Dry vs. Water Fasting – Which One Is Right for You?

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dry or wet fasting

It’s almost that time of the year when people start making new year’s resolutions, only for the majority to go up in smoke shortly thereafter. Perhaps it’s better to call it new month’s resolutions instead.

Jokes aside, there are no rules saying that fasting can only happen when the Gregorian calendar shifts to a different year. While fasting, particularly intermittent fasting, has gained popularity in recent years, it can still be further broken down into dry or water fasting.

The main difference between dry and water fasting is water, or more accurately, the intake of water. But we’re jumping a little ahead of ourselves here. Let’s discuss fasting by itself and why it makes sense to fast.

What Is Fasting?

Cambridge dictionary defines fasting as “to eat no food for a period of time”. Food in this case also includes water or intake of liquid in general. Fasting, therefore, involves giving your body a break from food and water for a period of time and can be voluntary or involuntary, depending on one’s circumstances.

Fasting can take different forms, such as intermittent fasting, alternate-day fasting, and weekend fasting, depending on your objectives.

Intermittent fasting typically involves a 16-hour window without food intake, although water intake is up to you. Alternate day fasting is as the name says and can also incorporate dry and/or water fasting alongside intermittent fasting principles. And you can guess what weekend fasting involves.

What Is Dry Fasting?

dry fasting
Fasting allows your body a break from food and, sometimes, water.

The act of dry fasting involves limiting the intake of food and water. This means abstaining from activities such as swimming, washing the dishes, brushing your teeth, and even showering.

Humans have undergone dry fasting for a long time, with Muslims routinely observing this practice in the Holy month of Ramadan from just before dawn to after the sun sets. In today’s society, though, dry fasting is more commonly practiced for health reasons.

Note: Dry fasting should generally be avoided if you are just starting out because of the added stress it places on your body.

What Is Water Fasting?

wet fasting water
Water is the foundation of life.

Water fasting is a fast during which all food and drinks aside from water are prohibited. It also means no coffee, tea, or liquor in addition to no solid food intake. Water fasting is also a gentler form of fasting that is more suited for people new to fasting.

Those who are new to water fasting should gradually reduce their food intake 3 to 4 days prior to the start of the fast so your body can better adapt to the fasted state. Most water fasts last for 24 to 72 hours but no longer unless approved by your healthcare provider.

It is recommended that beginners water fast for a maximum of 24 hours before gradually adding more time. Starting with the 16-hour intermittent fasting method to get a feel for how fasting feels, in general, is also an option.

General Benefits of Fasting

fasting benefits
Fasting benefits can extend beyond the physical to the spiritual.

1. Assists In Weight Loss

You may see some weight reduction when you fast, especially during a prolonged dry fast. This is because most of the weight lost will be water weight.

2. May Help Lower Blood Pressure

Fasting, in general, will temporarily lower your blood pressure, presumably because your body switches the fuel burned from glycogen to ketones. The jury is still out on whether regular fasts will have a more permanent effect.

3. May Prevent Diabetes

Research shows that fasting of any kind may assist with improving insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance is the principal factor in the development of type-2 diabetes, so it is conceivable that fasting can improve insulin efficacy and lower the risk of diabetes.

4. It Gives Your Body a Break from Having to Process Food (and Water)

Your digestive system fires up every time that you ingest food or water. An overworked digestive system can cause various problems such as acid reflux and nausea. Going on a fast means that you are essentially giving your digestive system a much-needed break, similar to how your body recovers when you sleep.

Other possible benefits of fasting include slowed down aging, accelerated cells recovery, and improved immune function.

General Drawbacks of Fasting

fasting drawbacks
Constantly thinking about food is one of the most common side effects of fasting.

1. Constant Hunger

Food craving is a typical symptom of fasting, although those on a water fast can consume water to somewhat offset this feeling.

2. Exhaustion

It’s quite normal to feel exhausted and lightheaded if you’re just starting to fast. This is because your body requires time to adjust to the new environment. Trust that you will eventually get accustomed to fasting as you become more proficient at it.

3. Thirst (dry fasting only)

Dehydration is unavoidable on a dry fast so keep this in mind before you start. Those who are ill should avoid dry fasting unless recommended by your healthcare provider. You should also avoid environments that will make you sweat excessively while on a dry fast so as to keep water loss to a minimum.

4. Irritability

Feeling hungry for a prolonged period of time can make you moody and irritable even while on a water fast.

5. Migraines

Mild migraine is another possible consequence of going on a fast, especially if it’s a dry fast. 

6. Poor Focus

It’s harder to concentrate on the task(s) at hand when you’re constantly thinking about food.

7. Decreased Urination (dry fasting only)

Restricting liquid intake will inevitably lead you to urinate less. Also, don’t be surprised when you see your urine’s color during a fast.

Should I Choose Dry or Wet Fasting?

dry or water fasting
Dry or water? You decide.

We didn’t find any substantial studies indicating that dry fasting is superior to water fasting or vice versa. In fact, articles mentioning intermittent fasting appear more commonly than those about dry vs. water fasts.

The type of fasting you choose should be dependent on your current situation and how you want to feel while in a fasted state. Those who are pregnant or suffer from any kind of illness should seek out professional advice prior to going on a fast. Fasting is also not suitable for everybody, so please take all the necessary precautions before taking the plunge.

The general recommendation for everyone else is to start with intermittent water fasting for at least 1 to 2 months before deciding whether to exclude water altogether during the fast.

In short:

  1. Start with intermittent water fasting for 2 to 3 months;
  2. Advance to intermittent dry fasting for the next 1 to 2 months;
  3. Do a 24 hour dry fasting test run for 1 to 2 weeks and decide if it suits you.

Always remember to measure your progress based on your own criteria e.g. blood pressure, how you feel, etc. You can always stop at intermittent fasting if you don’t want to try out the more demanding fasts. Supplements like fasting salts can help make fasting easier for you, although it could also be a placebo effect at play.

We recommend fasting at least once a week, preferably on days when you have more free time and less demand on your energy expenditure.

Disclaimer: Always consult your healthcare provider for advice before undergoing any type of dietary changes.