My 6 Day Water Fast Experience – Benefits & Side Effects

Preface: So, two days ago was my first day of “recovery” from the 6-day water fast that ended one day before that. Let me first start with a short explanation of what a “water fast” is, and what got me into doing it? 

Water pouring into glass. White background
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What is a water fast? It is basically a type of short-term fast (although I have read a blogger who had water fasted for more than 2 weeks!) lasting typically between 3-10 days; where the only substance one consume is water. The fast’s main purpose is to cleanse the body systems and organs off cumulated toxins, and in some cases to lose weight. You can visit this health clinic’s website for more specific instructions here 

Why did I fast?

1. I had gained a significant amount of weight through out the past semester. I was looking for a way to effectively and quickly lose weight (this point will be debunked later on in the post) 

2. I had also developed a junk food/processed food habit since being away from home; believing my health had declined greatly, I quickly sought to detox my body system. 

3. I had just read this article on GQ about this author who went through the same 6-day water fast and experienced wonderful results, click here, this was also around the same time I discovered that lots of everyday people actually practice/have practiced water and/or other fasts. 

This has inspired me to do the same. 

Note: I did not totally succeed in a full water fast. This is because I had a cup of coffee and two cups of tea during the 6 days (I had to order something at a cafe). But since the calories in these foods are so little, I considered the fast quite total. 

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Firstly, I would like to clarify a few of these common complaints/side effects of fasting:

http://cohearingspecialists.com
http://cohearingspecialists.com

First of all, the man who wrote the GQ article described his 6-day fast as “terrible, insufferable” and complained of headaches, restlessness, intense boredom and misery which comes with life without food. In fact, I did not experience many of these mentioned symptoms (I will talk more about why later on in the post).

Insomnia

I did not have any problems with sleeping at all. However, this claim may be inaccurate as on most nights during the fast I stayed up so late that as soon as I crawled into bed, I crashed into deep sleep.

Heightened senses i.e. smell and hearing

Personally, no.

Intense headaches and dizziness 

I believe a little bit on the 1st or 2nd day (headaches); slight dizziness when exerted lots of energy.

Boredom

Not at all. In fact, I felt the most creative and excited in these past few weeks during fasting. For me it was such a great way to break the habit of snacking for entertainment/while on the computer. Now, I learned to replace snacking with all sorts of worthwhile activities.

Restlessness & waking up in the middle of the night/early hours

Not at all. I have been sleeping in and getting my full 8 hours.

6-day water fast is an intense and miserable experience

It can get pretty intense especially towards the 6th day, but for me, it has not been a miserable experience.

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1st Day:

Feeling incredibly fine, the extensive amount of energy could be due to all the heavy Southern Chinese food I gobbled down the night before. A slight bit of hunger detected.

2nd Day: 

I remember a faint headache either this day or the 1st. Not very hungry; otherwise, no other notable symptoms.

3rd Day: 

Not hungry at all, other than when having smelled delicious food scent.

4th Day: 

Not very hungry; similar symptoms to the 3rd Day *A pattern of waking up very lethargic and slowly gaining huge amounts of energy into the evening began here.*

5th Day: 

Not very hungry, but feeling more and more lethargic. However, the past few days I have been very sedentary, and hence saved a lot of energy. On the other hand, I actually feel worse than when I was roaming NYC all day on Day 1-2. This day was when I was starting to agree with the so-called ‘misery’ of fasting.

6th Day: 

Still not very hungry, but once again very lethargic. Same sort of sedentary lifestyle as for the past few days. I was definitely looking forward to some food and ending the fast on 7th Day.

Post fast:

Do not follow my post-fast diet. It is not entirely harmful, but is not the proper way to end a water fast. Visit the Truenorth health center website for more details. What they had suggested were blended natural fruit juice in the morning, and blended green vegetables in the evening. The aim is to get easily digestible and highly nutritious foods in the smallest amount for a faster’s fragile stomach and depleted nutrients. 

