fast is probably the most gruelling and challenging of all fasts. It’s also the cheapest one, but it’s hard and you might phone your best friend at 3am in the morning to tell them “I CAN’T LIVE LIKE THIS.”
Before we move on, it needs to be said that anyone who has certain medical conditions MUST NOT attempt this fast. These conditions include:
- Low blood sugar
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Late stage cancer
- Heart disease
Attempting to do a water fast with any of those conditions can have serious consequences. If you’re thinking about doing a water fast, consult your doctor first.
If you don’t have any of those medical conditions, you’re good to go.
The first thing to decide is how long your water fast will last. Newbies might want to stick to a 1-day water fast, while 3-day should be the limit regardless of who you are and what type of fasting you’ve done in the past. Water fasting for any longer than 3 days is highly dangerous.
We recommend that you do a water fast one day out of the week each week, as it’s the safest option.
However long you decide your water fast is going to be, make sure that you fast during a stress-free time. If you do a water fast during a time when you know there’s a risk of you getting stressed, it will not only disrupt your fast but also your mindset.
The next thing to do is prepare, both mentally and physically. When we said that a water fast can make a person emotional earlier, we weren’t kidding: a water fast can mentally drain you. Therefore, it’s important that you do some reading on the subject beforehand. Read blogs by people who have done a water fast before and shared their experiences. This will help to prepare you mentally for what’s to come. Water fasting is like a fasting boot camp.
If you already enjoy a good lifestyle and eat (mostly) the right things, you can begin with a bout of intermittent fasting. This means that you would wake up, get out of bed and not eat until noon.
Then, you would eat between the hours of 12pm and 6pm before eating again at noon the next day. This is a great way to ease yourself into intermittent fasting if you’ve never done it before, but if you have you might want to try a 23:1 ratio, which means you’d eat for one hour each day and fast for 23 hours. It’s what a lot of experienced intermittent faster do.
After a few rounds of intermittent fasting, you can move onto juice fasting. Again, you need to exercise some caution here because your body won’t be used to surviving on just juices, even if just for a few days. As such, we recommend that newbies include one or two smoothies in the first 2-3 days of their juice fast before moving onto a pure juice fast for the next 3-5 days.
Stick to intermittent fasting, too, and drink your juices and smoothies between the hours of noon and 6pm – or go for the 23:1 ratio if you’re confident enough.
Juice fasting prepares your body for a water fast because it gives you the chance to consume lots of liquid and stay properly hydrated while getting some much-needed nourishment. Before a water fast, your body needs as much macro and micronutrients as it can get, along with plenty of minerals and vitamins.
And by combining a juice fast with intermittent fasting, you’re also giving your digestive system the break it needs.
After a few days of juice fasting, you’ll probably be sick and tired of drinking juices! At which point, it’s time to begin the water fast.
However, before you begin you need to do one more thing – clean your colon.
Cleaning out our colon is what we do before any fast. It’s an essential step in the process that must not be skipped! There is a lot of bad stuff sitting inside you and you need to clear it right out before starting your fast.
Why? Because once you start fasting, your digestive system will eventually grind to a halt and won’t be clearing anything out.
There are many different ways you can clean your colon, and some are more effective than others. Here are our tips:
Take a single apple, chop it into pieces and blend with a glass of water.
Then, drink the juice before drinking a glass of water 30 minutes later. Do this a few times each day for 3-5 days.
Lemon Detox Drink
For this one, slice a lemon in half and squeeze on half into a glass of lukewarm water. Try to extract as much juice as you can.
Add a tsp of honey and a pinch of salt to the mix and drink.
Lemons work because they’re super rich in vitamin C, which boosts detoxification. Lemon gives your colon a good cleaning and it also helps to prepare you for a fast.
Apple Cider Vinegar
What mom and grandma alive doesn’t swear by apple cider vinegar? Apple cider vinegar cures all ailments and it also helps to clean your colon. This is because apple cider vinegar is rich in antibiotic and antioxidant properties. It can help you lose weight, too.
Add 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water, before adding a tbsp of honey. Mix and drink each morning for best results.
