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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 March 13, 2019

        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

        Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

        You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

        Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

        1. Work on the small tasks.

        When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

        Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

        2. Take a break from your work desk.

        Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

        Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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        3. Upgrade yourself

        Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

        The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

        4. Talk to a friend.

        Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

        Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

        5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

        If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

        Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

        Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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        6. Paint a vision to work towards.

        If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

        Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

        Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

        7. Read a book (or blog).

        The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

        Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

        Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

        8. Have a quick nap.

        If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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        9. Remember why you are doing this.

        Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

        What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

        10. Find some competition.

        Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

        Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

        11. Go exercise.

        Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

        Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

        As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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        Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

        12. Take a good break.

        Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

        Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

        Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

        Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

        More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

        Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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