“The most effective way to lose weight is to stop eating”. You may have heard this phrase before. While it sounds ridiculous and even dangerous, this is actually not completely wrong. Since weight loss is about eating less than you burn, fasting is an effective way of slimming down. It is obvious that you should never starve yourself, as it is extremely harmful and may lead to fatal consequences. However, refraining from food for a short period of time has been practiced by numerous people and, as it turns out, may even be beneficial for you. The practice in question is called fasting. Have you ever considered fasting for 3 days as a means to better your health or lose weight? Fasting has been done for years by many people for multiple reasons but does it really work, or is it another fad diet? What are the benefits of fasting for 3 days? Will 3 day fast help you lose weight? What are the fasting for 3 days results? Let’s get into the specifics!
Why Do People Fast?
Fasting is nothing new. It has been around for hundreds of years, even before it became popular for fitness and health reasons. Some of the reasons why people fast include:
1. For religious or spiritual reasons. People of various religions fast. Although the rules of fasting in, for example, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism differ, they all include certain periods of time when a person should refrain from eating or keep a certain type of food off their menu for various reasons. So, eastern orthodox Christians fast during specific seasons of the year; followers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) fast for 24 hours every first Sunday of each month, which is similar to a Muslim fast known as Ramadan.
2. As a way to lose weight. As was already noted in the first paragraph, it is only natural that when you stop eating you start losing weight. This happens because your body runs out of energy that it used to get from food and begins to use stored fat as its main energy source.
4. For its perceived health benefits. Besides its weight loss effect, short-term fasting has shown to have other health benefits, which will be discussed in detail further along in this article.
5. While preparing for a medical procedure. Certain medical procedures, such as various surgeries require a patient to fast beforehand. Such a restriction is necessary when a general anesthetic is used since it temporarily turns off body reflexes. So, if you eat and then have a general anesthetic, you may vomit or bring up the food into your throat during the surgery.
What Is 3 Day fast?
As you may already know, there are different types of fasting. Some restrict certain types of food, some require you to give up eating for a certain period of time. So, what is water fasting for 3 days? The name explains it all. This is the practice whereby you do not eat or drink anything for three days. A water fast usually lasts for 24 hours to 72 hours; however, in some cases, water fasting can last up to 30 to 40 days. While a 3-day water fast is relatively safe, longer fasts must be done under close medical supervision (27).
What Is The Difference Between Intermittent Fasting And Fasting For 3 Days?
Another type of fasting, which has gained a lot of attention for its health benefits and weight loss effects, is intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is the eating practice that revolves around periods of fasting and eating. Under intermittent fasting (IF), people go through extended periods of fasting, and they have a few short hours (aka the feeding window) where they can eat (19). The most popular forms of IF include (24):
- Fasting for 16 hours with an 8-hour eating window. This one ranks first on the list of the most popular IF methods. Although not the easiest among all types of IF, a 16:8 intermittent fasting is quite easy to stick to.
- Fasting for 12 hours with a 12-hour feeding window. The 12:12 intermittent fasting is the best option for people who are new to such an eating pattern. With a 12:12 IF, a person can spend most of their fast sleeping. For example, if you go to sleep at 10 p.m. and wake up at 7 a.m., you have only 3 hours left to fast. So, you can either have breakfast at 8 a.m., and eat your dinner at 8 p.m., or adjust your eating schedule to your convenience and based on your preference.
- Fasting for 18 hours with a 6-hour eating window. This type of intermittent fasting is like a reversed version of a 16:8 IF. The rules are the same, only here you should fast for 18 hours and consume all your calories during a 6-hour window. Therefore, this type of IF is a bit more advanced than the 16:8 intermittent fasting. When following an 18:6 IF you can have 2 full meals and a snack.
- Fasting for 14 hours with a 10-hour eating window. The 14:10 IF is something between a 12:12 and 16:8 intermittent fasting, therefore, you can say that it is quite easy to follow. Like in 12:12 IF, you can sleep through most of the fast in a 14:10 fasting, and have your breakfast at 8 a.m., and your dinner at 6 p.m.
- The 5:2 diet. This is slightly different from all the other IF eating patterns. You consume food normally for 5 days a week and reduce your caloric intake to 600 calories (men) or 500 calories (women) for two days a week. Such an eating approach will help you gradually slim down without harming your health. Although there are no requirements on what your 600 and 500 calories should be, it is encouraged that you follow a balanced diet. This will not only help you avoid any harmful side effects, but also will add to the benefits of the diet.
