Dry fasting is making waves, with miraculous weight loss results just after a few days. However, I can tell you from experience there’s more to this visible weight loss than meets the waistline.
What is dry fasting?
Dry fasting means total abstinence from eating or drinking, a fast where nothing crosses your lips. No tea, no soup, no spritz of breath fresher. Nothing.
Can dry fasting help you lose weight?
Every year, during Ramadan, the Muslim community dry fast for over a month, for a total of 12–20 hours daily. Looking at the results from Ramadan research, consistent dry fasting shows consistent results.
One Ramadan study had participants lose, on average, 2.6 pounds (1.2kgs). However, the average weight gain two weeks after Ramadan was 1.6 pounds (0.72kgs). Other research during Ramadan fasting shows participants reduce body weight and body fat during Ramadan. However, most of the weight is regained after. * * * *
Can dry fasting make you lose weight? Some water weight loss is inevitable after dry fasting. Calorie restriction also results in weight loss. However, you can achieve sustained weight loss when practicing dry fasting with a high-fat diet and exercise.
The results of weight loss during dry fasting can be shocking. If you look on the internet, the average weight loss in 24 hours of dry fasting is 2kg. That’s 4–5 pounds (2kg) weight loss in 1 day, 9 pounds (4kg) weight loss in 2 days. I have lost these exact numbers on the scale.
Weight loss during dry fasting is usually misleading because most of the lost weight is water weight. A least half of your body weight is water weight (50% for women and 59% for men), so once you break the fast, and drink water usually, the volume of water in your body increases, and you regain much of the weight.
All is not lost, however, as the actual process of dry fasting does generate weight loss, so it’s simply a matter of tweaking the way you dry fast to make sure you are benefiting from its weight loss benefits.
Let’s look at the of science of how dry fasting helps you lose weight and how you can use dry fasting to maximize weight loss.
Dry fasting burns fat for fuel
First, let’s examine weight loss during fasting. Dry fasting means no food or water, and water fasting means no food. It’s what intermittent fasting practitioners do—a 16:8 fasting cycle is no food for 16 hours, and then food for 8 hours, although you can have water at any time.
Whenever you fast, you lose weight, and this is a guaranteed deal. If you don’t eat food, you will lose weight. Why? Well, let’s get into the economics of fat loss.
Without fuel from food, meaning power from carbohydrates (glucose), your body needs to burn fat to get energy. If you spend more than you make, it’s energy economics. You’re in deficit and have to dip into your savings. So naturally, if you’re not eating, you’ll be losing weight.
During a fast, your body starts running on empty, so it taps into your savings. For most people doing a water fast, the glucose stores from your last meal run out in about 24 hours, but this depends on your body type, lifestyle, and diet.
So let’s say you’re like most people, and after 24 hours of water fasting, your body starts eating into your first saving pot for energy—glycogen, from your liver and muscles. By this point, your blood sugar levels and insulin levels have dropped.
Once your glycogen savings gets depleted, your body taps into its second savings pot—your fat stores. Through a process called autophagy, your body starts breaking down the triglycerides in your fat cells to get their new source of energy—glycerol and fatty acids.
Inside your liver, glycerol turns into glucose, which gets used as fuel for your body’s cells, and fatty acids turn into ketones—used as fuel for your heart, brain, and muscles.
When your body is only using fat for fuel, you’re in what we call ketosis. Ketosis does lots of healthy things for your body, so even though you’re dipping into your life savings, this is a good thing. (Hoorah!)
Your liver is always making some ketones to feed your brain, which usually happens overnight when you’re sleeping. That’s also why many practice intermittent fasting, to increase these ketone levels more often. The more ketones you have, the better your benefits. Unfortunately, just entering the baseline level of ketosis usually takes about 3–4 days for most people, if they eat less than 20–50 carbs a day or 5–10% of their calorie needs. (Although some struggle for weeks!)
Ketosis is that golden goose of weight loss, ketosis is what the fasting addicts are raving about, ketosis is where you want to be—and dry fasting is a hack to ketosis, so you will lose weight for as long as you stay there.
Being in high levels of ketosis, however, also triggers an increase in the metabolic processes such as autophagy and human growth hormone secretion which help you burn even more fat.
Dry fasting burns fat for water
The second reason you lose weight quickly during dry fasting is that your body burns fat for water.
Your body is an intelligent animal that adapted to its environment over thousands of years. Our caveman ancestors might have been trapped inside their caves for days, hiding from Saber-toothed tigers outside, unable to get food or water for themselves. After the tigers had given up, cavemen would still need to go out and be strong enough to hunt for food. If cavemen ancestors started to wither away without food or water, human beings wouldn’t exist today.
So your body adapted to not just survive during water deprivation but to thrive. In times of limited water deprivation, your body changes its metabolic pathways and turns towards water conservation and creation, and for this, it again dips into your fat savings.
When the glucose stores run out and ketones start building up, the osmoreceptors in your brain sense the dissolved fluid increase in your blood—your body is dehydrated.
Your brain then releases ADH (an antidiuretic hormone) that stimulates the kidneys to release the hormone lipase. Lipase eats into your fat to release more glucose and fatty acids—which, as we know, gets converted in your liver into glucose and ketones and released as a source of energy for your body.
But not all fatty acids become ketones. Some free fatty acids start circulating in your bloodstream, into your cells, and into its mitochondria—the cell powerhouse.
Inside the mitochondria, your cells break down the carb chain of the fatty acids to get hydrogen (H), combine it with oxygen (O2) that you breathe in, and make H20!
So each of your 37 trillion cells makes its own water, and through this unique process, you burn more fat!
