So you’ve decided you want to try prolonged fasting.
But how do you know whether to do a water fast or a dry fast? If it’s your first time fasting for an extended period of time (more than a day), it’s never going to be a bad idea to start slowly and go for a water fast.
However, it is a good idea to have dry fasting in your toolbox and to know what circumstances call for bringing out the big guns!
Dry fasting, while a lot more taxing mentally, will produce far superior autophagic effects and can achieve similar or greater weight loss results than water fasting, in a far shorter period of time. Water fasting may however be the more appropriate option depending on the individual’s reasons for beginning a fasting protocol.
This article looks at how you can determine, based on your individual goals and predispositions, whether to opt for a dry or water fasting protocol so you can get the most out of your extended fast.
What Is The Difference Between A Water Fast & A Dry Fast?
On a water fast, you drink water. You can also drink salt water which will help with energy levels so you can get more done while on a fast.
Dry fasting is where you eat or drink nothing. A ‘hard’ dry fast means you’re not allowed any water contact during the fast – no showers, no washing your hands, no brushing your teeth – nothing. A ‘soft’ dry fast means you can do these things still.
Dry Fasting Vs Water Fasting For Fat Loss
Dry fasting is hands down the sharper sword when it comes to losing fat.
Dry fasting will cause you to lose more fat in a shorter period of time than water fasting. Your body still needs to hydrate itself when you’re dry fasting and it does this by breaking down fat cells more quickly to get access to the water contained within those cells.
Your body literally starts drinking your own fat.
So if you’re looking to lose fat fast, a prolonged dry fast will work better. But it’s a lot more difficult and may not always be convenient for everyone.
You’re going to see rapid fat loss results whether dry or water fasting, so it doesn’t matter too much.
Dry Fasting Vs Water Fasting For Autophagy
Doing it dry will also increase the intensity of the autophagic benefits of prolonged fasting.
By entering a hypertonic state, dry fasting multiplies the effects of autophagy allowing your body to not only enter this regenerative state more quickly but also to get more out of it.
If your primary purpose for starting an extended fast is to help your body heal, while both methods will be extremely powerful, dry fasting will offer better results.
Where Water Fasting Shines
Even though it’s slightly less powerful than dry fasting, it’s 10 times more practical.
It’s really really hard to dry fast for 7 days. You will probably have to put your life on hold to get it done, whereas you can live a pretty normal life and do pretty normal things while on a 7 day water fast, especially if you’re drinking a little bit of salt water too.
Working out while dry fasting is also at best tricky and at worst dangerous because you risk dehydration and aren’t getting any electrolytes in which will cause you to feel weak and light headed.
If you’re water fasting and maintaining your salt intake, you can actually work out every day still. You can go to work. You can get things done. You’ll be hungry, but you will be able to function like a normal person still.
Dry fasting takes a whole lot more out of you.
Cortisol levels are going to be way higher. You’re going to be so much more uncomfortable and you’re going to be constantly thinking about the fact that you’re fasting and worrying about not overdoing it.
So Which Should I Choose?
As mentioned before, if you’ve never done a prolonged fast before, it’ll always be a decent idea to start out with a water or salt water fast so you can see how easy it is for you to deal with the physiological changes happening to your body.
While experience levels, health conditions, motivation levels, personal schedules, and many other factors will play a role in which type of fast you should go for, ultimately the primary criteria is your purpose or objective for the fast.
What are you hoping to achieve by doing this? What result do you want?
I’ve come up with a list of the most common motivations for starting a prolonged fast which will help you decide what type of fast to select, based on your own objectives.
After looking at my recommendation based on objective, you should then also consider your own experience, health conditions, motivation level, schedule, etc to decide for yourself if it’s a good idea to go ahead with that type of fast.
So let’s begin!
Fasting For Healing
I want to help my body heal a disease such as a skin condition, gut problem, type 2 diabetes, or MS!
