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How Much Muscle Mass Can You Lose During a Water Fast?

How Much Muscle Mass Can You Lose During a Water Fast?

Most people in the water fasting community have no clue on how much muscle mass it’s actually possible to lose during a water fast.

At best, they can tell you that our bodies are very efficient at preserving our muscle mass during a water fast. But I have yet to meet anyone who knows the exact numbers.

In this article, I have relied on modern science to put an end to this confusion. If you read it all the way through, you will understand how much muscle mass you can expect to lose during a water fast (depending on how long you intend to fast).

But first, I want to quickly explain why we lose muscle mass during water fasting in the first place.

Why do we lose muscle mass during water fasting?

Some animals, like bears during winter hibernation, can survive without food for a very long time. And the amazing thing is, they can do it without any detectable loss of muscle mass [1].

Humans, on the other hand, we tend to lose a lot of muscle mass during starvation. Roughly put, that’s because our brains require some special “brain fuel” to survive [2].

Because we’re not eating any food during a water fast, our bodies have no choice but to start burning away some of our “structural protein” (to keep powering our hyper-intelligent brain).

Those structural proteins are the very basic building blocks of your muscles, which means you’re bound to destroy some of your muscle mass during a water fast.

Explaining all this in great detail would be beyond the scope of this article. So let’s just take a look at how much of those structural protein you can expect to lose during a water fast.

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The daily loss of structural protein on a water fast

In one starvation study [3], they measured the amount of protein obese people lost during a 21-day water fast.

I’ve adapted the data from that study into this daily protein loss chart:

Daily loss of structural protein during water fasting

    You can see that on the 1st day of the water fast (the first bar on the left), the loss of structural protein was the highest (69 grams).

    By the end of the 21-day fast (the last bar on the right), the loss of structural proteins was reduced by almost 80% (to 15 grams).

    This shows that our bodies can adapt to starvation extremely well. In order to keep you alive as long as possible, your body keeps slowing down the destruction of your vital body mass.

    But ultimately, you’ll lose much more muscle mass than this small amount of structural protein.

    Why?

    Because your muscle tissue is actually made of only about 20% of protein, while the rest of it is water [4].

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    The total loss of muscle mass on a 21-day water fast

    Here’s another chart I’ve created based on that 21-day starvation study:

    Total loss of vital body mass during water fasting

      This chart shows the total vital body mass you can expect to lose (in pounds), depending on how long you plan on fasting.

      If you plan to fast for 6 days (bottom axis), the chart can tell you that you could be losing a little over 6 pounds of your vital body mass (left axis).

      If you plan on doing a 13-day water fast, you could lose a little over 10 pounds of your vital body mass and a 21-day water fast could set you back by full 13 pounds of vital body mass.

      While this chart can tell you how much vital body mass you can expect to lose during a water fast, it can’t tell you how much total weight you can expect to get rid of.

      Maybe you already picked up on this, but I am no longer talking about muscle mass.

      Instead, I keep talking about your “vital body mass”, so let me quickly explain the difference between the two.

      You lose much more than just your muscle mass

      When it comes to understanding your final weight loss results after a water fast, things can easily get a bit confusing.

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      Just take a look at all the different kinds of weight you’ll end up losing if you decide to do a water fast.

      A breakdown of your final water fasting weight loss results

        At the highest level, you will be losing your body fat mass and your lean body mass (also called non-fat, or fat-free body mass).

        The lean body mass you lose will include some of your sodium and glycogen bound water weight, and some of your vital body mass.

        And finally, the vital body mass you lose will include more than just your muscle mass.

        Because some of those protein, the basic building blocks of your vital body mass, will also come from your vital organ tissue [5].

        And what’s the biggest problem when it comes to destroying the basic building blocks of both your muscles and vital organs?

        Remember, the most important muscle and vital organ in your body that could suffer because of this, is your heart.

        I won’t get into more detail here, but you can read all about the health dangers of water fasting here).

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        Now, let’s look at some of the things you can do to avoid losing your vital body mass while fasting.

        How to prevent the loss of muscle mass during fasting?

        The most obvious solution to avoid the destruction of your vital body mass is not to do a fast in the first place. If you were considering doing a water fast for weight loss, you can simply go with any of the countless less restrictive diets out there.

        Just make sure to do your research, because not all weight loss diets are designed to protect your vital body mass.

        But if you’re still interested in going through with a water fast, at least consider looking into intermittent fasting, alternate day fasting, or even muscle sparing fasting as safer alternatives to water fasting.