- The 24 hours fast, aka the eat-stop-eat diet, which means fasting completely for 1 or 2 days a week. Basically, you are to follow your regular diet for one day and then fast for the next day. Such a nutritional approach may work the best for those who want to slim down but hate to count calories or restrict certain foods. However, remember, that an eat-stop-eat diet is not for everyone, and before making any changes in your current eating patterns, it is required that you consult a specialist.
On the other hand, a fasting for 3 days diet means that you do not eat anything for three days and not just a couple of hours.
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Fasting For 3 Days: Top Tips On How To Do It Safely
While intermittent fasting alternates between eating and fasting periods, fasting for 3 days allows you no food or drink besides water. Therefore, water fasting can be brutal for anyone who has never done it before. Here are some things that you can do to make the process easier for you:
1. Start Small
If you have never fasted before, do not jump straight into a 3-day fast. Try intermittent fasting and see how you feel about it. After getting used to going without food for a few hours a day, switch to an alternate day fasting (5:2 diet), and finally a 24-hour fast. These practices will help you prepare you for water fasting for 3 days.
2. Try Not To Exercise
The subject of working out while fasted is one that always brings up a very heated debate. Some suggest that if you choose to work out while fasted you should only do cardio but not weight lifting (28), while others suggest that this practice could lead to loss of muscle mass and a slower metabolism (17). We suggest that you skip your workouts during this time. Fasting for 3 days means no food, which means that your body does not have enough energy to function properly. Stick to light exercise, such as house chores and walking.
3. Do Not Attempt Water Fasting For 3 Days If You Are Unwell
This is pretty much self-explanatory. Your health should always be your number 1 priority, no matter what your goal is. No weight loss is worth the risk of harming your body. Fasting for 3 days is not easy and should not be underestimated. Therefore, under no circumstance should you risk your health for a water fast. Wait until your health has been cleared by a doctor to attempt this.
4. Consume High-Energy Foods Before Fasting For 3 Days
Fasting for 3 days is a challenge for your body. To be able to handle it without breaking a fast you need to make sure that you won’t have to endure hunger pangs from the very first day of your fasting. That is why you need to prepare your body for the following fast by consuming high-energy foods. They may help keep your energy levels up, especially on the first day. Some of these foods include bananas, fatty fish, brown rice, eggs, goji berries, quinoa, oatmeal, lentils, avocados, and more (2).
5. Timing Is Everything
Since this diet can make you feel very weak and tired, it is better if you chose to do it on days that are not as busy or demanding. Try the fasting diet for 3 days on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, instead of during or at the beginning of the week.
6. Drink A Lot Of Water
Water makes up about 60% of the human adult body. It is essential for the proper functioning of your body and performs a lot of vital functions, such as:
- Formation of saliva
- Lubrication of joints
- Absorption of shocks in spinal cord, brain, and fetus
- Removal of waste through urination
- Transportation of nutrients through blood
- Temperature regulation by respiration and sweating
Drinking plenty of water is also especially important when it comes to weight loss. Since this process is accompanied by reduced caloric intake, which in turn may cause the feeling of hunger, when fasting for 3 days you need to drink a lot of water. This keeps you from getting dehydrated. It can also promote the feeling of fullness, and that is exactly what you need when you fast. Your recommended water intake varies depending on certain factors, such as your age, sex, level of physical activity, climate etc. In general, it is recommended that an average adult person should drink about 8 glasses of water per day. However, the best indicator here is your thirst. So, drink some water whenever you feel like it, and you are sure to avoid dehydration.
7. If You Feel Unwell, Stop Fasting
Again, you should always prioritize your health. Fasting is not something you have to be stubborn about. If you feel like you are not ready or that 3 day fast is not your cup of tea, don’t push yourself. There are plenty of other methods of weight loss and health improvement. You don’t need to give up your wellness in exchange for the weight loss results. Instead, focus on a healthy diet that creates an adequate caloric deficit and exercise regularly to enjoy a successful and gradual weight loss.
What To Eat Before Fasting For 3 Days?
There are no specific rules that state what to eat before fasting for 3 days. However, it is advisable for you to eat foods that are healthy and well-balanced. A balanced diet is one that supplies your body with the nutrients that it needs to work effectively.
A healthy diet is one that (14):
- Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts.
- Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.
- Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
- Stays within your daily recommended caloric intake.
Some people also suggest that you should slowly and steadily reduce your caloric intake for about a week or two before the start date of your 3-day water fast. This helps your stomach and body get ready for not having enough energy.
What Can You Eat While Water Fasting for 3 Days?
This diet is very true to its name. While fasting for 3 days, you cannot consume any food and coffee, tea, alcohol, bone broth, and zero-calorie sports drinks are also not allowed (27). You should try to drink 2 to 3 liters (or more) of water a day for the duration.
