What is intermittent dry fasting?
Fasting has become a newly popular method of losing weight.
That is not surprising, considering that it has several health benefits such as old tissue regeneration, weight loss, generation of new neurons in the brain and many more.
In fact, there are various kinds of fasting: juice fasting, water fasting, 24-hour fast, intermittent fasting and OMAD.
There is no certain type of fasting that can be considered as the best method, as each one of them has different effects on your body.
In this article, we are going to discuss intermittent dry fasting, which can be extremely beneficial for your health and dangerous, if not done right.
So, read on to find out about the concept of dry fasting, the stages, the results and benefits, and how to take precautions.
What Is Intermittent Dry Fasting?
You may have already guessed that dry fasting means abstaining from food and water for a certain period of time.
Before you start convincing yourself that this is absolute torture, let me introduce you to some facts regarding dry fasting.
Firstly, fasting is not a new notion, as people have practiced it for centuries for religious reasons.
It is mostly done for body cleansing, self-discipline, etc.
Religions that have fasting traditions
During Ramadan, Muslims spend on average 12 hours (the daylight hours) without eating and drinking. In some regions, they extend it to 22 hours.
As dry fasting doesn’t allow drinking water, it helps to increase the metabolic health and reduce inflammation.
When done for a short period, it can be safe and very effective as a weight loss method.
Science research on dry fasting has shown that fasting can balance insulin levels, increase neuron production, enhance brain plasticity, lower blood pressure and promote healthy longevity.
The Types of Dry Fasting
There are two types of dry fasting: intermittent and prolonged.
Intermittent Dry Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is setting a certain time frame for eating and fasting during the rest of the time outside of that frame.
The options can be:
Intermittent fasting 16/8 – you fast for 16 hours and eat during the 8-hour window.
Intermittent fasting 20/4 – similarly, you fast for 20 hours and eat during the 4-hour window.
The dry fasting during Ramadan is very similar to traditional intermittent fasting, as people are allowed to consume one meal early in the morning and 10-18 hours later eat dinner.
Intermittent dry fasting is considered as one of the safest methods, as it allows to gain all the benefits from fasting without compromising your health.
Prolonged Dry Fasting
This one is a little too tough. It is not advisable, as you will have to skip your meals and avoid drinking water for about 24 hours.
Water is essential for our body and not drinking it for an extended period of time may cause harmful side effect, such as headache.
Moreover, there might be “soft” and “absolute” dry fast. During the soft dry fast, external contact with water, like swimming and showering is allowed.
Unlike the absolute dry fast, which is an extreme approach, totally forbids contact with water.
However, there are no proven supplementary benefits of the absolute dry fast, so the normal soft fast should be absolutely fine.
Why Do Intermittent Dry Fasting?
When you practice fasting, your body is able to get rid of harmful elements like bacteria and inflammation.
Hydration helps the disease to survive inside the body, and when you don’t drink enough water, it cleanses the organs and makes you feel healthier.
Besides all this, an intermittent dry fasting results in weight loss as not drinking water will make your body to produce its own water internally by burning fat.
Studies have shown that our body is able to daily generate about a liter of metabolized water.
Since the body will not be hydrated by external water during the dry fast, it will aim to produce it internally by burning fat at a higher rate than it would do during the water-base fast.
Since fat is a needed element for a successful dry fast, it is advised to have high-fat meals during the eating windows, to reduce the discomforts connected with fasting.
Intermittent Dry Fasting Benefits
As mentioned before, intermittent dry fast can have amazing positive effects on your body, such as disease prevention and lowering inflammation.
Here is a list of top benefits of dry fasting that you might want to check out.
1. Lower inflammation level
This is probably one of the most significant benefits, as fasting helps the immune system to regulate infectious and harmful substances, and eventually reduce inflammation.
Studies have shown that dry fasting similar to Ramadan intermittent fasting (RIF) reduces the concentration of following inflammatory markers:
CRP: High levels of CRP (C-Reactive Protein) can result in a higher risk of a heart attack, hypertension, and diabetes.
