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What You Don’t Know about Fasting Can Hurt You

Know the benefits and risks before you begin your fast.

It seems like everybody’s fasting these days. My personal trainer raves about intermittent fasting, a colleague at work does the traditional three-day master cleanse, and friends in Silicon Valley are obsessed with biohacking. Let’s take a quick look at each one before we delve into the benefits and risks.


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Intermittent Fasting

A huge wellness trend in 2017, with several methods to choose from. It’s all about restricting your eating patterns (about when you eat, not what you eat). The 5:2 method involves eating what you want for five days a week and restricting your intake to just 500 calories a day for two days a week. The 2 Meal Day method is just what it sounds like – skipping one meal a day (and sticking with it). The 16-Hour method involves eating all your food in an eight-hour window and fasting the rest of the day.

Master Cleanse

You may know this one as the Lemonade Diet – it’s been around since the 1970s. (Beyonce made it famous – again – when she did a master cleanse to drop a bunch of weight before filming Dreamgirls.) Abstain from all solid food and drink water mixed with cayenne pepper, maple syrup, and lemon juice for up to 10 days.


Leave it to Silicon Valley to make fasting about productivity rather than weight loss. The real goal is to track vital signs (blood glucose, ketone levels, etc.) while fasting because it’s thought to increase brain performance.

Sure, there are benefits to fasting. But there are risks, too. Here’s what you need to know.


woman detoxing with water

Oleksii Shalamov/Shutterstock

3 Benefits from Fasting

1. Weight loss. You’ll likely lose weight (and it’ll likely come back – especially if it’s just the water weight you drop in the first day or two of a fast).

2. Improved blood pressure and cholesterol. Studies have shown that fasting can lower both blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

3. Healthier GI tract. This is where the detoxing comes in. Fasting gives your digestive system a break and can help your body purge unhealthy toxins.

3 Risks when Fasting

1. Dehydration. If you drink the same amount of water you’d drink when not fasting, it won’t be enough. A loss of just 1-2% of water in your body can cause headaches and put stress on your kidneys.

2. Mineral and vitamin deficiencies. Decreased levels of sodium and potassium in your body can lead to cramps, headaches, and serious health issues.

3. Muscle loss. The body turns to muscle for needed glucose during a fast. Light exercise when fasting is recommended – but be careful you don’t overdo it.


*Editor’s Note: This article is for informational use only; it is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your healthcare provider before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or any other health program.



Photo Credit: Dirima/iStock


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