Dry Fasting vs. Water Fasting: What Are the Risks & Benefits?

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

If you are a fitness nerd like me, you’d already know the importance and benefits of fasting occasionally. There are two types of fasting that you should be aware of — dry fasting and water fasting. These are two distinct fasting methods, and each of them has its own health benefits.

In dry fasting, you challenge yourself to abstain from water and food for a certain period of time. Then, on the other hand, water fasting has a different approach, where you only focus on hydrating yourself while skipping meals.

This article is going to take a deeper dive into dry fasting as well as water fasting so that you have a better understanding of what each is and the benefits you may experience through their use.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor or dietician before making any changes to your current nutrition regimen.

What is Dry Fasting?

Dry fasting, also known as absolute fasting, restricts both food and liquids. During dry fasting, you are not allowed any fluids, including broth, water, coffee, and tea. This is different from most fasting, where you can still drink water.

Dry fasting can be done in many ways, such as:

  • Intermittent fasting: It is a cycle between fasting and eating. Many people follow the 16/8 method, which stops food intake for 16 hours and allows eating during the 8-hour window. The only thing is to ensure you aren’t drinking anything (most people who utilize IF are still drinking water or calorie-free liquids, but in this case, you don’t.
  • Eat-stop-eat: You can fast for 24 hours once or twice a week.
  • Alternate day fasting: It can be done every other day and is a form of 1-day fasting.
  • Periodic fasting: Food intake is restricted for a definite number of days, such as a 3-day fast once a month.

What is Water Fasting?

Water fasting is a type of fasting where you avoid consuming anything except water for a specific timeframe, which ranges anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. It is quite a common and widely known form of fasting. Water fasting can be done for many reasons, such as weight loss, spiritual or religious purposes, detoxification, or to prepare for surgical procedures.

If you are wondering if it’s safe, there are studies that say so (but you should still speak with your doctor before trying water fasting).

The Benefits Associated with Dry Fasting & Water Fasting Methods

Below is a breakdown of all the benefits linked with water fasting as well as dry fasting.

Dry Fasting Benefits

Here are the benefits of dry fasting:

1.       Weight loss

Dry fasting has gained support among some individuals as an effective weight loss method, which might be attributed to its rigorous calorie restriction.

A 2013 study in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics examined the impact of fasting during Ramadan, a month-long Muslim holiday. During this period, individuals abstain from both food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

The study involved 240 healthy adults who observed at least 20 days of fasting during Ramadan. Researchers recorded the participant’s body weight and calculated their body mass index (BMI) a week before Ramadan and again a week after it concluded. The findings revealed a decrease in body weight and BMI for the majority of participants.

2.       Detoxification

Many claim that dry fasting can cleanse the body by eliminating toxins and water weight. They believe a one-day dry fast has similar effects to a three-day water fast.

3.       Supports wound healing

According to a 2019 review, the increased immune activity due to dry fasting helps would healing. A 2011 study also found that temporary, repeated fasting sped up the wound-healing process in mice.

Water Fasting Benefits

Here are the benefits of water fasting:

1.       Weight loss

Similar to dry fasting, water fasting also helps in weight loss, as you limit calorie intake and promote fat burning.

2.       Cleansing of kidneys

When you drink water during a fast, your kidneys are more prepared to perform the diuresis process to produce urine, hence getting rid of and eliminating toxins and various unnecessary substances from your body.

3.       Other potential health benefits

Research indicates that water fasting may have several potential benefits, including improved blood sugar control, reduced inflammation, and possible protection against conditions like cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.

Dry Fasting vs. Water Fasting: Which One Should You Use?

Fasting has become a popular method for weight loss, and some individuals believe that dry fasting, which involves abstaining from both food and water, may offer superior weight loss benefits compared to water fasting.

While some studies suggest that intermittent dry fasting may have potential weight loss advantages, it’s unclear whether these effects are unique to dry fasting or applicable to fasting in general. The lack of substantial research makes it challenging to draw definitive conclusions regarding whether dry fasting is more effective for weight loss than other fasting approaches. Therefore, it’s important to approach fasting practices with caution and be mindful of individual health needs and goals.

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