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Does water fasting help in weight loss? Here are all its benefits, types and risks

An absolute cessation of food consumption while consuming water ad libitum, water fasting is believed to improve metabolism and promote weight loss. But it doesn’t come without any dangers or challenges. 

November 17, 2023 / 06:58 PM IST
Benefits of drinking water

Water fasting involves consuming solely water for a specific timeframe, typically ranging from 24 to 72 hours

Fasting, a method of restricting food intake, has been practiced for thousands of years. In recent times, embarking on a water fasting journey for weight loss has surged in popularity, drawing attention for its touted benefits and potential risks. This age-old practice involves abstaining from food and consuming only water for a designated period. While it's essential to grasp the full spectrum of its advantages and challenges, the trend has piqued curiosity due to its potential in shedding pounds and promoting overall wellness.

Understanding water fasting:

Water fasting involves consuming solely water for a specific timeframe, typically ranging from 24 to 72 hours. It harnesses the body's natural metabolic processes, inducing a state of ketosis where the body burns stored fat for energy due to the absence of incoming calories from food.

Benefits of water fasting for weight loss:

Weight reduction: Water fasting can lead to rapid initial weight loss, primarily due to the depletion of glycogen stores and shedding excess water weight.

Enhanced metabolism: It may reset the body's metabolism, potentially improving its efficiency in processing nutrients post-fast.

Insulin sensitivity: Some studies suggest that intermittent fasting, including water fasting, could enhance insulin sensitivity, aiding in better blood sugar regulation.

Cellular repair: Fasting triggers autophagy, a cellular repair process where the body removes dysfunctional cells, potentially supporting overall health.

Types of water fasting:

Short-term water fasting: Time-Restricted Feeding (TRF) represents short-term water fast for 12 to 24 hours, during which food intake is restricted to a time window of 8 to 12 hours or less every day.

Long-term water fasting: Longer periods of water-only fasting can be observed during Intermittent Fasting (IF). During intermittent fasting individuals alternate between one to three days of water fasting and days of normal caloric intake.

Risky prolonged water fasting: Prolonged fasting (PF) refers to fasting for an extended period, from three to as long as 40 days! This type of water-only fasting is reserved for therapeutic purposes and should not be undertaken without medical supervision.

Risks and challenges:

While water fasting might offer benefits, it also poses potential risks and challenges:

Nutritional deficiencies: Prolonged fasting may lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients, impacting overall health.

Dehydration: Inadequate water intake or prolonged fasting can lead to dehydration, affecting bodily functions.

Electrolyte imbalance: The lack of food intake can disrupt electrolyte balance, causing weakness, dizziness, or heart palpitations.

Potential for eating disorders: Fasting may trigger unhealthy eating patterns or exacerbate existing eating disorders in susceptible individuals.

How to safely engage in water fasting:

Water fasting for weight loss remains a topic of interest, offering potential benefits but not without risks. While it may jumpstart weight loss and promote certain health benefits, it requires caution, supervision, and a balanced approach to avoid potential pitfalls. Before attempting any fasting regimen, seek advice from a healthcare provider, especially if you have underlying health conditions.

Begin with shorter fasting periods and gradually extend them under professional guidance. Ensure adequate water intake throughout the fast to prevent dehydration. Introduce food slowly post-fast with easily digestible, nutrient-dense options. Remember, weight loss methods vary in their efficacy and suitability for different individuals. Adopting a sustainable, balanced diet coupled with regular exercise remains a cornerstone for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

Sushmita Srivastav An independent journalist and editor, Sushmita writes on diverse topics, ranging from travel, food, fitness and health, to luxury, culture, and everything in between.

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