What To Eat After Fasting For 3 Days?
It is quite tempting to attempt breaking a water fast by eating a huge meal; however, this is not recommended. It is advisable to break your fasting diet for 3 days by having some fruit, a smoothie, or a small meal. Consuming a large meal or huge amounts of food may lead to stomach ache, discomfort, and nausea.
In some rare cases, consuming large amounts of food may lead to refeeding syndrome. Refeeding is the process of reintroducing food after a period of malnourishment or starvation. On the other hand, refeeding syndrome (which occurs during refeeding) is a potentially fatal condition caused by fatal shifts in fluids and electrolytes in malnutrition patients.
These shifts result from hormonal and metabolic changes and may cause serious clinical complications (23). People who are at a high risk of refeeding syndrome include:
- Any patient with negligible food intake for more than five days.
- Patients who are malnourished due to dysphagia, anorexia nervosa, depression, or alcoholism.
- Anyone with reduced absorption of nutrition due to inflammatory bowel disease or coeliac disease.
- Oncology/cancer and post-surgery patients.
- Patients with dysphagia.
- Patients with uncontrolled diabetes mellitus.
Who Should NOT Try a Fasting Diet for 3 Days?
While fasting for 3 days is relatively safe for most people, it can be quite dangerous for some people. These exceptions include (9):
- Patients with diabetes, as it can lead to dangerous dips and spikes in blood sugar.
- Pregnant women, new moms, or breastfeeding women.
- Anyone who is ill, under medication, or suffers from uncontrollable migraines.
- Older adults, children, or teenagers.
- People with heart problems.
- People with eating disorders. Fasting has been linked to an increased risk of binge eating and bulimic pathology (11). The risk of triggering such disorders gets worse with anyone with an existing eating disorder.
Are There Any Benefits Of Fasting For 3 Days?
Yes, there may be. However, it should be noted that most of the research available on these benefits of water fasting has been done on animals and not human beings. These benefits of a fasting diet for 3 days include:
May Cause Autophagy
A review posted in 2018 suggested that both fasting and calorie restriction may promote autophagy (25).
The term ‘autophagy’ derives from the Ancient Greek for ‘self-eating.’. The human body has about 30 trillion cells (15), and overtime, waste and damaged material can build up in the cells, thus damaging them. Autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells (5).
This process may help stall the development of cancer cells and may help protect liver cells from drug- and alcohol-induced liver injury. Autophagy may also prevent the progression of several liver conditions such as Wilson’s disease, acute liver injury, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and chronic alcohol-related liver disease.
In 2015, research also showed that this process controls inflammation, and thus it may improve the outlook for people with infectious and neurodegenerative diseases (26). It should also be noted that excessive autophagy may kill cells in the heart, which may lead to heart problems.
May Lead To Weight Loss
Some people who try the fasting diet for 3 days do it as a way to lose weight. While people do lose weight, it is important to note that the weight loss is water weight and not fat loss. Research has shown a positive correlation between increased water consumption and weight loss. The reasons that water may lead to weight loss during fasting for 3 days include (6):
- It is a natural appetite suppressant, so it will help keep your cravings in check during this time.
- Increases calories burning while you are at rest.
- Helps burn off fat from food and drinks, carbohydrates, and stored fat.
May Improve Insulin And Leptin Sensitivity
Leptin is your body’s satiety hormone. This hormone reduces your appetite and makes you feel full. On the other hand, insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels and excess glucose for energy to be used by the body. A 3 day fast may lead to your body becoming more sensitive to these two hormones. Increased sensitivity means that both leptin and insulin work better in their respective functions in the body.
May Lower The Risk Of Chronic Diseases
Some research posted in 2014 revealed that intermittent or periodic fasting in rodents helps to protect them against diabetes, several types of cancer, heart disease, and neurodegeneration. In human beings, this process helps reduce the risk of obesity, hypertension, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis (12).
May Increase The Levels Of ‘Good’ Cholesterol And Reduce Triglycerides
A randomized controlled trial done on 30 healthy individuals revealed that one-day fasting increased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels and decreased triglycerides and weight. This one-day-water fast also increased the levels of the human growth hormone, hemoglobin, and red blood cell count (22).
May Help Lower Blood Pressure
Clinically supervised water fasts lasting up to 2 weeks have been linked to lower blood pressure (4). This has been further associated with the fact that you are drinking more water and not consuming salt. However, please note that fasting for 3 days is not likely to help lower blood pressure. This is only possible on longer medically supervised fasts.
Fasting And Cancer
Prolonged fasting may increase cancer treatment efficacy, prevent resistance acquisition and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy (10).
