Intermittent dry fasting is the one fast to rule them all. However, just like any other life-changing health procedure, you should read the fine print before you sign on the dotted line. Here’s how you do intermittent dry fasting.
Going into a dry fast could be potentially lethal, especially if you’re planning a fast longer than 24 hours. However, depending on your fasting experience and wellness levels, dry fasting could cause you trouble even if you’re doing 12 hours.
Dry fasting is safe. After all, 1.5 billion Muslims dry fast for the month of Ramadan every year. However, going into it without being informed and prepared can lead to (on the mild end) exhaustion or dehydration, and (on the heavy end) you kicking the bucket!
If you’re unhealthy, diabetic, or pregnant, consult with your doctor to make sure it’s safe before you start but, fear not, this beginner’s guide will tell you everything you need to know about how to do intermittent dry fasting and how to do it right.
What is dry fasting?
Dry fasting means fasting without food or water. It’s also called absolute fasting: no water means absolutely no drinks, so no tea, coffee, green tea, and definitely no alcohol; no food means absolutely no food, no bone broths, no vegetables, and definitely no cheesecake. Dry fasting differs from water fasting because nothing is allowed to pass your lips.
Dry fasting is gaining popularity because it’s water fasting on hyperdrive. A dry fast that lasts 24 hours gets you the same physiological benefits as 72-hour water fast.
What are the types of dry fasting?
There are two main ways to dry fast, the hard way or the soft way. Hard dry fasting means no contact with water at all. A soft dry fast means only abstaining from ingesting water.
Hard dry fast dictates not touching water even the slightest, no brushing teeth, or washing your face or wiping your tush after a No.2. It’s brutal. A soft dry fast dictates not drinking water, but touching water is fine, so you can shower, wash your hands, and brush your teeth. If you’ve never done any other dry fasts before, you might want to start on a soft dry fast.
What is intermittent dry fasting?
It’s an intermittent time-restricted fasting method which means having periods of fasting and then periods of feeding. Since intermittent fasting simply dictates periods of eating followed by periods of fasting, it can also be done with other types of intermittent fasting, for instance:
- Fasting 2 days a week or 5:2
- Alternate day fasting
- OMAD (One Meal A Day)
- Once or twice weekly 24 hours fast
- Weekly 24 hour fast
However, the phrase ‘intermittent fasting’ means fasting with a minimum of 12 hours fasted and 12 hours feed. (If you apply that to your day, that’s 7 pm stop drinking water, 7 am, start drinking water—this is the easiest way to ease into fasting.)
Today’s most popular method of intermittent fasting is the 16:8 method, where you fast for 16 hours and feed within an 8-hour window. Generally, you can fast up to 23 hours a day and fall into the intermittent fasting category.
However, intermittent dry fasting is to do a dry fast, abstaining from all food and water intake during your intermittent fasting window.
How long should you intermittent dry fast?
You can do intermittent dry fasting durations of 12:12, 14:10, 16:8, 18:6, 20:4, 22:2—all are great fasting windows to incorporate dry fasting into your life.
It’s essential to listen to your body when you do more than 12 hours of dry fasting, though, and definitely if you’re going past 24 hours or more. Always increase dry fasting in batches of 12 hours.
People have undergone dry fasting for up to 9 days to cure serious illnesses, but this must be under strict supervision and in the right environment. If you’re an advanced faster, with multiple prolonged fasts, dry fasting for up to 3–5 days is doable. I dry fast 14–18 hours daily, 36 hours weekly, and 72 hours (3 days) monthly.
How often should you do intermittent dry fasting?
As often as you can. Once a week. Three times a week. Alternate days. However, daily intermittent dry fasting is the best way to reap the health benefits and effectively without endangering health (don’t forget over 1.5 billion people around the world do this for Ramadan every year!).
Preparing for intermittent dry fasting
If you’re healthy and used to intermittent fasting for 16:8 or more, you probably won’t need to worry about dry fasting for 16 to 23 hours. You can simply work your way up to it and see how it feels.
If you’re not fit and new to fasting, then you should take extra caution. Although Muslims worldwide do between 12–22 hours of daily dry fasting for a month, many have practiced dry fasting since childhood and are prohibited to dry fast if they feel too weak. So if you have any medical conditions, consult with your doctor before you start dry fasting.
If you’re new to fasting but aiming to do 16:8 or more of a dry fast, try a 24-hour water or 3-day juice fast to build up to it, as it may shock your system if you try to start immediately with a dry fast. Juice or water fasts will give you an idea of how well you handle fasting.
Timing is also essential when breaking your fast. The best time to break an intermittent dry fast is in the morning, as sleeping has the most healing effects. Plan your fast to finish in the morning, not in the evening. A 16:8 dry fast example is to have your last glass of water by 6pm and break your dry fast at 10am the following morning.
The last meal before you dry fast should be a small portion of a healthy low-carb, high-fat meal, so you get into ketosis quicker, which activates many beneficial processes of dry fasting. Also, avoiding dairy and meat can be helpful as it can stress and inflame your body.
