Is Water Fasting A Safe And Effective Way To Lose Weight?
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We’re all familiar with trying out many different fad diets out there—from keto to vegan, to intermittent fasting and many more. While most of our reasons for sticking to these food restricting ways are for weight loss, the fitness movement has also inspired the decision to approach these diets for health concerns.
Along with the string of must-try diets is one that we’ve heard a lot but probably ended up rethinking—water fasting. Generally practiced for religious reasons, this isn’t unheard of in the fitness world. Literally a type of fasting that only allows water intake, followers of this diet cannot consume any calorie-laden treat from 24 to 72 hours.
In its simplest terms, it is quite challenging, but it will definitely show results. According to research, those who try water fasting can lose two pounds a day—such enticing news for all. What’s more, it’s linked to several health benefits, including promotion of autophagy which breaks down and recycles old cells, reducing risks of cancer, Alzheimer’s, disease and heart conditions. It also helps lower blood pressure as well as risks of diabetes and other chronic illnesses.
However, there are also a lot of potential dangers in water fasting. First and foremost, there’s the risk of nutrient deficiency due to the lack of food intake. You also may end up dehydrated, as a percentage of liquids consumed by your body come from your meals. Experiencing orthostatic hypotension, or the dizziness caused by sudden movement, would also be a common scenario.
There’s a longer list of cons to add. Refeeding syndrome, which causes rapid metabolic changes, is an unsafe condition to encounter while on a water fast. Hyponatremia, or water intoxication, could also make you lose water and salt in your body. Digestive upset, fatigue, and discomfort will be part of the journey. And, when not moderated properly, could lead to binge eating, which is the opposite effect one goes after trying out this diet.
So, should you try it? In general, medical practitioners do not recommend this diet. Furthermore, those with certain conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, heart problems, eating disorders, pregnancy, or underweight are strongly discouraged to try this out.
There are safer options, like intermittent fasting or alternate day fasting, that deliver almost similar results without leaving you hungry for days. But if you think that water fasting is worth a shot, you should practice it with caution, and consult your physician before you start the program.
Before the fast, make sure that you consume highly nutritious food, broken down into smaller portions to prepare your body for the fast. During the fast, make sure to drink two to three liters of water daily, skip workouts, and avoid strenuous activities. Post-fast, avoid the urge to eat a big meal—instead, slowly reintroduce food so as not to shock your system.
Water fasting, in conclusion, is an effective weight loss activity with a number of benefits to boot. However, since it restricts the intake of nutrients for days, it could also lead to several health problems. While diets are not a one size fits all and some might find a great deal of help from trying it out, just remember to exercise safety and caution above anything. After all, health and wellness comes first—it’s by listening to your body that will earn you a better overall well-being!
Editor's Note: Consult your doctor before trying any new diet or fitness program.