Add a tbsp of sea salt to a pan of water and bring to the boil.
Let it cool and drink each morning. Straight after, massage your stomach, directing the solution towards your colon.
It sounds like an old wives tale but it works and prepares you for a water fast!
Ginger’s strength lies in its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which treat digestive issues and thus help to prepare you for a water fast.
Take a inch or so of ginger, extract as much juice as you can and add to two cups of hot water.
Then, add a few pinches of lemon juice and stir.
There’s no need to drink this all in one go – instead, spread it out throughout the day but make sure to make it each day as you prepare for a water fast.
How To Do A Water Fast?
Now that you’ve decided to do a water fast and started off in the right way, let’s take a look at how to do a water fast.
The actual fast itself sounds simple enough on paper and there isn’t that much to do.
However, there are plenty of other things you’ll need to cope with.
Drink The Right Amount of Water
As you’ll have anticipated, you could drink too little or too much water – neither is healthy and can lead to complications.
For the actual water fast, you should aim to drink up up to 13 glasses of water per day. If that sounds too much for you, the bare minimum you should be aiming for is 9.
That said, men should always aim for 13 and women should aim for 9. Guys shouldn’t drink more than 13 glasses and women shouldn’t drink more than 9. If you drink more than the recommended amount, you run the risk of unbalancing the minerals and salt in your body. This itself can cause health issues that you’ll then have to deal with.
However many glasses of water you drink, make sure that you consume only pure water. If possible, drink distilled water.
Do NOT drink all the water at once. Instead, spread the glasses out through the day. To help with this, create a schedule of sorts so that you know how many glasses to safely drink in the morning, afternoon and evening.
Since you’ll be consuming zero calories during a water fast, there will be occasions when you get hungry. This is inevitable.
There will be occasions when you get really hungry.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much advice we can give here. You’ll need to be mentally tough and resilient, and you’ll simply need to work through the hunger pangs. At times, they’ll be strong but that just means you’ll need to stay stronger. They will pass.
During the stronger hunger pangs, drink 1-2 glasses of water, but make sure these glasses are in your schedule. If you drink 1-2 glasses of water each time you get hungry, you run the risk of drinking more than the daily recommended amount. To make sure this doesn’t happen, put a few glasses of water aside in your schedule for those occasions when you get really hungry.
One of the best things about a water fast? You get to sleep loads, yay!
Okay, let’s be honest – this is actually the BEST thing about a water nap.
Getting plenty of rest while you fast is super important. It’s very likely that you’ll feel more tired than usual, and your energy and stamina levels will drop.
Don’t overdo thing during the day. Don’t try to do too much. Instead, stay as rested as possible.
Remember, fasting itself is meant to be a form of rest; we rest physically, emotionally, psychologically and sensorily.
If you want to take a nap during your water fast? Take a nap.
It’s very important that you listen to your body during this period. Don’t ignore it. Give it what it wants.
Don’t Do Intense Exercise
If you feel up to it, moderate exercise – such as walking – is fine. But intense exercise should be big no-no.
There will be times during your water fast when you begin to feel super energetic, but there’ll also be times when you feel weak and exhausted. Intense exercise can exacerbate a lack of energy and make you feel a lot worse.
Even when you feel good, refrain from exercising intensely. If you must exercise at all, try walking or yoga. The latter is a great way to stretch your muscles without overdoing things.
Whatever form of light, gentle exercise you do, always listen to your body first. It knows what it can and can’t handle.
How to End a Water Fast?
There is always a right and a wrong way to end a fast. After surviving on just water and zero calories for a few days, it’s important that you ease your way back into eating proper, solid foods.
After consuming nothing but water, there’s a chance that your digestive system is now producing less enzymes. The mucus that lines your stomach may have changed too, and as a result if you eat too much too soon after a water fast – or if you eat the wrong foods – you could experience some nasty digestive issues, such as bloating, cramping, nausea and even diarrhoea.
What you need to do is slowly reintroduce regular foods to your system.
How long it takes you to break your fast will depend on how long you’ve been fasting for. If you’ve been fasting for over a week, it will take you longer to break your fast – as much as 4 days, in fact.
