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Dry Fasting 101: Getting Started, Benefits, and Risks
Intermittent Fasting

Dry Fasting 101: Getting Started, Benefits, and Risks

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on 2022 September 22
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8 min

You may have heard about the multiple health benefits that intermittent fasting can bring. You might be less familiar with intermittent dry fasting – a more extreme version of the popular eating pattern. Here you can find the fundamental principles of dry fasting, plus its benefits, side effects, and how to get started.

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Fasting is the willful abstinence from food for a specified period.

It is practiced around the world for a list of reasons, from religious and healing purposes to weight loss and wellness. Intermittent fasting schedules restrict food intake, but drinking water is a requisite of the practice. However, some methods cut out liquid intake entirely.

This intense form of intermittent fasting is known as dry fasting. It can work with the most popular methods, including alternate-day fasting and periodic fasting. It has many of the same purported benefits, including weight loss, stronger immunity, and improved brain function.

In this article, you will discover everything you need to know about the practice of dry fasting.

What Is Dry Fasting?

Dry fasting is a form of time-restricted eating that restricts liquids and solids. It means abstaining from food and drink for the duration of the fasting period. Unlike your usual intermittent fasting patterns that allow and encourage you to drink water and other zero-calorie beverages, dry fasting does not allow you to consume anything, even water.

It is considered an extreme form of fasting, and many cultures partake in the regimen for spiritual and religious purposes. Ramadan fasting, for instance, entails obligatory dry fasting every day between sunset and sunrise for the entire month of Ramadan.

Can I drink water while dry fasting?

No, you cannot drink water while dry fasting. Although water has no calories or macronutrients to trigger an insulin response that breaks your fast, it is not permitted during a dry fast. Dry fasting is exactly as the name suggests – strictly dry.

The rule applies to all fluids, including tea, coffee, and bone broth, which many intermittent fasting plans recommend for comfortable fasting. Dry fasting is more challenging because you’re restricting food as well as liquids. It is critical to prepare yourself before getting started.

If you begin to feel dizzy, lightheaded, and disoriented when carrying out ordinary tasks, you might be suffering from dehydration. If so, you should end the dry fast and rehydrate your body by drinking water. Dehydration can be dangerous if left untreated. 

How Does Dry Fasting Work?

Dry fasting essentially works the same way as intermittent fasting. It prolongs the period after your last meal until your body burns through the calories and begins burning fat for energy instead. It ultimately speeds up the fat-burning process to help you lose weight faster.

The idea behind dry fasting is that the complete abstinence of everything forces your body to use every available energy source. Advocates of the practice claim that dry fasting can help you lose weight, burn body fat, strengthen the immune system, and promote healthy skin.

Dry fasting also works by detoxing the body. It triggers autophagy, a cleansing process that occurs as your body clears out and replaces damaged cells. The term autophagy actually means “self-eating,” as the cells essentially eat and destroy themselves.

What Are the Types of Dry Fasting?

Not sure which fast to try?

Often, the first challenge is choosing the right fast. There are many types of fasting with many different rules. Popular examples include alternate-day fasting and the 16:8 fast. You can pretty much follow any intermittent fast and alter it by cutting out water.

However, some fasts may not be suitable if they require you to go extremely long hours without liquids. Essentially, there are three different types of dry fast. Let’s look at them in more detail:

#1 Intermittent dry fasting

Intermittent fasting is when you cycle between eating and fasting. You allocate a specific period in which you refrain from consuming food and drink.

For example, you might choose the 12-hour fast, which involves a 12-hour eating window where you can eat and drink as normal, and a 12-hour window where you consume nothing.

There are many variations and modifications. Some people might only fast for 8 hours per day, while others may fast for as long as 20 hours with the Warrior diet.

#2 Prolonged fasting

Prolonged fasting, or extended fasting, means fasting for long hours. These types of fasts are incredibly challenging, especially for those on a dry fast. It offers a severe form of calorie restriction in a bid to speed up weight loss results. You should limit prolonged forms of fasting when eliminating fluids.

Going too long without water is dangerous. A dry fast can shock the system and quickly lead to fatigue and dehydration. If you begin to feel dizzy and unwell, you should end the fast.

#3 Hard dry fast

A dry fast can be categorized as soft or hard.

A soft dry fast is when you restrict fluid intake but continue to follow your usual lifestyle habits, like taking a shower and brushing your teeth. A hard dry fast is when you abstain from water in every sense. You practice total abstinence, which means you don’t shower, wash your face, or brush your teeth. It is important to remember that hard dry fast is not necessary for weight loss.

How to Start Dry Fasting?

Dry fasting requires a little more preparation and training than other methods of prolonged fasting. It is essential to prepare yourself as a dry fast is stressful for your body. Doing so will help you sustain a more comfortable fast so you can reach your goals more quickly.

The most crucial factor is ensuring you are fully hydrated before beginning a dry fast. You should drink lots of water in the days and hours leading up to your fast. This will reduce the risk of becoming dehydrated during your chosen fasting hours.

Next, you must decide which type of fasting you want to try. If you’re a beginner, it’s best that you don’t exceed 12 hours for your first fast. This is a long time to go without water, and any more than this may cause significant discomfort. The 12-hour fast is great for newcomers.

