The three-day water fast

Mugshot 2018 Kisoroszi garden (square)Of all fasts, the 3 day water fast is in many ways the most important. Three days is the period your body needs to unlock your healing metabolism and begin reaping the benefits. These three days are also the stepping stone required to move on to even longer fasts (such as the 7-10 day water fast and more prolonged fasts), in which the deepest healing can occur. The more you practise the three-day fast, the easier you’ll find water fasting of any length.

I’ll be honest with you, though. In the beginning, the 3 day water fast is also often the hardest.

Because of this, it’s important to do everything you can do to maximise your chances of a smooth experience. This can include following a well laid-out plan, such as that found in: The Complete 3-Day Water Fasting Program® and Living on Water®. I also offer online consultations and coaching for those who need more personal contact (link here).

Whether you choose support or to go it alone, it’s definitely better not to try and bite off more than you can chew 🙂 with a 3-day fast until you feel comfortable with one-day (36-hour) water fasts. This is because a 3-day fast really is a quantum leap ahead in terms of what it demands from your body.

What are the challenges and benefits of a 3-day water fast?

Before you gain greater experience, most of the challenges of the three-day water fast are physical, as your body learns how to enter the state of ketosis. Ketosis is the process of burning fat directly from adipose (fat) tissue, which is achieved through the production of so-called ‘ketone bodies’ in order to metabolise the fat. Unless you happen to be following an extremely low-carb diet, this is entirely different from how your body normally extracts the energy needed to power each cell. As a result, the vast majority of people never experience ketosis in everyday life, and rely instead on metabolising carbohydrates until the day they die. This is a real shame. We have two eyes, and we use them both. We have two arms and two legs, and we use each of them. We also have two metabolisms: our everyday carbohydrate-based metabolism, as well as ketosis. They each serve their own function and offer their own benefits.

There are two huge benefits of getting into ketosis while you fast. First, because you’re burning fat and not eating, your body frees up a lot of extra energy for healing. (It’s estimated that digestion accounts for about 30% of your total daily energy needs.) Second, because you’re burning fat cells, you gain the potential to burn up and cleanse toxins which have been locked there for years and years. This is a different mechanism from being on a low-carb diet and burning fat in everyday life, because in this case essentially the same fat cells are used for energy, over and over. In contrast, deeper levels of fat remain untouched: with their toxins accumulating within.

What happens on a 3-day water fast, day by day?

Day 1:
Of course, the first day feels the same as on a one-day fast (described in greater detail here), as you slowly exhaust your reserves of carbohydrates, which are stored as glycogen mostly in the liver, as well as in the tissue surrounding your muscles. Psychologically, though, you should feel much more comfortable – given that you already have experience in surviving one day without food. Surviving three days without food is simply an extension of this, and so hopefully you’ll be freer to concentrate on the physical changes taking place inside you. You may indeed find yourself facing your ego over these three days, but it’s more likely to take the form of facing your addictions to food rather than facing your ego’s existential fear for survival.

Day 2:
By the beginning of the second day your glycogen reserves will have run out. At this point, how you feel depends on how much experience you have in fasting. Nowadays when I fast, I feel great because my body has made the switch to ketosis in tandem with my glycogen stores running out. In other words, I don’t suffer any ‘power loss’. In fact, I usually benefit from even fuller energy towards the end of the first day because I’m powered by two sources: my usual carbohydrate-based metabolism (before the glycogen stores completely run down), as well as by ketosis – which starts to kick in a couple of hours after I miss my first meal. It’s a great feeling, and, in time, you can look forward to it too!

However, if your body isn’t adapted to ketosis, things will probably be rather different… Your glycogen fuel tanks will hit empty, and your body will have to (continued below)


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search for an alternative power source – and quickly too! The burning of fat through ketosis is highly efficient, but the problem is that your body hasn’t yet learned how to access this metabolism, because the chemical reactions involved are so different from what you’re normally used to. Instead, the next closest source of energy is through burning protein – and this comes from metabolising your own muscle tissue. Don’t worry, you’re not going to lose any significant muscle mass. We’re talking about only a few hundred grams until your body has started to perfect ketosis by the end of the third day. From this point on, any further loss of muscle mass is minimal.