You should also prepare the food and drink you plan to break your dry fast with ahead of time. More care should be given for a longer intermittent dry fast of over 20 hours.
For more on how to prepare for dry fasting, read this.
Doing the dry fast
Stop eating and drinking for 12–23 hours. Be sure to hydrate well during your feeding windows, pre and post-your dry fast. Dry fasting can take a toll on your body since it’s not getting any energy from food or drink.
Since you’re not drinking any fluids or eating food, you might feel less energetic than usual. But stick to calming activities, such as yoga, meditation, or just relaxing at home to distract yourself from your hunger and thirst. If you need to, engage in light exercises such as walking or dumbbell curls with light weights or some resistance training. Once you’re more advanced in dry fasting, you can increase the activity and trust your body.
Rest if you’re feeling tired. It’s natural for your body to feel tired during a dry fast, so sleep to pass the time. Sleeping can help curb any cravings you have and retain your energy. When you get out of bed, try doing some light stretches. Take periodic naps throughout the day if you’re tired.
Pay attention to your body. If you’ve tried water fasting a few times before attempting dry fasting, you should be in tune with your body’s signals, so you’ll know if you need to stop.
Dizziness and lightheadedness are two common signs of dehydration that can harm your bodily functions over time. If you notice a loss of balance or you’re getting disorientated doing simple tasks, stop the dry fast and immediately drink water to rehydrate.
Other symptoms of dehydration include, but are not limited to, less frequent urination, dry skin, low blood pressure, and rapid heart rate. Break your fast if you feel a combination of these symptoms. Or just get enough fasting practice, so you know what’s actually going on with your body!
Breaking the dry fast
After the dry fast, you should plan the refeeding time to be twice the fast length. If you dry fast for 16 hours, you should plan to recover for 32 hours. Of course, if you dry fast every day, this means you should generally be eating all the time healthily.
First, choose what you’ll be breaking your fast with. For a short fast of 12–18 hours, I usually break with just plain water or water mixed with apple cider vinegar, followed by a light meal. For a longer dry fast of 20–22 hours, take your time sipping your water, swirling it around your mouth, then swallowing; you can include a probiotic if you want.
Some liquids you could break your fast with are: kefir, sauerkraut Juice, water with added probiotics (lactobacterin, bifidium, or LINEX), water with apple cider vinegar, water with baking soda, coconut water, or kombucha (watch out for high sugar content though, and don’t take too much).
Enter mealtime. After drinking your break fast liquid of choice, you can eat, probably at least after 30 minutes. If it’s less than 16 hours, you can manage a bigger meal. But go with your gut on this. Nothing too heavy as your digestion has been on a break. Many people like to eat a handful of nuts, fruit, dried figs, prunes, apricots, and raisins. Eggs and healthy proteins like tofu and fatty fish are also good. Continuing to hydrate with vegetable soup, fish broth, and more probiotic foods is good—kefir and kimchi are great to maximize all that good bacteria flourishing and rejuvenating your gut.
Read this article for more on how to safely break a dry fast of 24-36 hours.
How to increase the benefits of dry fasting?
Intermittent dry fasting is a hack for overall health rejuvenation (see this for a comprehensive list of its benefits) but can also be used to specifically target health issues. How well you can benefit from intermittent dry fasting depends on many factors: your health, habits, age, exercise, nutrition, as well as how long and how often you dry fast. Your dry fasting strategy can vary based on the outcome you want.
If your goal is weight loss, eating a ketogenic diet (high-fat & low-carb), especially before a dry fast, is highly effective. Ketogenic diets help your body enter ketosis, a state where the body uses fat for fuel instead of glycogen or glucose; ketosis accelerates the beneficial processes of a dry fast. Your aim for dry fasting would be to enter into ketosis and stay in ketosis for as long as possible. See here for more on dry fasting for weight loss.
If your goal is health rejuvenation, focus on cleansing and detoxing before dry fasting. You could do colonic hydrotherapy or coffee enemas, for example. Also, pay more attention to your gut health and invest in good probiotics. If you want younger skin, then you’ll benefit from more food supplements, vitamins, and herbs and paying particular attention to your nutrition before you dry fast.
If your goal is muscle growth, and increased fitness, then ending your intermittent dry fast, just after a good training workout, and having a solid refeeding routine after you break your fast will help you increase your muscle mass.
You can also read more of these benefits by including more prolonged dry fasting into your intermittent dry fasting regime. Some people skip the intermittent dry fast but a 24 or 36 hours dry fast, once or twice a week. However, go for the duration easiest to incorporate into your lifestyle, and with the least amount of discomfort, so you’ll keep it up.
If you want to know more about intermittent 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.***
- Coutinho, Luke. Dry Fasting Miracle. EBURY PR, 2020.
- Filonov, Sergey. 20 Questions & Answers About Dry Fasting . Translated by Vera Giovanna Bani , Siberika , 2019.