Moreover, building yourself up to a dry fast is a good idea. You could start with smaller fasting windows and gradually eliminate water from your diet until you feel comfortable beginning a more extended, dry fast.

An essential for many beginners is to use a fasting app. The DoFasting app is an amazing tool for getting on board with fasting. Users can obtain a customized plan for all fasting programs, with recipes, meal recommendations, simple workouts, and expert guidance, so you’re never unsure during your fasting journey.

5 Benefits of Dry Fasting: Is It Effective?

Like intermittent fasting, a dry fast has several benefits that can improve your overall health and wellness. Of course, it is most famous for promoting weight loss, but there are a handful of other advantages you might be interested in.

Below you can discover 5 health benefits of intermittent dry fasting.

#1 Helps to lose weight

There is no denying that fasting helps you shed excess body weight. It forces you to consume fewer calories than usual, reducing your overall caloric intake, and promoting a calorie deficit. Abstinence from food causes a metabolic switch that sets your body into fat-burning mode.

Ramadan fasting, a religious form of dry fasting, has promising effects on reducing body mass index (BMI), body weight, and body composition. Fasting, in general, may be an effective option for treating obesity and other cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure.

For best results, it is important to work out while fasting. However, exercising in a fasted state can become dangerous without any fluids. Schedule intensive exercise for your eating windows, and stick to mild exercise during your fast, such as daily 2-mile walks.

#2 Boosts immune system

Short-term intensive fasting may boost immune function by resetting the immune system and enhancing autophagy – cleaning out the body’s damaged cells. It can also strengthen the body’s defense mechanisms and boost the immune cells.

#3 Beneficial for skin health

Although a dry fast eliminates water – an essential for skin health – it may have other benefits that support the skin overall.

Calorie restriction without severe loss of essential nutrients may increase longevity and decrease aging. These anti-aging benefits may have a positive impact on skin aging. Fasting may also speed up wound healing.

#4 Might reduce the risk of bone and joint diseases

Dry fasts may have beneficial effects on bone health, but more research is necessary to determine the results. However, dieters may need to introduce calcium and vitamin D supplementation to keep bones strong and healthy.

Fasting may have antirheumatic effects, reducing joint pain, swelling, and stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. 

#5 Might help to prevent diabetes

Under medical supervision, fasting can support diabetes management and treatment.

Clinical trials have shown fasting can reduce blood glucose levels, improve insulin resistance, and lower blood pressure. Additionally, people with diabetes need to maintain a healthy weight, and fasting promotes weight loss and helps prevent weight gain.

By improving these factors, fasting may help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.

Possible Side Effects of Dry Fasting

Every alternative eating pattern comes with potential side effects. Many of the adverse effects of dry fasting are the same as those associated with intermittent fasting, as your body must adapt to several changes. The most common symptoms you can expect with a dry fast are:

  • Hunger pangs
  • Tiredness
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping

The biggest concern with practicing dry fasting is dehydration. You’re unable to drink water or any other fluids to hydrate your body as normal. Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Dry mouth and lips
  • Dark yellow, strong-smelling urine
  • Urinating very little
  • Prolonged periods of dehydration can cause urinary tract infections and kidney stones. In severe cases, dehydration can cause seizures and hypovolemic shock (low blood volume shock), which can be life-threatening.

To prevent the risk of dehydration while fasting, it’s critical to drink lots of water in your eating windows. You can become seriously unwell if you go into your dry fast while already dehydrated. You should also avoid intensive training during time-restricted feeding, as sweating can cause dehydration. This is especially likely during a dry fast when you can’t replenish lost water.

With severe calorie restriction from reduced food intake, fasting also runs the risk of developing nutritional deficiencies. You must ensure adequate nutritional intake before and after fasting periods.

A Word From a Nutritionist

Fasting is a proven method for weight loss and a string of other health benefits.

The traditional form that most people are familiar with requires you to abstain from food. Eating food and taking in calories will break your fast and interrupt your fasting progress. People continue the fast for a specified period to reap the benefits before returning to eating.

It is great for weight loss because it forces calorie restriction for a number of hours a day. It allows your body to make a metabolic switch to start burning through your body’s fat stores. This helps you eliminate excess fat and promote a healthier body composition.

A dry fast follows the same principles, but it excludes fluids. When following this method, you cannot drink water or any other beverage during the fasting period. It is a less popular method but common practice in some cultures, such as Ramadan fasting.

Fasting is healthy for most healthy adults, but dry fasting is a more dangerous form of fasting. It may not be suitable for some people, and those who practice a dry fast must take precautions to prevent severe dehydration and other health complications.

Conclusion

Dry fasting is another form of periodic fasting with a more restrictive set of rules. It’s a good way to boost weight loss results and improve other aspects of your health. Most healthy adults can practice a dry fast safely with the proper precautions, but it isn’t for everyone.

Water is vital to human life, and repeated fasting without water comes with risks. Talk to your doctor before attempting this extreme eating pattern to ensure your safety. Remember, you can try DoFasting for guidance with multiple fasting methods to find the one that suits you.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed byRosmy Barrios, MD
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