Dry fasting boost overall weight loss
All fasting induces your body’s recycling mechanism, including processes such as autophagy, stem cell regeneration, and human growth hormone secretion. However, dry fasting’s harsher environment, with no water and no food, boosts these metabolic processes.
During a dry fast, the levels of human growth hormone (HGH), spike up to 5 times that of water fasting. HGH helps to preserve muscle mass and reduces fat tissue accumulation, and with proper nutrition and planning, you can even increase muscle mass during dry fasting.
Your metabolism also increases during dry fasting. Every cell in your body creates its internal furnace to burn unneeded resources to create more fuel and remove toxins, raising the heat in your body, which means more energy is needed to stabilize the body. During a dry fast, your metabolism can increase as much as 10%—increasing the speed of your fat loss.
Autophagy also spikes during a dry fast—consuming unneeded, unhealthy, sickly, old cells and recycling them for their water content since your cells are 60% water. Some of these unwanted cells are your fat cells.
As cells get repaired and new cells are created (by the proliferation of stem cells triggered by dry fasting), your body requires new building material—which enlists the help of another type of autophagy—chaperone-mediated autophagy (CMA). Dry fasting increases CMA, which gets its resources from old cells that are going bad, harmful cells, or just plain useless cells.
CMA hunts down these ‘bad’ cells, which can come from scar tissue, skin tags, old skin, cysts, tumors, folded proteins, as well as malfunctioning cells. Old skin, which is loose and saggy, is considered useless by your body; it will be used as building material, and replaced with fresh, new, tighter skin cells, so you’ll even look like you’ve lost weight.
Since CMA also targets bacteria, parasites, and viruses—anything that does not serve a useful purpose to your body becomes building material for cellular recycling. Which means your body becomes healthier and younger, with better breathing, better digestion, better movement, better hormonal regulation, and better circulation, so you’re less likely to gain weight. (Putting on weight in your early twenties wasn’t so easy, was it?)
Read my article for more on the benefits of dry fasting.
Dry fasting creates eating habits that support weight loss
A toxic body, a system inundated with microbes, parasites, and harmful bacteria, craves sugar. That’s why you want unhealthy food—including desserts, sugary drinks, and pastries. Dry fasting reduces cravings by starving those microbes of water and getting rid of the harmful bacteria that gave you those cravings in the first place.
Your taste buds also change after a dry fast, as toxins get neutralized from your gut and digestive tract and even your tongue, which means your sense of taste will become far superior to what it was—and you’ll become a fussy clean eater.
Half our taste buds are no longer with us after years of drinking tea and eating soup that’s burning hot. When you get older, you lose much of your ability to taste, but new cells include new tongue receptors, which you can enjoy a much more well-rounded flavor to foods. You can train your taste, and the more you dry fast, the more you can train your taste buds to enjoy healthy food.
Your appetite also reduces after dry fasting, as it helps to regulate hunger hormones like Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and Leptin (the satiety hormone), helping to control appetite. Since dry fasting kills harmful bacteria and leaves you with a healthier gut microbiome, you’ll be hungry when you’re starving, not when the bacteria and parasites inside you say so. Serotonin, a stress-relieving hormone, is also produced in your gut, and when you’re happy and stress-free, you’re better able to handle the desire to binge or emotionally eat.
Of course, the simple practice of dry fasting also affects self-control. Saying no to food and water shows how much resilience and control your mind has over your body. The next time you have an urge to eat something that isn’t good for you, you can draw on the strength and willpower you had to hold back from even drinking water during dry fast and feel more able to take charge of your health.
For more on dry fasting for weight loss, check out my new video course, 25 Again! The Dry Fasting Lifestyle For A Younger, Slimmer You.
***Disclaimer: I am not a doctor/ physician, and although I have a bachelors degree in Biomedical Science, I cannot and do not hold myself to be a medical professional (“Medical Provider”). This article does not contain medical /health advice. The medical/ health information here is is for general and educational purposes only. It is my opinion, based on my research and personal experience, and not a substitute for professional advice by your health care provider. Please consult with a professional before acting on the information here, and do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical attention because of anything you read on this article. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY OF THE INFORMATION ON THIS WEBSITE IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.***
- Rohin MA, Rozano N, Abd Hadi N, Mat Nor MN, Abdullah S, Dandinasivara Venkateshaiah M. Anthropometry and body composition status during Ramadan among higher institution learning centre staffs with different body weight status. ScientificWorldJournal. 2013;2013:308041. Published 2013 Nov 7. doi:10.1155/2013/308041
- Hajek P, Myers K, Dhanji AR, West O, McRobbie H. Weight change during and after Ramadan fasting. J Public Health (Oxf). 2012;34(3):377-381. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdr087
- Shehab A, Abdulle A, El Issa A, Al Suwaidi J, Nagelkerke N. Favorable changes in lipid profile: the effects of fasting after Ramadan. PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47615. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047615
- Al-Hourani HM, Atoum MF. Body composition, nutrient intake and physical activity patterns in young women during Ramadan. Singapore Med J. 2007;48(10):906-910.
- Dąbek A, Wojtala M, Pirola L, Balcerczyk A. Modulation of Cellular Biochemistry, Epigenetics and Metabolomics by Ketone Bodies. Implications of the Ketogenic Diet in the Physiology of the Organism and Pathological States. Nutrients. 2020;12(3):788. Published 2020 Mar 17. doi:10.3390/nu12030788
- Filonov, Sergey. 20 Questions & Answers About Dry Fasting . Translated by Vera Giovanna Bani , Siberika , 2019.
- Dunning, August. The Phoenix Protocol Dry Fasting for Rapid Healing and Radical Life Extension: Functional Immortality. August Dunning , 2020.