Both water and dry fasting are well known to improve the state of your gut biome, can be effective in improving skin health, and may be effective in mitigating the symptoms of MS as well as diabetes.1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6413166/2https://www.nationalmssociety.org/About-the-Society/News/Intermittent-Fasting-Changes-Gut-Bacteria-and-Redu3https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2021.656346/full
For skin and gut conditions, dry fasting is usually the way to go as the effects of being in a hypertonic state will produce a greater outcome.
Every time I do a dry fast, one of the biggest things I notice is how incredible my skin looks while on the fast.
It may not completely cure your acne but will almost certainly make a big improvement. Anecdotal accounts of eczema improving dramatically after prolonged dry fasting is also quite common.
If you wanted to improve your MS via fasting, I’d recommend beginning with a either a prolonged water or dry fast, and then continuing an intermittent fasting protocol such as OMAD to help keep inflammation low.
For diabetes, there is a massive amount of anecdotal evidence for various prolonged fasting protocols being able to completely reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes and we’re also beginning to see more research on the effects of fasting on both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
For all of these kinds of predispositions, selecting either a prolonged water fast or dry fast will be appropriate. For diabetics, it may be best to consult with your doctor beforehand.
Whether you choose to water fast or dry fast initially, following that initial prolonged fast with an intermittent fasting protocol such as 20:4 or OMAD would be optimal to see continued results.
Fasting For Weight Loss
I am moderately overweight and want to lose a few pounds quickly!
Going for either a dry fast or water fast will be fine here and it’s really up to you to decide what you want to do.
After the initial fast, follow it up with an aggressive intermittent fasting protocol such as a keto OMAD protocol to reach your desired weight more quickly.
Fasting For Extreme Weight Loss
I am very overweight or morbidly obese and want to lose a lot of weight fast!
I would recommend dry fasting if you don’t have any other pre-existing health conditions. If you’re 100+ lbs overweight, you have gallons of water stored in your body fat that will get you through some really tough extended dry fasting protocols.
Intermittent dry fasting is an option here as well if you’re living a fairly sedentary lifestyle. You could fast for any number of days, have a small 500-1,000 calorie refeed and rehydrate in a small window, and then continue dry fasting for 24-48 hours.
This is a lot harder than water fasting and will make adherence way more difficult, so I wouldn’t recommend this as a long-term solution, but intermittent dry fasting will cause quicker results.
The more overweight you are, the more well equipped you are to handle longer duration and higher difficulty fasts.
Fasting For Athletes
I am an athlete and want to lose some fat quickly but don’t want to lose muscle!
I personally wouldn’t recommend doing any form of extended fast if your primary concern is retaining muscle. I’ve simply not found a way to do it.
If you’re looking to cut weight to make a certain weight class for a competition, there’s obviously many ways you can do that, but if you’ve got a bunch of fat to lose or want to get extremely lean and not lose any muscle or strength, you’re on your own!
Fasting For Addiction
I have a food or dopamine or other addiction and want to see if fasting can help!
Really the bare minimum you need to do to cure food or dopamine addiction (basically the same thing) is a 72 hour water fast.
Maybe you’ve fallen into some bad habits recently. Maybe you’re slacking in multiple areas of your life. Maybe you’re just heading in the wrong direction. If you’re just looking for a bit of a ‘life reset’, I find the 3 day fast perfect for snapping yourself out of it and turning things around.
That said, if you have the time and can do longer than 3 days, it’s definitely worth doing. Or consider doing it dry if you’re after a truly transformational experience.
At the end of the day, whether you decide to dry fast or water fast, you will see incredible results.
Water fasting is going to be far more practical and convenient and isn’t going to interrupt your day-to-day life in the same way that dry fasting can.
Dry fasting is hardcore. It’s more of a spiritual experience. It’s a lot more challenging. And it will teach you gratitude in ways that water fasting won’t.
Whichever you decide to do, your body will thank you.