When I first did dry fasting, I got it all wrong. There was so much noise on how to dry fast. But fear not, here’s a step-by-step guide so you can dry fast with confidence and live to happily tell the tale.
Dry fasting, also known as absolute fasting, is fasting without food or water: no tea, no coffee, no green tea, no alcohol, no bone broths, no vegetables, and absolutely no cheesecake. Dry fasting differs from water fasting because nothing is allowed to pass your lips. It’s an absolutely dry experience.
There might be some confusion on how exactly one attempts a dry fast, and after doing it many times, I can tell you that there is a considerable benefit and some not-so-great downsides to not knowing what you’re doing.
I never simply start a dry fast anymore. My dry fasts are planned, and if I suddenly feel like it, I think about my activities before and after the dry fast before I jump into the dry end.
How to do Dry Fasting?
- Plan your dry fast
- Choose the kind of dry fast
- Decide the duration of dry fast
- Prepare physically
- Hydrate beforehand
- Eat good nutrition beforehand
- Follow dry fasting best practice
- Break dry fast with a suitable liquid
- Break dry fast with suitable solids
- Follow refeeding protocol
Plan your dry fast
Before you start the fast, know why you are doing it. Many do dry fasts simply for overall health; others do it for specific reasons such as colon renewal, losing weight, treating diabetes, or helping with chemotherapy radiation. Your purpose will impact the length and type of dry fast as well as your dry-fasting preparation and exit. If you set the objective of your fast, your intention for it, and journal through the process, this will be helpful for your growth and reflection. If you feel you might quit, get yourself an accountability partner who can help you get through.
Educating yourself on what is happening to your body chemically and physiology is also vital. A dry fast can be less effective and even harmful if not conducted with respect for your body. For instance, dry fasting after a night on the booze wagon could land you in the emergency ward, caffeine withdrawal can cause you headaches, or eating carbs before going into the dry fast will lessen the beneficial effects and make you hungrier!
Dry fasting can be the most powerful practice to incorporate into your lifestyle, but only if you first understand the science and mechanics of why dry fasting is good for you (and debunk the myth that we constantly need water to survive!).
Knowing your calendar and schedule is also essential for when you plan to break your fast. Make sure there aren’t any meetings that can stress you out, or you haven’t got an appointment with the dentist (obviously a bad idea for a dry fast!).
Preparing your setting for dry fasting is another way to make sure your fast goes smoothly. This can be working from home on the day (or days) that you are dry fasting. It’s not to have food around or visitors come by. Being close to nature would also be ideal as having daily walks is highly recommended while on a dry fast of any length.
You also want to be socially aware when dry fasting. Your breath can smell foul, and even if you have energy, you want to consider that it may be embarrassing or uncomfortable for you to be out talking to others, so best to stay home. Avoid social events that are happening during your dry fasting, or plan your dry fast around them.
Speaking of staying home, make sure your family understands what you’re doing and why. Having family that is concerned that you’re not eating or drinking can be an added stress.
Choose the kind of fast
Once you know your why and intention, you can decide whether to do a hard, dry fast or a soft dry fast. A hard fast means you don’t have any contact with water, no water touches your skin: no brushing teeth, no bathing or washing your face. A soft dry fast means you can bathe and wash your hands.
The difference seems to be relatively small. Even though a hard, dry fast is supposed to be more beneficial, some experts have also recommended a soft dry fast, especially if you’re doing extended periods and using special cleansing methods. Dr. Sergey Filonov, a Russian Dry Fasting expert, suggests having hot and cold showers to help expel toxins—especially for a longer dry fast of over 5 days. Other dry fast styles are soft dry fast for specific durations, such as the 42-hour Ivanov dry fasting method where you’re recommended to go out for barefoot walks, in the snow if possible, and take hot showers and baths in the lakes or saltwater.
Other factors to consider if choosing to do a soft or dry fast will be if your period is due during that time or if you have gum problems that require you to pay more attention to caring for your dental hygiene (see my article on dry fasting for bad breath). Or if you simply need to go into work and be in a social setting, then a soft dry fast will be far more manageable.
