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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 May 22, 2019

        10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

        10 Simple Morning Exercises That Will Make You Feel Great All Day

        There are lots of studies that show if you do some exercise in the morning, you will be in a better mood all day long. You will have more energy and you will certainly be a better colleague, friend or partner.

        One psychologist at Duke University has researched the effects of exercise on depressed patients and he has come to the conclusion that exercise has a definite role in treating this condition and has an important role in preventing people from relapsing.[1] According to the New York Times, scientists have now established that exercise also boosts your brain power.[2]

        In addition, there are studies from the Appalachian State University which show that blood pressure can be reduced by doing regular morning exercise.[3]

        Here are 10 simple morning exercises that will help you feel great the whole day long. You can include some of them in your morning exercise routine or do them all at home without having to enrol in a gym. Consult your doctor before starting any form of exercise routine if you are new to this.

        1. Cat Camel Stretch

        Stretching exercises are useful for muscle toning and also preventing arthritis. They can either be dynamic or static.

        Dynamic ones such as the cat camel stretch, are particularly useful for doing other exercises in the morning. They are also beneficial at other times of the day, especially after long periods of sedentary work. This one is great for spinal flexibility and is a good warm up exercise.

        Kneel down on all fours. Start by rounding your back just like a camel so that your head will try to meet your pelvis. This is the camel position. Then lower and lift your head so that your lower back is arched. This is the cat position. Do these movements slowly and smoothly. About 4 or 5 times.

        Here’s a video to guide you through:

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        2. Go for a Walk or a Run

        This is better done outside so that you can connect with nature but running inside on a treadmill is almost as good. You can time yourself and increase length and time according to your fitness program.

        Always have new goals to reach. Start with brisk walking and work up to running. At my age, I am still walking!

        The health benefits are considerable. You can build stronger bones and you can help to maintain your weight.

        Also, you are helping your heart to stay healthy and keeping your blood pressure low.

        Learn more about the benefits of running here: 8 Benefits of Running 5 Minutes Every Day You Didn’t Know

        3. Jumping Jacks

        Michelle Obama is a great fan of this exercise and has become “Jumper in Chief.”[4] They are great for cardiovascular health and also for toning muscles especially the calves and the deltoids.

        Stand with feet together. Jump while spreading your arms and legs. Return to first position and keep going! You can start with doing these for 1 minute and then gradually build up to the number you are comfortable with. Here’s how:

        4. Abductor Side Lifts

        Watch the video below to see how to do this exercise. These muscles are important because you use them everyday to run, get into the car or onto and off a bicycle. They are very important also for your core stability and prevent the pelvis from tilting.[5]

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        Do about 10 to 15 raises for each side like this:

        5. Balancing Table Pose

        This is a classic yoga pose. It benefits the spine, balance, memory and concentration.

        Start with the table pose (hands and knees). Breathe in before starting each movement. As you exhale, raise your left leg parallel to the floor as you raise the right arm, also parallel to the floor. Breathe in as you lower arm and leg. Repeat for the other side. 10 repetitions on each side is a good starting point.

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          6. Leg Squats

          Not just legs are involved but also hips and knees.

          Stand with your feet a bit further out from your hips. Arms are out in front of you. Then lower yourself as if you wanted to sit down until you reach a 90 degree angle. You can go down further if you want to. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times for 2 sets for beginners.

          The benefits are that these exercises help with knee stability and can benefit the leg muscles such as quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.[6]

          7. Push Ups

          You start lying down (face down) but with your body held up at arm’s length. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders. Breathe in as you lower your body. That is fairly easy. Now, as you exhale, you have to get back up to the starting position.

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          An easier version to start with is to bend your legs at the knees so you do not have to lift your whole body.

          Beginners may take up to a month to be able to do 100 push ups so you will have to start with a very small number and gradually increase it.

          This exercise is great for strengthening the chest, shoulders and the triceps. It is a great strengthening exercise for many muscle groups. In fact, most muscles from the toes to the shoulders are being used.

          8. Bicycle Crunches

          There are numerous crunch exercises targeting the abs. The bicycle crunch is a variation where you work more muscle groups. Aim for 15 to 20 reps to start off with.

          Watch the video to see how this is done correctly:

          9. Lunges

          Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Place your hand on your hips. Take one giant step forward with the right leg. Make sure the knee does not go too far forward, that is, past your toes. The left knee will go down to almost floor level. Alternate the legs as you go on.

          Try to do a set of between 8 and 12 reps for each leg. It is important to allow for a day of rest, so this exercise should be done on alternate days, especially if you are using weights.

          This exercise is great for strengthening and toning the quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings.

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          10. Bicep Curls

          You can do this sitting down so if you spend a lot of time on the phone, this is a great exercise to do.

          Choose suitable dumbbells or another household object that you can easily hold. Sit down with the dumbbell in your hand. You need to sit forward a bit so that your triceps can lean on your thigh to give you support.

          Then bring the weighted arm up to shoulder length and then down again. Exhale as you lift the weight and inhale as you lower it.

          Here’re some important notes before you start doing this exercise:

          Try to do one or two sets of about ten repetitions for each arm and then switch arms.

          These exercises are really useful for toning the arm muscles.[7] In addition, they can strengthen and tone the brachioradialis muscle located in the forearm. These are the muscles we use to pick up things when we flex the arm at the elbow so we use these muscles countless times a day.

          You may have to build in a rest day for the heavier exercises, numbers 6–10. On the rest days, you can do gentler stretching exercises and also some walking or running.

          Morning exercise is not only a great mood booster, but will help you keep your weight down and also sleep better![8] Start including one or some of these exercises in your morning routine!

          More Articles About Exercises for Beginners

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

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