If you’ve fasted for 3-6 days, you can break your fast in one to three days. If you’ve fasted for just a day, you can break your fast in two days or less.
Here’s how to end a water fast the right way:
On your first day back from fasting, you should drink fruit or vegetable juice only.
Don’t drink too much and stick to organic juices if possible. This is key because you don’t want to reintroduce preservatives to your body just yet.
It’s okay to drink clear broths too, but stick to vegetable and bone broths and stay clear of fat and whole foods at this point.
On the second day, you can move up to raw fruit. Fruits are rich in water, which means they’re easy for you to digest. They’re also loaded with energy and nutrients, and you’ll need both at this stage.
Again, don’t consume too much. Stick to small quantities for now as you ease your way back into eating proper foods.
The best fruits to eat include apples, pears, grapes and watermelons.
Avoid fruits that are high in fibre and fat, such as avocados, and stay clear of citrous fruits, such as lemons and oranges.
On day three, you can start to eat cooked vegetables again, such as spinach and kale. However, it’s a good idea to start off with raw vegetables first, such as lettuce and cucumber.
Once you’re back onto cooked vegetables, try soups – homemade if possible, so that you avoid the added salts and sugars of store-bought canned soups.
Sprouts are really good to eat at this stage because they contain plenty of important antioxidants and minerals.
Try experimenting with grains and legumes, too, as well as nuts. However, always listen to your body first and stick to small portions for now. Perhaps eat a small meal every 2 hours or so.
On day four, you should be able to return to dairy products, such as eggs and milk. Provided that your body seems ready for it, you should be able to return to meat, too.
Avoid foods that are high in fat, and it’s also a good idea to eat less of foods that are high in oils during the first few days of your return to normal eating after a water fast.
The Dangers of Water Fasting
As beneficial as water fasting is, there are always dangers associated with any type of fasting.
Although people have been practising water fasting for thousands of years, health studies on it are still limited and it comes with health risks. Here are some of the dangers of water fasting:
The Kind of Weight You’ll Lose Isn’t Guaranteed
Most people who are considering going on a water fast probably want to lose some fat.
However, water fasting doesn’t mean you will lose fat.
Anyone who goes on a water fast will lose weight, and you could lose as much as 2 pounds after a 24 hour fast. But the type of weight you lose might come from muscle mass, carbs and, of course, water – as opposed to fat.
You Might Become Dehydrated
It sounds daft to say that you could go on a WATER fast and become dehydrated, but this can happen.
How? Most people don’t drink all that much water. Instead, they get most of their water intake via their food. If you don’t ordinarily drink much water, your body won’t be getting the average daily water intake it usually gets when you go on your water fast. As such, you might become dehydrated.
Symptoms include dizziness, headaches, nausea, brain fog and constipation.
To avoid dehydration, you will need to up your water intake.
You Could Aggravate an Already Existing Medical Condition
Earlier in this article, we mentioned a few medical conditions that can be aggravated by a water fast. If you have any of them, you should speak to a doctor first before going on the fast.
Water fasting, for example, can aggravate diabetes, gout, chronic kidney disease, heartburn, an eating disorder, and more.
You Could Suffer Orthostatic Hypertension
Many people who go on a water fast suffer from orthostatic hypertension, which is a drop in blood pressure. It’s easy to spot; when you stand suddenly, you’ll feel dizzy and lightheaded to the point of fainting.
If you experience such symptoms during a water fast, do not operate any heavy machinery. Doing so can easily lead to an accident.
In conclusion, if your main aim with a water fast is to to burn fat, going on a water fast is probably not going to help you. It has the potential to help you burn fat, but it certainly isn’t the most effective way of burning fat.
As mentioned, most of the weight you’ll lose will probably be muscle mass, carbs and water, as opposed to fat.
If your aim is to lose weight, consider intermittent fasting instead.
On the other hand, you want all the other health benefits of water fasting, such as improved leptin and insulin sensitivity, a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases, lower blood pressure and a better functioning digestive system, water fasting is certainly worth giving a go.
Remember to be safe and follow our advice in this article!