If you’re still new to dry fasting and it’s a shorter dry fast, it would be easier to start on a soft dry fast and move your way up to a hard dry fast if that’s what you prefer.
Decide the duration of the dry fast
The length of your fast is a big decision to make. If you’ve not done any kind of fasting before or only tried intermittent dry fasting, it’s better to start with intermittent dry fasting: dry fasts between 12–16 hours. Which you’ll need to work your way up to. (Check out my article How To Do Intermittent Dry Fasting: A Beginner’s Guide.)
If you’re more advanced in your fasting practice, having done several prolonged water fasts and juice fasts (3–5 days ), then you’re much better equipped for dry fasts of 24 hours and longer. The rule of thumb is to aim for 24 hours first, then increase your dry fast in increments of 12 hours per time.
Dry fasts of 24 to 72 hours long, or 1–3 days fasts, are the fasts that deliver the most results in the shortest frame of time without too much difficulty or needing supervision.
Dry fasts of 4–5 days require a little more care but can still be done without medical supervision if you are healthy and have practiced dry fasting a few times.
Dry fasts of over 5 days should ideally be done under supervision and in nature since your skin will become highly porous and absorb moisture from the air.
There are many other dry fasting combination types and dry fasts that can last up to 11 days. For the purposes of this post, however, we’ll focus on medium-length prolonged dry fasts, dry fasts of 1–3 days, some of which can apply to 4-5 day long dry fasts as well.
Preparing your body for the dry fast will maximize the benefits you get from it. Years of poor lifestyle choices, alcohol binges, and eating heavy meats likely means you have decades of undigested foods, metals, and toxins, and bad bacteria accumulated in your gut. This poisonous crap festering in your intestinal tract are doing you unseen damage.
This nasty poo can leak out of your gut while you’re dry fasting, so you shouldn’t do a longer dry fast if your gut has been problematic—meaning if you often get unexplained allergies, cramps, bloating, and sensitive bowels. If your gut is damaged, and you attempt a longer fast, the toxic juices could leak into your body and poison your blood, launching a full immune attack by your white blood cells and causing you a lot of pain during your dry fast.
It’s important to do a gut cleanse before dry fasting for 24 hours, and vital if you’re doing a longer dry fast. More extensively, you can do a bowel cleanse using enterosorbents, celery juice cleanses, a saltwater flush, and a buckwheat porridge fast, all of which will help purge your colon of its content. It’s also helpful to incorporate foods that support your gut health before dry fastings, such as cruciferous vegetables, pulses, whole foods, and nuts. Prebiotic and probiotic foods will also greatly help your gut microbiome heal itself. You should prepare your gut the week or weeks before your dry fast. A healthier gut will drastically help your dry fast results and benefits, and you’ll be in a better mood throughout the process too.
Your liver has also been working hard to cleanse your blood and toxins to get the best from your dry fast, which helps heal and remove these toxins. A proper liver and gut cleanse before the dry fast will do you immense good. It would be like clearing out your wardrobe so fresh, new, designer outfits can fit in. Colonic hydrotherapy, coffee enemas, saltwater flushes, or herbal cleanse are great options to remove and purge as much of the gunk as possible before starting the dry fast.
It’s also not a good idea to enter a dry fast sick, or tired, or after an alcohol binge. Dry fasting requires some physical strength. Your body is undergoing a massive physiological transformation and shifting from moment to moment. You want to be as healthy as possible beforehand—you’ll need all the energy you can get.
Pregnant women shouldn’t attempt a prolonged dry fast, and those with medical issues should seek medical advice before doing a dry fast. If you’re diabetic or have low blood pressure, dry fasting can be helpful for you, but please take precautions.
For more on how to prepare physically for a dry fast, check out my article What To Eat Before A Dry Fast? (Hint: Go With Your Gut!).
Up to a week before the dry fast, you should be hydrating well. Up to 3 liters of water. Coconut water and juices are also great. Try a few days or even alternate days of water fasting, too, to better prep. You don’t want to ever enter a dry fast dehydrated. The rule is to make sure your pee is crystal clear before you start a dry fast. If you begin a dry fast with dark, smelly pee, it’s not going to get any lighter. You could end up injuring yourself or fainting.