What Are The Side Effects Of Fasting For 3 Days?
Despite the above-mentioned benefits of fasting for 3 days, this diet has some dangers and risks that anyone considering trying it should be aware of:
This is also known as nutritional deficiencies. Malnutrition occurs when your body does not absorb nutrients or get enough nutrients from food for it to function properly. Some signs of malnutrition include unexplained fatigue, dry and brittle hair, damaged nails, an unusually pale or swollen tongue, chronic diarrhea, mood swings, and a lack of appetite (1). These nutrient deficiencies can lead to multiple health problems such as digestion problems, skin disorders, stunted or defective bone growth, and even dementia (20).
It Will Not Lead To Fat Loss
While some people do this diet for the potential health benefits, many are attracted to the fasting for 3 days diet as a way to lose weight. However, as mentioned above most of the weight loss is water weight and not fat loss. Longer fasts (more than a week to almost a month) could lead to an average of 0.9 kgs weight loss per day in the beginning and about 0.3 kgs by the third week (13). But again, this weight loss is most likely due to loss of water weight and loss of muscle mass.
May Lead To Dehydration
Many of us would assume that water fasting means that you will be hydrated throughout. However, many people tend to forget that 20% to 30% of our daily water intake comes from food (7). Thus if you do not increase the amount of water you drink during the fasting period, you will end up being dehydrated.
May Lead To Dizziness On Standing Up
This is also known as orthostatic hypotension, and it is the result of an unsafe and sudden fall in blood pressure that occurs when you stand up quickly. Other than dehydration, this condition is caused by anemia, heart conditions, long-term bed rest, blood pressure medications, nervous system disorders, and more (21).
Also known as water intoxication, it is a condition that occurs when the level of sodium in the blood is too low. This salt is lost through sweat, and that is why working out is discouraged during this time.
This is a serious eating disorder that causes one to frequently consume unusually large amounts of food and feel unable to stop eating. Binge-eating disorder can affect people who are fasting or have undergone a very-low-calorie diet plan.
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How Much Weight Can You Lose Fasting For 3 Days?
Depending on how much you weigh, you may lose 0.9 kgs to 1.4 kilograms (16). In another case, a 205-pound lost 4 kilograms on a 5-day water fast (18). Please remember that irrespective of how much weight you lose, it will not be as a result of fat loss but most probably due to loss of water weight, or muscle loss, or both.
What To Expect When Fasting For 3 Days?
Fasting can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies, muscle breakdown, and diarrhea. Other Side effects of fasting include dizziness, headaches, low blood sugar, muscle aches, weakness, and fatigue. Anyone who does this for longer may experience anemia, a weakened immune system, liver and kidney problems, and irregular heartbeat.
Do People Have Stomach Pain When Fasting For 3 Days?
Yes, they do. It is suggested that once you start experiencing abdominal pain during a fast, then you should stop immediately. Some other symptoms that signify that you need to quickly put a stop to your fasting diet for 3 days include dizziness, nausea, loss of consciousness, vomiting, chest pain, and diarrhea (8).
Healthy Alternatives To Fasting For 3 Days
If your goal is to achieve all the weight loss benefits of fasting for 3 days and you want to avoid any negative side effects that are associated with fasting for 3 days, then you should try following a balanced diet that creates a caloric deficit. Since fasting for 3 days results vary from 2 to 3 pounds, you can follow any of the following healthy diets, creating a caloric deficit of 500-1000 calories a day. This will provide you with the same outcome in 1,5-2 weeks, only this result will be healthier and more sustainable. So, here are the most popular weight loss diets that are backed up by science and medical specialists:
The Vegetarian Diet
There probably isn’t one person who hadn’t heard about the vegetarian diet. Although meat-lovers despise this nutritional philosophy, the vegetarian meal plan is times healthier than doing a fasting diet for 3 days. If you are not familiar with a vegetarian diet, now is the time you are going to get to know its basics, types, and rules.
A vegetarian diet is a diet that excludes meat, poultry, and seafood. People become vegetarians due to various reasons, including health improvement, weight loss, or religious and ethical beliefs. There are different types of vegetarian diets, each has its own rules and restrictions. Here are the most popular types:
- The vegan diet. It is quite popular nowadays, despite being one of the strictest types of vegetarian diets. Some people even separate it from the latter, stating that it is a completely different diet. The main rules of the vegan diet require a person to give up on all animal food, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, honey, and others. But even this strict nutritional plan is healthier than water fasting for 3 days.
- The Pescatarian diet. It is a diet that excludes meats, poultry, dairy, and eggs, however, allows fish.
- Lacto-vegetarian diet. This type of vegetarian diets is based on restriction of meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, but allows dairy products.