        Muscle sparing fasting, for one, can actually be done without any solid food and can give you that “pure” feeling of fasting (while still helping you avoid that unnecessary destruction of your vital body mass).

        My goal for this article was to help you understand water fasting is no fairy tale. Knowing that you could actually destroy up to 13 pounds of muscle mass AND vital organ tissue (on a 21-day water fast), you’re hopefully going to at least consider the alternatives.

        Now, I want to ask a small favor of you. If you know absolutely anyone who has ever done, or has at least considered doing a water fast, please share this article with them.

        Don’t do it for me, or even for yourself. Do it for them and for their safety.

        Featured photo credit: Pixabay – 926663 via pixabay.com

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        Last Updated on August 4, 2020

        8 Benefits of a Minimalist Lifestyle That Get You to Live With Less

        8 Benefits of a Minimalist Lifestyle That Get You to Live With Less

        Minimalism is a way to put a stop to the gluttony of the world around us. It’s the opposite of every advertisement we see plastered on the radio and TV. We live in a society that prides itself on the accumulation of stuff; we eat up consumerism, material possessions, clutter, debt, distractions and noise.

        What we don’t seem to have is any meaning left in our world.

        By adopting a minimalist lifestyle, you can throw out what you don’t need in order to focus on what you do need.

        I know first hand how little we actually need to survive. I was fortunate enough to live in a van for four months while traveling throughout Australia. This experience taught me valuable lessons about what really matters and how little we really need all this stuff we surround ourselves with.

        Less is more.

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        Living a minimalist lifestyle is reducing.There are a few obvious benefits of minimalism such as less cleaning and stress, a more organized household and more money to be found, but there are also a few deep, life-changing benefits.

        What we don’t usually realize is that when we reduce, we reduce a lot more than just stuff.

        Consider just some of the benefits of living with fewer possessions:

        1. Create Room for What’s Important

        When we purge our junk drawers and closets we create space and peace. We lose that claustrophobic feeling and we can actually breathe again. Create the room to fill up our lives with meaning instead of stuff.

        2. More Freedom

        The accumulation of stuff is like an anchor, it ties us down. We are always terrified of losing all our ‘stuff’. Let it go and you will experience a freedom like never before: a freedom from greed, debt, obsession and overworking.

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        3. Focus on Health and Hobbies

        When you spend less time at Home Depot trying unsuccessfully to keep up with the Joneses, you create an opening to do the things you love, things that you never seem to have time for.

        Everyone is always saying they don’t have enough time, but how many people really stop and look at what they are spending their time doing?

        You could be enjoying a day with your kids, hitting up the gym, practicing yoga, reading a good book or traveling. Whatever it is that you love you could be doing, but instead you are stuck at Sears shopping for more stuff.

        4. Less Focus on Material Possessions

        All the stuff we surround ourselves with is merely a distraction, we are filling a void. Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy comfort. After the initial comfort is satisfied, that’s where our obsession with money should end.

        We are bombarded by the media presenting promises of happiness through materialistic measures. It’s no wonder we struggle everyday. Resist those urges. It’s an empty path, it won’t make you happy.

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        It’s hard not to get roped into the consumerism trap. I need constant reminders that it’s a false sense of happiness. I enjoy stuff, but I also recognize that I don’t need it.

        5. More Peace of Mind

        When we cling onto material possessions we create stress because we are always afraid of losing these things. By simplifying your life you can lose your attachment to these things and ultimately create a calm, peaceful mind.

        The less things you have to worry about, the more peace you have, and it’s as simple as that.

        6. More Happiness

        When de-cluttering your life, happiness naturally comes because you gravitate towards the things that matter most. You see clearly the false promises in all the clutter, it’s like a broken shield against life’s true essence.

        You will also find happiness in being more efficient, you will find concentration by having refocused your priorities, you will find joy by enjoying slowing down.

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        7. Less Fear of Failure

        When you look at Buddhist monks, they have no fear, and they have no fear because they don’t have anything to lose.

        In whatever you wish to pursue doing you can excel, if you aren’t plagued with the fear of losing all your worldly possessions. Obviously you need to take the appropriate steps to put a roof over your head, but also know that you have little to fear except fear itself.

        8. More Confidence

        The entire minimalist lifestyle promotes individuality and self reliance. This will make you more confident in your pursuit of happiness.

        What’s Next? Go Minimalism.

        If you’re ready to start living a minimalist lifestyle, these articles can help you to kickstart:

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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