Naturally, this means you shouldn’t go into a dry fast after an alcoholic binge. One or two drinks might be okay (although not recommended), but definitely not after a big night out. Dehydration is one consideration, but it’s also the toxins. Your body is already dealing with so many toxins during a dry fast you don’t need to add more. Stick to water, coconut water, and fresh juices, so you don’t feel like a train wreck.
On dehydration, also take it easy on caffeine before the dry fast. If you’re a coffee addict who drinks 5 cups of coffee a day, dry fasting will give you withdrawal symptoms, probably pretty big headaches, so it’s best to slowly ease on your dosage in the days leading up to your dry fast. The same goes for tea lovers. Green tea is more manageable, so if you must have something to wake you up before the day of the dry fast, aim for green tea.
Eat good nutrition beforehand
The week before your dry fast, eat more fruit and vegetables to keep your gut cleaner and with nothing inside that still needs to be digested. The day before your dry fast, you should eat only half of your daily calorific allowance. Your last meal should also be a high fat, low carb meal, like a ketogenic diet. Eat a meal high in nutritious polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocados, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
Following this pre-meal protocol gets you into ketosis quicker (or deeper ketosis, if you’re already in ketosis), and the process of ketosis activates many of the beneficial hormonal changes that support healing during dry fasting.
Avoiding dairy and meat before dry fasting will also help as these are more inflammatory and harder to digest in the body. Dark meat can take up to a few days to assimilate, and you want to be lighter entering a dry fast. If your gut is still digesting the food from several days back, it’s not focused on healing itself.
For more on preparing for a dry fast, read my article How to Prepare For A Dry Fast (in 10 steps).
Follow dry fasting best practice
Stop eating and drinking for the duration of your fast. You might have less energy than you ordinarily would, but if you’ve prepared well and followed the procedures, then it will be a lot easier to get through. Distract yourself with reading material, engaging work, or just watch something entertaining to take your mind of the habit of drinking and eating. After the first day, the hunger goes away—although while dry fasting, you’d usually have even less appetite than water fasting as the stomach is not secreting hydrochloric acid to stimulate hunger pangs.
If you’re feeling up to it, do light exercise. Some recommend not moving at all, but yoga, some light dumbbells curls, or walking in nature can be immensely energizing. In fact, a daily nature walk is highly recommended – just don’t go in the sun and get dehydrated. Your energy should be managed gently.
Rest if you’re tired. Sleeping to pass the time is great so take periodic naps when you feel like it. Your body heals when it’s sleeping. So make sure you are getting as much sleep as you can. It might be a little harder to sleep after the second day as your metabolism is on hyperdrive, but just lying down and watching tv or reading dry fasting material is always great to keep you motivated and invested in your healing process.
As you are now a regular dry faster that has attempted several intermittent dry fasts before dry fasting for 24 hours or more, you should be in tune with your body’s signals and know if you’re not feeling well and you should stop. Dizziness, headaches, loss of balance, feeling faint, disorientation, or a rapid heart rate could be signs of dehydration or trouble, and you need to stop. So respect your body and immediately drink water if you don’t feel good.
Break dry fast with a suitable liquid
For fasts above 24 hours, you should break your fast with some type of probiotic drink. During a dry fast, your gut has been healing and cleansing itself. Without water, the harmful bacteria in your gut can’t survive. So post dry fasting is the perfect time to repopulate your gut microbiome with good bacteria and tip the scales in your favor!
Some of the options to break your dry fast: water and apple cider vinegar (it should state ‘with the mother’ on the bottle), kefir, or sauerkraut juice. You can also take water with a potent probiotic supplement such as LENIX to really strengthen that gut, including those with bifidum and lactobacterin, as proposed by Dr. Sergey Filanov, a Russian dry fasting expert of 20 years.