- Ovo-vegetarian diet. This diet excludes meat, poultry, fish and dairy, but allows the consumption of eggs.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. As may be clear from its name, this type of vegetarian diets eliminates meat, poultry and fish, but encourages the consumption of dairy and eggs.
- The Flexitarian Diet. Contrary to the vegan diet, this is the least strict type of vegetarian diets. It is mostly a plant-based plan, which occasionally allows meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy in small amounts.
The Mediterranean Diet
This dietary plan is one of the healthiest out there. It is based on healthy eating patterns and if you additionally create an adequate caloric deficit, will reward you with a successful weight loss. The Mediterranean diet encourages the consumption of a plant-based diet and foods rich in healthy fats. It is among the least restrictive diets, which makes it easy to stick to. This provides a more sustainable result.
The Mediterranean diet meal plan is rich in fatty fish, vegetables and fruits, beans and legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and herbs. It also allows eggs, poultry, and dairy products in moderation.
Like any other healthy meal plan, the Mediterranean diet recommends limiting your intake of red meat and avoid refined carbs, sugars, and unhealthy saturated and trans fats. You should keep liquid calories at bay and try to cook your dinner yourself from scratch.
The Paleo Diet
The Paleolithic diet, aka the Paleo diet, is a nutritional plan based on the diet of human ancestors from the Paleolithic era. Its main rule requires you to eat the foods that were available before the modern agriculture development, which are fish, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. The diet limits your intake of grains, legumes and dairy, since they occurred in a human diet later. The Paleo diet also requires regular exercise and proper hydration, which, along with overall healthy eating patterns, can lead to a safe and long-lasting weight loss. As you can see, this nutritional plan is a bit more restrictive than the Mediterranean diet, however, both these meal plans are safer than fasting for 3 days.
Supporters of the Paleo diet claim that the human body is not designed to consume and digest foods that were included in the human diet after the modern agriculture development, and that their intake leads to an increased risk of various diseases. According to the rules of the Paleolithic diet, your menu can include such foods as:
- Lean meats
- Herbs and spices
- Nut and fruit oils
As you may have figured out, when following a Paleo diet, you need to avoid all the other foods that were not listed above, which are:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Refined sugars
- Trans fats
- Low-fat and diet products
The Paleo diet is an overall healthy eating approach. It encourages the consumption of vegetables and fruits, which are rich in fiber and various micronutrients. It also bans foods that are rich in unhealthy saturated and trans fats and allows the consumption of fish, nuts, and seeds which are packed with healthy unsaturated fats. However, this nutritional plan pans any grains, including whole grains, which are an inseparable part of any healthy diet due to their high contents of complex carbs and various vitamins and minerals. Legumes are also not on your Paleo menu, even though they are packed with fiber and protein. Dairy foods, which are often the primary source of calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients in your diet are also banned by this nutritional plan. Therefore, before choosing to follow a Paleo diet, or starting any other nutritional plan, please, consult with a specialist.
The Keto Diet
This nutritional plan has been gaining more and more popularity in recent years. It is known as an effective weight-loss tool, and you can even find lots of foods, labeled as Keto-friendly in the grocery stores. So, what is this Keto diet? The main goal of this nutritional plan is to induce and maintain ketosis. Ketosis is a state in which your body uses fat as its primary energy source instead of sugar. This state is reached through the limitation of carb intake. So, if you follow a Keto diet, you are to reduce your consumption of foods that contain carbs. Your carb intake should be fewer than 20-50g of carbs, or else you will drop out of ketosis. Instead, you are to focus on fat-rich foods. You can also consume protein-rich foods, but your main energy source should be fat.
To successfully reach the state of ketosis your menu should include plenty of seafood, since it is rich in healthy fats; low-carb fruits and vegetables, since they are among the main sources of micronutrients in the human diet; meat, poultry, and eggs, since they are rich in fats and protein, but contain few carbs; nuts and seeds – another fat-rich food; dairy products, and oils.
The Bottom Line: Is Fasting For 3 Days Worth It?
No, it is not. Whether you are looking for potential health benefits or as a way to jumpstart your weight loss, water fasting for 3 days is truly not the way to go about it. This is a very unhealthy and potentially fatal way to try living a healthier life.
Instead of trying fasting or 3 days, try a healthy, well-balanced diet with a caloric deficit of 500 to 1000 calories a day. You should also consult your doctor or dietitian before attempting a calorie deficit diet. A caloric deficit diet and working out for 30 minutes a day is a better way to help you lose weight. If you are still insistent on trying this fast, please be sure to do it under direct medical supervision.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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