TNF-α: When this molecule is not regulated it can increase the risk of cancer, psoriasis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
IL-6: This molecule can result in infections and autoimmune diseases. Also, it may increase the chances of diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases.
IL-1b: Another mediator of inflammation which can increase the risk of heart failure.
CXC Chemokines: In case it’s not properly regulated, this may cause inflammation.
2. Regulated blood sugar levels
High levels of blood sugar can damage the nerves, blood vessels, organs and lead to severe conditions that need urgent medical attention.
To avoid that, people with high blood sugar are advised to practice dry fasting under medical supervision.
Studies have proved that fasting has a positive impact on patients with this condition.
3. Prevention of osteoporosis
Dry fasting can positively affect your bones. During the intermittent dry fasting, the body generates Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) that augments the calcium levels and is essential for bone formation.
4. Prevention of diabetes
Research has shown that dry fasting helps to prevent diabetes and reduce hemoglobin A1c in patients with type 2 diabetes.
5. Positive effects on the brain
Intermittent dry fasting can increase brain plasticity, neuron protection against degeneration, and creation of new neurons.
In fact, dry fasting augments the levels of the neurotrophin (called BDNF – a brain-derived neurotrophic factor) which helps the neurons to grow and survive.
Also, dry fast results in ketone production, which decreases oxidative stress and glutamate.
6. Prevention of heart diseases
Dry fasting be may help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
According to the research results, people who periodically practice dry fasting are less prone to develop coronary heart disease compared to non-fasters.
Intermittent Dry Fasting Results
Intermittent dry fasting is often practiced for weight loss. However, the results can be different.
Basically, most of the people who do try fasting tend to have less weight and body fat at the end of the fast.
Yet, the results are not sustainable, as people regain most of the weight back, shortly after the fast.
Studies have shown that after Ramadan, people, on average, have lost 1.2 kg but regained 0.72 kg after several weeks.
During dry fasting, weight loss happens due to the following factors:
Water weight loss: Water weight is almost half of the total body weight (50% for women, 59% for men).
Therefore, when you dry fast, you immediately notice changes in your weight. However, water weight is quickly recovered when you stop fasting.
Restricted calorie intake: Surely, calorie restriction results in short-term weight loss, but if you start consuming more calories after the fast, the weight will be regained.
Intermittent Dry Fasting Weight Loss Meal Plan
1. How long should you do Intermittent Dry Fasting?
The dry fast should not be done for an extensive period of time, especially if you are a beginner in that.
Usually, it is safe to start practicing 12-hour dry fast and then continually increase the fasting period up to 24 hours.
For intermittent dry fasting, 16 hours is the ideal time frame.
It is generally considered safe to do 16/8 intermittent dry fast for few days.
Of course, you can go ahead and fast for more than that if you feel like it. But it really depends on how you feel after the first days of 16/8 dry fasting.
If you decide that you want to practice this for a prolonged period of time, then 1 day in a week or 1 week in a month should be fine.
Eating 5-6 hours before bed is a good time for having your meal so that your body will have time to process the food.
Also, you will need to prepare yourself for fasting several days before, by drinking an additional glass of water, so that you won’t start the fast already dehydrated.
2. What to eat during Intermittent Dry Fasting?
Knowing what you consume during the dry fast eating windows is crucial as it helps you to stick to your fasting.
First of all, you need to have enough calorie intake for the day.
Don’t consume high carb meals as it will create spikes in blood sugar, brain fog and will result in a low mood.
Also, it will be hard for you to continue the fasting, as you will feel absolutely exhausted.
What you need to consume is good fats (healthy fats), as it prevents the loss of muscle mass.
The healthiest fats are monounsaturated fats because they are full of healthy nutrients and are anti-inflammatory.
Among Polyunsaturated fats the main two healthiest types are omega-3 and omega 6 fatty acids, that are crucial for cell reproduction and brain.
Omega-3s are found in nuts, seeds, and fish, and omega-6 is in certain plant-based oils.