Once you know what liquid you’re breaking your fast with, please remember to break your fast slowly, sip by sip. The first glass should be drunk over 15 minutes. Swirl the drink in your mouth, coating it with saliva, activating more digestive juices in your body before swallowing.
Drinking too fast will make you bloat and retain water and possibly stretch the walls of your stomach. It’s best to increase the water consumption incrementally over the next few hours. Your water consumption can look like this.
- 500 ml of liquid for your first drink
- 1 hour later, 500 ml of water
- 2 hours later, 1000 ml of water
- 3 hours later, drink as normal
Break dry fast with suitable nutrition
They say breaking the fast is more important than the fast, and no wonder. After that hard work, your cells are screaming for nutrition to rebuild themselves. You should be eating the healthiest, organic, unprocessed foods at this stage to feed yourself well.
After 2–4 hours of drinking water, you should be ready to eat. Portion size is essential. A handful, or less than a teacup, is all you should have in your first meal. You also don’t want any salt in the first meal as your body will retain water.
Break your fast with an easily digestible healthy snack. Your body is desperate for rebuilding materials after a dry fast, but your gut has also stopped all its digestive functions for 24–72 hours, so it’s susceptible.
Foods high in protein and good fats are great, as well as easily digestible vegetables. You can choose to have soups, such as bone broth, fish soup, or miso soup—all light and nutritious. Soups should be unsalted.
Nuts are also great: unsalted almonds, pecans, macadamia, walnuts, or even healthy, unsalted peanut butter (the ingredients list of this peanut butter should state 100% peanuts!).
Salads or vegetable stews are good but opt for digestible vegetables like cucumber, spinach, and tomatoes. Vegetables contain cellulose and pectin and stimulate digestive enzymes. Avocado is also great if you digest it well.
Watermelon has often been said to be the perfect fast-breaking fruit. Dried fruit such as dates, prunes, apricots, and dates or berries such as strawberries and blueberries are also an option—try them with kefir or yogurt if your body handles dairy well. Go easy on fruit or anything sweet, though, if you’re concerned about weight gain—carbs can spike insulin levels and cause you to retain weight.
Follow refeeding protocol
Refeeding should be twice the length of the fast. So if you’ve dry fasted for 2 days (48 hours), then you should plan to refeed for 4 days (96 hours).
Refeeding is the duration of time when you should be more careful with the foods you eat as your body is assimilating all of this and feeding healthy, new cells, so you really want the best nutrition and to have small meals interspersed over time. Eating unhealthy foods can actually damage your body as it’s hypersensitive now—for instance, your skin cells may actually get worse if you feed it poor nutrition.
On the first day after the fast, you should eat half your calorie portion and altogether avoid salt.
From the second day onwards, go easy, don’t binge, and always think of smaller meals with nutritious, organic, and healthy meals. Eggs and protein like tofu and fatty fish are excellent. Continue to eat light, healthy meals like vegetable soup, fish broth, and more probiotic foods to support a healthy microbiome like kefir, kimchi, or sauerkraut.
Example break fast day (or similar for refeeding duration)
- 8 am – Water with probiotics
- 11 am – Miso soup with tofu and seaweed
- 2 pm – Scrambled eggs and cucumber and tomato salad with olive oil
- 5 pm – Fruit with kefir
- 7 pm – Handful of nuts
Check out my articles, The Complete Guide on How To Safely Break A 24-Hour Dry Fast, for an extensive guide on breaking your fast, as well as How To Make (Or Break) A 3-Day Dry Fast.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this 101 on dry fasting, and if you want to learn more on dry fasting for rapid weight loss and age reversal, 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 bachelor’s 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 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 in this article. THE USE OR RELIANCE OF ANY OF THE INFORMATION ON THIS WEBSITE IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.***
- Dunning, August. The Phoenix Protocol Dry Fasting for Rapid Healing and Radical Life Extension: Functional Immortality. August Dunning , 2020.
- Coutinho, Luke. Dry Fasting Miracle. EBURY PR, 2020.
- Filonov, Sergey. 20 Questions & Answers About Dry Fasting . Translated by Vera Giovanna Bani , Siberika , 2019.