What is water fasting? Know about the benefits and drawbacks
While there’s no one easy way to get in shape, it’s crucial to follow a good diet and make necessary lifestyle modifications to lose weight. Fasting, as a way of restricting your food intake, is another commonly adopted dietary tactic to lose weight. Not only is it an extremely popular plan, but it also has a lot of traditionally-backed benefits.
Amongst this, water fasting is another popular plan which has come into focus in recent years as a weight-loss strategy. Simply as the name suggests, this type of fasting regime involves fasting, restricting everything and anything except water itself.
The regime has also been backed by many celebs and influencers, which has added to its popularity on social media.
According to many, water fasting is said to speed up weight loss considerably and may even help a person drop kilos surprisingly quick.
But, even if fasting for long hours, only surviving on water does actually promote weight loss, it is completely safe to follow this diet? Are there any long-term benefits to it or is it just a fad diet? Here’s an explainer on the same.
What does water fasting for weight loss mean?
Researchers have said that trying water fasting sometimes can be a good way to scale up fat loss. This type of fasting basically involves a prolonged period where a person foregoes any food and instead, only has water.
While there technically is no set time limit as to how long a person is supposed to fast this way, experts suggest that a time duration of 24 hours to 3 days is the maximum a person could really go without food. A lot of popular detox diets, such as the lemon cleanse one are also fashioned on the same.
Apart from weight loss, there could be a number of reasons why an individual may want to give water fasting a try- be it spiritual, religious or seek mental clarity. Water fasting also finds a space along with meditation in many wellness and therapeutic institutes nowadays.
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A scheduled medical procedure may also require many to stay without food and follow water fast instead.
Over the years, water fasting has also been subjected to many studies and researches. While the evidence on the same is still not foolproof, investigations have found that water fasting can have surprising health benefits as well such as:
-Lowering the risk of diabetes
-Preventing certain types of cancers
-Reducing heart problems
-Controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol
-Helping relieve some neurological problems
However, for those who do support it, the maximum benefits lie for those looking to lose weight. We tell you how
How does it promote weight loss?
One of the prime reasons why people follow water fasting is to see an improvement in their health and vitals. Weight loss, as a benefit happens speedily in this regime because, in a state of fasting, the body does not have any form of carbohydrate to rely for in terms of energy. In the absence of it, the body uses up stored up fat for generating fuel and as a result, the fats are eliminated.
Another way water fasting may help you lose weight is by making you reach autophagy faster. Autophagy is a bodily process when old, often toxic cells are broken down or repaired.
Additionally, since this would also be a period when you won’t be eating anything processed, high-carbs or calorie-laden, you are ultimately, helping your body eat (or drink) clean. Water, essentially, is a zero-calorie drink.
What to expect and how to do it
People who do practise water fasting often do so without prior consultations. If you are a beginner, it may be helpful to “prep” your body prior to the actual fast, by cutting down or eating minimal food for 2-3 days. Fasting for a part of a day, or having small portions may help you do so.
According to studies, water fasting done the right way can help you lose upto 0.9 kilos each day spent fasting.
If you are following a 24-72 hour water fast, you can only have water and nothing else. Drinking 2-3 litres of water is sufficient.
Try and eat well before your fast begins, so you do not feel extremely hungry. Fill up on energy-rich, protein-packed foods.
Since it makes a drastic difference from your usual diet plan, it’s important to restrict your activities as you can feel weak or dizzy.
Post breaking your fast, it’s also crucial to follow some rules. Since your body may now not be used to having something nutrient-dense or heavy, try to have something smaller, easier to digest and slowly then introduce regular, larger meals. This will also allow you to make the best out of your fasting.
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Is it safe to follow water fast?
A water fast works by majorly restricting your calorie intake and thereby helping you shed weight.
However, the thing to remember is that even if you do drop kilos considerably, a lot of it may be water weight or muscle mass. Therefore, water fasting, unlike other forms of fasting may not be beneficial if tried long-run or show the same results.
There are also some other safety concerns worth knowing. In fact, what may shock many is that complete water fast may actually make you dehydrated since a lot of our water intakes comes through the foods we eat. One may feel dizzy, fatigued, irritable and be at the risk of fainting too.
People who follow water fasting are also in danger of experiencing orthostatic hypotension, where blood pressure drops quite low suddenly. It can also worsen health conditions for those who have underlying problems, even if followed for a shorter duration.
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Who shouldn’t do it?
Fasting, even with all of its weight loss-aiding and other health benefits isn’t entirely without drawbacks. This being said, an extreme form of fasting such as surviving only on water shouldn’t be tried if:
-You are under 18/ are over 70
-Suffer from an eating disorder
-Have cardiac problems
-Complications pertaining to Type-1 diabetes
-Undergoing blood transfusion
-Are taking specific medication
The bottom line
Trying water fasting for weight loss may definitely help speed up the process, but it does not come without its set of risks and drawbacks.
For one, water fasting can be intense, physically and mentally tiring. It may also not be suitable for someone who has pre-existing conditions. Extending the fast for more than 3 days time may also make you prone to medical complications. Do try and consult a doctor before attempting it.
If you do want to reap the benefits of fasting for weight loss, more holistic forms, such as intermittent fasting, alternate-day fasting may be better options to consider.
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