For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about fasting (see the other topics here and here). Fasting with only water is the most challenging form of fasting. It means you’re not eating any calories at all, just making sure you’re well hydrated. Most of us are not used to this kind of drastic reduction in calorie intake (not surprising considering the high-sugar, high-fat diets of people in the USA and also in many other Western countries).
Fasting on Water is the Fastest Way to Detoxify
Fasting, though, is the ancient and traditional way to turn the focus back to your body and its physiological needs. In particular, fasting on only water is the fastest way to detoxify your body and help it restore its functionality.
Fasting is not a cure to specific health problems, but it can help the body by taking the focus off the energy-spending process of digestion and turning it to whatever ails you instead. Even more than a juice fast, fasting on water allows your body to focus completely on restoring itself – during a juice fast, part of your energy reserve goes to digesting nutrients you introduce, but this is not the case in a water fast.
Your body normally gets most of its energy from glucose – a type of sugar extracted from food. During a fast, your body must turn its focus to the inessential things already within you, and this means stored fat. The glucose (in glycogen form) that’s stored in your body for “between meals” is entirely used up in about 24 hours, and after that, the body turns to using existing fat as fuel.
But won’t it also begin to digest muscle?
Actually, your body also has a genius mechanism to protect just this from happening. It’s called protein sparing, and it is common knowledge to body builders who have to focus hard on the protein they take in and the energy they spend working out. Protein sparing will protect your body’s muscle mass so that you will lose minimal amounts even in an extended fast.
Make Sure to Remain Hydrated
During a water fast, you must make sure you remain hydrated at all times. Most of us don’t drink enough water every day as it is (the recommended is 64-80 oz for a pretty stationary lifestyle and even more if you’re sweating or active). Getting the recommended amount of water is even more important during a water fast. Water will help your body get rid of the toxins that are released from your stored fat – as the fat breaks down, toxins will flush out along with the urine, and you need to make sure there is enough water in you for your body to do this.
Many of us mistake thirst for hunger in our everyday lives, but during a water fast the signals from the body become clearer. It is advisable to drink water whenever you feel at all thirsty. Drink as much water as you want, basically. It is best to use filtered water, to make sure you are drinking clean, good stuff.
Fasting is NOT a ‘Diet’
People who are fasting on water alone, tend to lose a noticeable amount of weight in the duration of their fast. I must stress, as I did in my previous articles, that fasting is not a diet but instead a way to regain knowledge of your body and help it to heal its illnesses, especially those related to a weak digestive tract or intestines. For more detailed information, do your research — and always feel free to ask questions.
Maria (Niina) Pollari is a poet, editor, writer and translator. She wrote two chapbooks, Fabulous Essential (2009) and Book Four (2011). Pollari’s writing has been featured in numerous literary journals as well as the Brooklyn Rail and Jezebel.com. She has received her Master’s in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.