Water fasting is when you only consume water for a certain duration of time. People water fast for spiritual reasons, religious beliefs, to improve their mental state or mood, to lose weight, or to combat certain health problems. Research shows occasional fasting is associated with some health benefits. However, there are legitimate risks and safety concerns when fasting. If you do decide to water fast, you’ll want to ensure you do it properly to get the maximum benefits without compromising your health.
What Exactly is Water Fasting?
When people talk about fasting, they often go a period of time without food. Some facts may allow for other calorie-free options, such as diet soda, unsweetened tea or coffee. A water fast is only consuming water.
How is a Water Fast Done?
There is no specific time a water fast should last. Medical advice generally suggests the maximum amount of time to go without food as 24 hours to 3 days. Although people may post on social media about water fasting for a week, this is unsafe and should never be attempted.
To ensure your water fast is done safely, it’s best to choose a time when you won’t be physically exerting yourself. Avoid exercising or any strenuous activity while water fasting. You may want to pick a time when you are off work and can rest.
Some people find they need to prepare their bodies to begin a fast. They’ll gradually reduce their meals beforehand and work towards extending the duration of time they can go without food. Others start with a less restrictive fast allowing liquids or try intermittent fasting until they work their way up to a full water fast.
Benefits of Water Fasting
People with risk factors for particular diseases may benefit from short-term fasting. This includes:
People lose weight on a water fast because of the significant calorie deficit as well as being thrown into a state of ketosis. Without access to carbohydrates of any kind in a water fast, the body turns to fats as a source of energy. Water fasting results in weight loss because the body converts the ketones released by your liver to fuel that powers your body.
Although there are immediate weight loss benefits, water fasts are not ideal for long-term weight loss. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, weight loss is most effective when you combine a healthy diet with exercise over time. Changing dietary habits is effective long-term, such as cutting out sugary snacks and fatty foods.
Improved Mental Function
When you fast you may experience improved mental function because there is less toxic material flowing through your blood and lymphastic system. Your lymphatic system is what flushing toxins from the body and can result in fluid retnetion when it’s not working properly. Less toxins in the body reduce brain fog and makes it easier for you to think. The energy you’ll normally spend digesting food is used by the brain instead. It may take a couple of days to notice this mental change because your body takes time to adjust.In fact, you may experience headaches at the beginning of a water fast. After your body rids itself of the toxins, you’ll have a cleaner bloodstream, which results in increased mental clarity and an improved memory function.
Water fasting is a rejuvenating experience for the mind and body. It dissolves diseased cells, thus leaving only healthy tissue. Nutrients are redistributed throughout the body. The body maintains and stores key vitamins and minerals while ridding itself of old tissue, toxins, and other undesirable materials.
Choosing to fast requires significant willpower and mental strength. The ability to resist short-term gratification for the pursuit of long-term healthy goals is a challenging feat. When you are able to partake in something so difficult and successful, you’ll likely experience immense gratification and a sense of accomplishment.
A psychiatrist at the FKKMK UGM Mental Medicine Specialist Education Study Program concluded that fasting had a direct effect on stress. When people are fasting, they tend to make the eating schedule better. Consuming regulated food influences the way of thinking. As a result, people become more organized, which also reduces mental stress.
Safety Concerns and Risks
There are potential health benefits to fasting, but it’s important to know there are very real health risks and safety concerns if you water fast for too long. Fasting for extended periods of time can cause severe damage to the body. If you fast too long or too often, it can cause dehydration, mental stress, and sleep disruptions.
If you have health concerns or intend to fast for longer than 24 hours, it’s always advised that you seek the medical advice and supervision of a professional before attempting a fast. Water fasting isn’t safe for everyone. Older adults, people under age 18, breastfeeding and those who are unweight should not water fast. People with kidney disease, diabetes, or recovering from a surgery or illness should avoid fasting as well.
When stopping a water fast, slowly incorporate food and beverages rather than eating a full meal immediately after the fast is complete. Give your body time to adjust to digesting food again properly. Instead of a big meal, eat something light and gradually build the food intake up.
Intermittent fasting Is a healthy alternative to fasting that can be done on a regular basis. With this type of fast, you don’t eat food for a specified number of hours each day. You have a window to consume healthy foods, but should avoid foods outside of that timeframe. Because intermittent fasting is easier to do, it’s a more effective option for long-term weight loss than the occasional water fast. Since we all practice some type of intermittent fasting while we sleep, it’s easier to incorporate it into your daily life. You also minimize the health risks associated with a water fast.
Even if you fast occasionally for health or weight loss benefits, it’s always important to make healthy food and lifestyle choices. Although how much you eat and how often matters, what you eat is also essential.
Fasting can be a useful tool for rejuvenating your mind and body, but it’s not a substitute for mental health treatment. If you’re considering fasting for mental health reasons, consult a licensed mental health expert.
This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.