Here is the list of foods that contain good fat:
- Dark chocolate
- Walnuts (also other nuts like almonds and pistachios)
- Whole eggs
- Chia seeds
- Full-fat yogurt
- Sunflower seeds
- Coconut oil
Calories Guide: Your high-fat, low-carb diet should consist of calories %:
Fat – 70-80%
Protein – 20-25%
Net carbs – 5-10%
You can also try healthy drinks with fat sources to help you stay energized, as well as complex carbs like sweet potatoes.
Intermittent Dry Fasting Stages
Dry fasting has two stages of burning energy in your body.
Stage 1: Burning glycogen for fuel
When you do 12-24 hours of fast, your blood glucose level falls by 20%, though this does depend on your physical activity level. When your body has no glucose left, it starts using glycogen (stored in the liver) as a source of energy.
Burning glycogen can last 2-3 days and it will be the only fuel in intermittent dry fasting. If you are not fat-adapted, this stage may create a discomfort as your body will start creating less metabolic water.
Stage 2: Burning fat for fuel
When your body runs out of glycogen, it starts a process called ketogenesis.
This involves releasing stored adipose tissue fatty triglycerides that are burnt by the liver and muscle as fatty acids for energy.
The brain, however, needs those fatty acids to be converted into ketones to be able to use them as fuel.
If you are practicing a ketogenic diet, then you are fat-adapted, which means you are already burning fat, not glucose.
This will make it a lot easier for you to do an intermittent dry fast.
How To Start Intermittent Dry Fasting
Intermittent dry fasting should not be practiced without previous experience with general fasting or water fasting.
It is extremely difficult to do dry fasting when your body is not prepared for it. Being dehydrated for a long period of time may be dangerous for your health.
It is recommended to fasting 3-5 days before trying dry fasting. It is a more advanced version of the traditional fast. If you are a beginner, then you shouldn’t dry fast for longer than a day.
If you haven’t tried fasting yet, check out our One Meal a Day complete guide: OMAD Results & Benefits Ultimate Guide.
You will feel tired during the dry fast, as your body needs to adapt to the limited amount of nutrients and water.
Also, you will get into ketosis faster when dry fasting, compared to normal fasting.
Days before you start the dry fast, you should drink plenty of water to get fully hydrated.
It is advised that beginners start with 16/8 intermittent water fast for a week.
This means, you will need to eat during the 8-hour window, and fast by drinking water during the remaining 16 hours. This way, your body will get used to the restricted food intake and you will get an idea of how your body reacts to this.
Moreover, during the intermittent water fast, try to slowly cut down the calories each day. Also, make sure to eat healthy fats and avoid carbs during your meals.
Not everyone is suitable for dry fasting, so let’s first discuss the cases when you can be not fit for a dry fast.
Dry fasting can be harmful in following cases:
- You have zero experience in fasting, particularly in water fasting and have no idea how your body reacts to starvation.
- You suffer from migraines and headaches. In this case, fasting can be done only under the doctor’s supervision.
- Medical supervision during dry fasting is also necessary if you have diabetes.
- You should not attempt dry fasting without the doctor’s permission if you have issues with blood pressure.
- Consult your doctor if you are taking any medication, to make sure they are harmless when taken on an empty stomach. If it’s not the case, then you are not suitable for dry fasting.
- If you’re pregnant, then consult a doctor first. Otherwise, it’s not advisable.
Common side effects of dry fasting
- Disrupted sleep
In case you experience dizzines and weakness, you should immediately stop fasting and drink some water.
Dangers of Intermittent Dry Fasting
If you haven’t properly prepared yourself for the dry fast, then dehydration will be the number one side effect of dry fasting. Before you start, you should drink a lot of water. Also, you should avoid activities that make you sweat more, such as running.
Fit for dry fasting
There are cases where it is not advised to practice dry fasting. If you match the cases and still attempt dry fasting, you are risking to have dangerous side effects.
Don’t follow the example of random people posting on social media about their dry fasting experience, unless you are sure they are a reliable source.