I did not have the luxury of a blender nor an array of fresh fruits and veggies, hence these were on my post fast menu:

1 sweet naval orange in the morning (perhaps the fruit was so sweet because of heightened senses, or because it was so ripe almost to the point of going off? I remember enjoying it like a pothead)

1 large tomato (~4 inches wide) for lunch

1 sweet naval orange and 1 large tomato for dinner.

P.S. Right now, not feeling hungry at all despite the small amount of calories.

I will post updates on day 1 and day 2 of post fast as time goes by. Update on Day 2 & 3 here.

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Here are a few symptoms many water fasters on the internet have not mentioned, and that are worth noting:

Lack of thirst 

I realize that many fasters wrote about the importance of drinking measured amounts of water each fasting day, however, some did not mention the lack of thirst (which comes with lack of hunger). This  can make drinking water feel forced for many.

Nevertheless, it is still important to drink set amount of water each day to ensure proper hydration and aid in the toxin cleansing process of the fast.

Lack of bowel movements

My bowel movement only began after Day 2 of post fast. However, urination has been normal.

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My personal positive results of the 6-day water fast: 

http://healthinskin.com
http://healthinskin.com

Better skin 

Only after post-fast did I realize how much softer my skin has become, and the lessen amount of pimples (which popped up during the junk food eating and traveling). So, during the fast remember to drink more water and urinate out all the toxins, people!

Weight loss

Since I only had access to a scale on my 3rd day of fasting (and do not have a measuring tape, which is much more reliable) I can only make estimations based on the rate I was losing weight up until Day 3.

After 3 days of water fasting I lost: ~5-6 kg or 13-15 pounds (this is mostly water weight, and if you don’t watch your eating & exercise afterwards, you may rapidly gain back all the weight. Recovery/post fast period is incredibly important!)

Hence, I can only predict that by the end of the six days I lost: ~10-11 kg or 22-24 pounds However, this seems pretty darn crazy, and judging from the mirror, it seemed more like I lost an addition of 3-4 kg or 6.6-8.8 pounds.

This is still an approximate weight (partially water weight) loss of 8-9 kg or 17-19 pounds after 6 days of water fasting.

This makes more sense as it correlates more with other faster’s results.

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So, should we lose weight with water fasting? 

Because the fasting time is so short, at least 50% of the weight loss will be water and not fat. Also, you are not supposed to be doing even moderate exercise during the fast as it is very easy to feel lightheaded, due to lack of sugar in your bloodstream. Exercise is an important component in effective weight loss.

I also found that I had a significant muscle loss during this period (that could not be simply due to sedentary lifestyle the past two weeks), where my muscly thighs went to sausage thighs. This was quite disappointing as maintaing muscle mass is not only important in burning energy, but also in maintaining strong bones.

In conclusion, water-fasting is better suited for detox rather than rapid weight-loss that can quickly pile back.

Why different fasters experience different symptoms/results? 

I did not experience many common symptoms of water fasting, such as intense headaches, etc., and I lost more weight than some others I have read of. Why?

There are a variety of factors:

– Different activity levels; resulting in more or less energy usage and weight loss

– Different amount of muscle mass; muscles take up more energy than normal tissue, hence the more muscles, the more energy consumption and weight loss.

– Different amount of fat; those with more muscles than fat may lose less weight over the same period as muscles are more difficult to break down than fat. And also, if you do not have a significant amount of body fat (take the BMI test prior), you should not do a 6-day long fast!

– Different metabolic rate; resulting in varying energy consumption and weight loss.

– Different genes? Why not?

Words of caution about a 6-day (or more) water fast

Water fasts can be potentially dangerous practices.

Lack of readily available source of energy/carbohydrate puts your body into ketosis, where energy from stored fat cells are put into use instead. This process is more laborious than simply taking up sugar from the bloodstream (at times I can actually feel the surface of my stomach warming up and sometimes going a bit reddish, which was super cool), hence this may slow down many of your body functions. I remember my reactions slowing, and blood pressure dropping; meaning getting up from sitting down or from the bed were done slowly and carefully to avoid dizziness.

Therefore, the best way to do a water fast longer than a couple of days is at a spa, retreat, or during a holiday where during the course you can relax, do some light blood circulation exercises, meditate or other spiritual enlightening stuff, and have someone watch over you. I wouldn’t recommend juggling a full-on fast while going to work/school, like this blogger whom i.e. caught buses, went to conferences, travelled across the city. She experienced pretty serious negative symptoms.