In the meantime, though, you’ll probably feel extremely low on energy. Your muscles may ache, especially in your legs and back, as your body sacrifices muscle tissue. Headaches are also common, both from low blood sugar and lack of energy, as well as from the beginnings of detoxification. Dull aches around the kidneys are also common, as your kidneys start to work overtime, flushing out the first toxins from your fat cells as well as the extra acids caused by metabolising protein. If so, make sure you’re drinking enough: at least a quart/litre or two per day. There is no fixed minimal limit to drink. This depends mostly on a person’s level of toxicity. The higher the toxicity, the more you’ll have to drink. Many people drink 3-4 quarts/litres a day.

I don’t want to lie to you. Personally, I feel that too many books and websites on fasting paint a rosy-coloured picture of how you’ll feel. Telling the full truth might turn off potential converts to water fasting… Yes, perhaps you’ll feel like a million bucks. But for the first couple of three-day water fasts it’s more likely that you’ll feel pretty awful, not entirely dissimilar to how you experience the flu: with aches and pains, and a general lack of energy. But don’t worry. And don’t give up at this point!!! You’ll survive. Just hang in there. All these symptoms will pass.

Day 3:
The third day is more or less a continuation of the second, both in terms of the physiological processes taking place, as well as how you feel. Many people feel at their lowest at the end of the second or at the beginning of the third day. Generally, though, things start to improve after this, as the switch to ketosis is completed.

If the toughest part of a fast is getting through the first three days, then isn’t it worth diving straight into a longer fast and reaping the benefits of what you’ve suffered through? Maybe. If you have the energy to do so, then by all means! Most likely, though, your first few three-day fasts will leave you feeling drained both physically and emotionally. There’s no need to do any more at this point. Three days is enough. Mission accomplished. You’ve successfully awoken your body’s healing metabolism, which you’ll be able to rely on increasingly in the future. You’ve also already experienced a significant degree of detox. Instead, take on a longer, more cleansing fast once your body has more fully acclimatised to three-day fasts.

Refeeding:

At the end of the third day, enjoy a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and pat yourself on the back. Unlike longer fasts, there’s no need for a long transition back to eating. Nor is there any need for a long transition before the fast itself. However, do keep the first few meals light: mostly just fruits and/or vegetables (just as the last few meals before the fast should also be light). Don’t eat too much! If your ego is telling you to gorge yourself, avoid the temptation and try to honestly follow your appetite. Your stomach will have shrunk, your digestive system will have slowed down considerably, so you need a little time to get things up and running again. If you do follow your appetite, you’ll find you’re eating normally again in a couple of days.

RELATED ARTICLES:

— The deepest detox (click here)
— Overcoming addictions (click here)
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298 Comments

  1. Maria says

    Hello Tallis!

    I’m about to start a water fast of indeterminate duration (I’m planning on doing it for as long as it feels right). I found your site while researching the topic of dry fasting, which I’m hoping to incorporate into my water fast as well.

    I have a doubt that I couldn’t clear despite all the research and I was hoping you might be able to help. You see, I’ve done 3-day water fasts before (twice). Both times I had planned to do a two week fast, but I ran into a lot of persistent nausea and vomiting (around first half of day two and second half of day three. I’ve read that nausea is common and frequent, but the vomiting had me worried and I couldn’t find clarification if it was a sign to stop the fast. Do you have any information about vomiting during fasts?

    Thank you so much 🙂
    Maria

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for sharing. Nausea is one of the most common symptoms experienced while water fasting, whereas vomiting (as the most severe form of nausea) is considerably less prevalent. It is certainly a very strong, unpleasant and often unnerving signal from the body!

      Just like nausea, vomiting can occur as a consequence of simple detox – in which case the best course of action is often (but not always) to persevere. It can also be caused by other underlying issues which indicate that the fast should be ended sooner rather than later. Even for someone like myself it can be hard to distinguish between the two scenarios. In order for me to say something more meaningful here, I’d need to know many more details about exactly what happened during the fast, what diet you’d been eating before the fast, prior medications and other information which might reveal the source of potential toxins. That kind of detailed individual information, however, is best investigated in a consultation rather than here on this public forum. At the very least, though, it would be a good idea to lower your toxic load as much as possible before beginning any water fast in the future.

      Hope this helps,
      Tallis

  2. Gustavo says

    Hey Tallis, I reached you page because I woke up yesterday, and decided I was just going to drink water. I felt the urge from within. Im glad I found it, with your thorough explanations, I feel more secure, and I´m now on day 2. Feeling great.I hope this fastong unlocks internal healing processes, and I can finally get rid or help towards getting rid, of a couple of issues from physical traumas I’ve had. I can feel the subtle permanent immflamations around the right side of my face and hip muscles soothing out. I’m shooting for the 7-10 day, but all depends on how I evolve. Thanks for your great explanations.