Toxins are not only stored in our tissue, but also more so in the fat, by fat-soluble chemicals. Therefore, when ketone bodies are made from fatty acids as a source of energy, an amount of toxic (that has accumulated due to your unhealthy lifestyle and eating) are also released within your body.

This is also where it is very important to drink lots of water to get rid of many of those wastes. If a fast is done for longer, more and more of these toxins will be released in a short period (unlike losing weight gradually over the years) and can potentially poison the body and its organs.

The most dangerous part of a fast might even be the breaking of it.

Here are some excerpts from Breaking the Fast (by Herbert Shelton, Hygiene Review):

The proper conduct of the fast is vitally important. There are really very few practitioners of any school who know how to conduct a fast or how to properly break one. A naturopath in New York City broke the fasts of a mother and daughter, who had been fasting sixteen and thirteen days respectively, on chocolate candy. The gastric and intestinal acidity resulting from this caused great distress throughout the body. I was called in on these cases, and it required four to five days of fasting to get them back into a comfortable condition. This method of breaking a fast is nothing short of criminal.

Dr. Wm. F. Havard records the following cases: “A young man twenty-four years of age who had suffered from chronic constipation and indigestion, fasted twenty-seven days after reading an article in a popular health publication. On the twenty-eighth day he ate a meal of beefsteak, potatoes, bread and butter and coffee. He was seized with violent vomiting spells and could not tolerate even a teaspoonful of water on the stomach. When called on the case I discovered an intense soreness of the entire abdomen and every indication of acute gastritis.”

“A young man about thirty who had fasted on his own initiative for forty-two days attempted to break the fast on coarse bread with the result that vomiting occurred and the stomach became so irritable that nothing could be retained. There was marked emaciation and extreme weakness and every indication for immediate nourishment.”

An Associated Press dispatch dated Aug. 28, (1929) recounts the death of Chris. Solberg, 40 years old art model, following a 31 days fast, which he broke by “consuming several sandwiches.” The sandwiches, a later report stated, contained beef. Ignorance and lack of self-control killed this man.

“Prof.” Arnold Ehret tells of seeing two cases killed by injudicious breaking of the fast. He says “A one-sided, meat-eater, suffering from diabetes broke his fast which lasted about a week by eating dates and died from the effects. A man of over sixty years of age […] his first meal of vegetarian foods consisting mainly of boiled potatoes.”

These cases help to influence many against fasting and yet they are the results of the worst type of ignorance and inexperience. Who but an ignoramus would feed a diabetic case a meal of dates after a week of fasting? Surely fasting cannot be blamed for this result. Before we talk of the evils and dangers of fasting let us be sure that these really belong to fasting and not to something else.

Another account of a guy who broke his 30-day fast improperly and was bed-ridden for a week after that (from Fitness Through Fasting):

Breaking a fast should definitely be planned in advance. Waiting until the last moment to determine what one is going to eat and drink is a recipe for disaster. Take it from me. I have done amazingly-foolish things in years past. One time I broke a thirty-day water fast at a friend’s birthday celebration with burritos, pizza, hot dogs and soda. What a great guy, huh? NOT!

The “celebration” was short-lived. I was bed-ridden for almost a week afterward and my stomach blew up like a balloon. I had severely irritated the digestive system which was NOTprepared for all of the trash I had abruptly dumped into it. I thought I was giving myself a “reward” for reaching my fasting goal. Instead, I got egg in the face and one heck of a health scare. What I did was not only ridiculously-foolhardy but also VERY dangerous.

Credit: http://personalexcellence.co/blog/post-fast-day-4/

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If you ask me what I think of the 6-day water fast I had just completed, I would say:

In conclusion, it had been a fun and interesting experience. I was very intrigued to see what happens in our daily lives when such an obligatory activity like eating (or even going to the toilet, no. 2) is omitted. Although during the fast, I still went to restaurants with my brother/friends or helped them prepare food, I was still rid of the obligation of sitting down and solely eating. It has taught me how to use my time more wisely, and that eating (especially addictive snacks, or high sugar/fat foods) is only one of the many sources of pleasure in our lives.