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Gustavo,
      Thanks for sharing, and glad the website was able to help. Hope your fast brings you the healing you’re looking for!
      Tallis

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Gustavo,
      Sorry for the late reply – there was a problem with the delivery of your message. I’m really glad you felt inspired to fast and hope that you’re reaching your objective (7-10 days) right around now!
      All the best,
      Tallis

  3. Clinton Clark says

    Hi Tallis – I have begun to three day water fast a few times a month, Is that too frequent? I am working to Water Fast Tuesday – Thursday and am finding it to be quite cathartic. Any feedback you might have would be greatly appreciated. thanks!

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Clinton,

      I think the most important thing here is the word you used: ‘cathartic’. If you find that a 3-day fast feels wholesome, then it’s almost certainly good for you. It’s definitely possible to do a 3-day water fast several times a month. I even had a client who for medical reasons fasted for 3 days every week. She thrived on it! The main issues to consider are (1) to fast again only once you’ve reached your original weight and (2) make sure that your diet is healthy and nutritious in the meantime.

      Usually, the main issue preventing frequent fasting isn’t physical but rather psychological. Most people would find that a 3-day fast several times a month feels like a burden. So long as you don’t turn this into a blind routine, so long as you feel an urge to fast coming from within, just enjoy it!

      All the best,
      Tallis

      • Clinton Clark says

        Great! And thanks so much for your response. I had received input from another fasting (Facebook) group and was cautioned against it which was really disappointing. And, yes, you are right, I find the three day, mid week, water fast (I do cheat with coffee, hope that’s not an autophagy deal killer) to be cathartic and ironically replenishing. Thanks for the counsel about diet on non-fasting days as I do eat right more often than not I think I’ll alternate 3 day water fasts every other week and in the “off” weeks go very light eating with maybe a juice fast or high quality protein shake fast for those days(anyway, sorry, I ramble). Thanks again for your response, insight and all that you do for your audience to help the learn and apply your teachings. Clint

        • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

          Hi again Clinton,
          Just wanted to follow up on what you said about ‘cheating’ with coffee. Assuming you drink black with no sugar, there aren’t enough calories to significantly influence ketosis. Unfortunately, though, coffee is highly acidic in the gut, and in order to protect itself the intestinal lining secretes mucous. (If you’re sensitive to this, you might also notice that drinking coffee also gives you a slightly running nose – no surprise since both the nasal and intestinal linings are composed of similar tissue.) Not only does this muck up your intestines, it also means that you’re waking up your digestion precisely when you should be leaving it alone! Also, the caffeine speeds up your metabolism just when you want to leave it in peace so that your body can focus on healing. If you really need caffeine, it’s always better to opt for green tea, which is much more neutral in the gut. Just a little info for next time 🙂
          Tallis

          • Clinton Clark says

            Tallis, my apologies for the extremely delayed response. I thank you SO Much for your comments and insight. I’ve taken action to completely remove coffee from my diet, even when not fasting and, yep, the results have been stellar! Thanks again

            • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

              Hi Clinton,
              You’re welcome, and I’m glad it’s worked for you :-).
              It’s definitely wise not to use any coffee at all during a fast, and it’s great if you feel comfortable excluding it from your everyday diet too. Coffee does come across as being a great ‘evil’ in many circles, but it’s not really so bad for you – especially if (1) you drink good quality freshly ground beans, (2) your diet is otherwise alkaline and (3) you don’t drink it on an empty stomach. The fact is that good coffee does have quality nutrients in it too, including a lot of antioxidants. If you do drink coffee in everyday life, though, it’s always a good idea to come off it before starting any fast, both because of caffeine withdrawal symptoms and the acidity.
              All the best,
              Tallis

  4. paul says

    Feeling good almost at the end of day two of three day fast. First fast of any kind I have ever taken on, but had lot’s of input, comments from people on the power of fasting. Did my usual push ups, and actually felt stronger in some ways (or was I just lighter ;-)…
    Planning to make it a regular event, as it really does seem to help a lot with mental process’s, plus feeling energy centers opening up in the, body, as I combine the fast with more meditation practices, and stretching.
    I also hear that fasting strengthens the immune system, so it makes sense to do that at this time, amidst all the issues going on globally…
    Stay strong, warrior spirit.
    Thanks for the blog..
    Good luck