Even the post fast/recovery period (where I am only permitted to eat blended fresh fruits and mushy vegetables for the first few days) has greatly helped me re-embrace whole foods. Even watery cabbage that has been boiled in tap water now tastes delicious.

Would I do it again?

Personally, I wouldn’t do a fast this long again (as long as I can keep the current weight down..)

The fast had been quite taxing on the body, and I find that my previous methods of losing weight such as consuming large amounts of vegetables/fruits to replace refined carbs, and eating healthily in general, while ALSO exercising (which I had too little energy for during the fast) did not create negative side effects and were less likely to result in bounce back of weight.

Nevertheless, shorter fasts (1-3 days) should not do much harm, and is a good way to let your organs rest and allow your palate to readjust towards cleaner and more natural foods.

I hope this post helps, and if I had made any inaccurate claims please correct me!

– Izzy

4 thoughts on “My 6 Day Water Fast Experience – Benefits & Side Effects”

  1. Hi, You should look up the work of Dr Jason Fung (Toronto based doctor treating diabetes patients). He routinely advises long fasts to improve insulin sensitivity and aid fat loss.Scientific studies suggest that fasts do not cause muscle loss, reduction of metabolic rate or loss of micronutrients, actually the opposite occurs. Also no evidence suggesting you can’t do normal and even strenuous exercise, Of course fasting for extended periods makes no sense if you’re not overweight but if you are it is a very beneficial treatment.

    1. Hi Kate! Thanks a lot for your feedback. Would you be able to kindly provide links to the ‘scientific studies’ you spoke of ^_^ ? And about exercise — perhaps we are talking about a different kind of fast here? I specifically refer to a ‘6-day’ aka prolonged water fast. The reason why I believe it is incredibly dangerous to do exercise while on a prolonged water fast is because 1.) the author of my reference blog post http://www.gq.com/story/six-day-water-fast-diet said he was informed by his clinic. 2.) most practitioners of long fasts, yogis, buddhist monks are able to commit to them because they spend most of their days basically just sitting and meditating.
      By the way, I am about to return to writing the blog. It would be great if you can subscribe for more posts to come! And I will have a look at Dr Jason Fung. Thanks for suggesting /(^o^)/

  2. I agree with Kate except my experience and the experience of the doctor I follow says it does drop your use of sucrose after 5 days which is the kind of fuel your body usually uses (except during a water fast it switches over to fat). BUT this is only short term.

    Hello I can see you did the HARD part of a water fast. This is really impressive but for weight loss is very not good. Not because it’s a water fast but because it is a short water fast. A short water fast will back fire on you. This is the real reason, not because you loss water, but because your metabolism switched over to burning fat and then slowed down on burning that. So when you start to eat after only a few days you no longer need 2000 calories you are burning a portion of that. Maybe only 500 calories, it takes your body 14 to 21 days to get back to it’s full metabolism. Just from that alone you will gain back what you burned.

    Now if you had went 21-22 days (depending on the person,your thyroid would have reset to normal! This is true of people with hypothyroidism, or with hyperthyroidism(too fast, or too slow). A 40 day is even better because then you get cosmetic benefits in the last 10 days. Find the free book by “doctor Shelton on water fasting” hundreds of pages on water fasting.

    The first 5 to 10 days you will want to not work. As you will smell bad and need to rest. But your energy will start to pick up and by the 15 day you will be able to go out and exercise and be surprised on how well you do. I on the other hand exercised from day two probably because I’m a exercise nut. And I did one in 2002 and 2009 so my body is used to it.

    Tow last things you HAVE to break a fast by the book, or even a 40 water fast can make you gain more than half of water you lost back. The other thing is after 21 days (after the last fasting day). If you had a slow metabolism before the fast, it will kick into OVERDRIVE out of now where without you doing a thing. This is only if you broke your fast by the books (partial description, your only eat foods with enzymes, for instance fruits and vegs. Your starting to feed like a baby). Maybe we have become babes needing milk (not the bad kind).

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