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Paul,
      Thanks for sharing, and glad that the fast has gone so smoothly.
      About strengthening the immune system: ABSOLUTELY! This is one of the primary benefits of water fasting. Even though you can’t feel it on the outside like push-ups, on the inside this is the best work-out there is!
      All the best,
      Tallis

  5. Darlene Hess says

    Hi Tallis,

    I am on Day 1 of the three-day water fast. Before I started, I did a cleanse to start with a clean slate (so to speak). I am truly looking forward to accomplishing this fast and benefiting from the results. I enjoy your website and your knowledge is very beneficial and motivational.

    I am looking forward to giving an update and sharing the experience.

    Sincerely,
    Darlene

    • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

      Hi Darlene,
      Thanks for sharing!
      Very best wishes for your fast 🙂
      Tallis

      • Darlene Hess says

        Today is my last day of the Three-day Water Fast. Today has been AWESOME!! I have been experiencing so much energy, clarity, and productivity. I may extend it out, not sure. But I will continue this fast on a monthly basis. 👏👏👏😎🎉🎉🎉

        • Tallis Barker Ph.D. says

          Glad it’s been such a positive experience!
          Tallis

  6. Armando says

    Hi Tallis

    Thanks for your swift reply and comforting words =)
    It’s great to hear that this will improve over time, which is something I really hoped for, because I truly do believe in the healing powers of fasting. Can just be a bit challenging to see that on those low days.

    The reason why I posted my comment on this 3-day article instead of the 36h one, is that we’ve just finished a 3-day fast yesterday! And it went supremely well 😀 I had enough energy to not feel tired / drained and was up and about doing smaller things (mainly light gardening).

    So from that I can see that there is some psychosomatic-ness at play, playing with me 😉

    Much more challenging was yesterday though, the day we ended the fast. My mind was going literally “nuts”, with this huge need for nuts (specifically walnuts, to clear any possible curiosities). We had some fruit and steamed veggies around lunchtime and I could really feel them there in my stomach later that evening. Same happened with some banana that I had later on, my stomach hurt a little even! So I opted to not eat more and let my body figure itself out.

    I’m really super happy to have had a very mild experience of what it’s like when the stomach “isn’t in” yet.
    Reading this 3-day fasting article really helped me through this, as I knew what could come.

    So thanks again so much!!

    Armando

    P.S. Enjoy the ride of your current fast, may it flow and clear out what is ready to go.

  7. freeflowingfusion says

    Dear Tallis,

    Thank you for writing to share your knowledge and experience on this website. I’ve found many blog entries where people fast for the first time and write about it; although one can learn from these entries, there is also misguiding material – because they are brand new to it! By contrast, you have years of experience not only in fasting yourself but helping others through the process. This comes across in the breadth and depth of what you write.

    So, a big THANK YOU for freely sharing such valuable information and experience online.

    I’m on the fourth morning of my second three-day fast. During my first 3-day fast (a few weeks ago), I consulted your website on the second day (I’d first visited and read various entries some months prior) and re-read some articles which helped me, namely by understanding that what I was going through was normal (oscillating but generally very low energy levels).

    This time round I have a lot more energy! I have been sleeping less than usual, waking up spontaneously before my alarm clock. It transpired that my second and third days were very active, but I’ve had the energy to do everything that I had to. The worst I’ve suffered from is unusual irritability. When I felt tired yesterday, my energy levels replenished after sitting and relaxing my body for a while (I was still active writing or talking). For sure, I’m not up to running a marathon but it is such a significant change since the last fast!

    Thus far I’d been doing weekly 36 hour fasts and daily intermittent fasting (with some lapses!).

    I am looking forward to incorporating more three day fasts into my life and to working up to longer ones.

    I feel very happy that you are available for consultations, knowing that in the future if I need support, the perfect person is there for me.

    With heartfelt gratitude for your way of being and sharing,

    T

    P.S. I was looking for a “Donate” button on your website but did not find one. Might it be an idea to add one? I found a workaround though and I suppose others can also choose to make a purchase from you to lend their support.

    • Tallis Shivantar says

      Hi T,

      Thanks for sharing and your kind words. I’m glad you’ve found the website useful :-).

      I hope the increased ease of your 2nd 3-day water fast will inspire you to continue fasting in the future. It’s amazing how quickly the body learns – even as adults – to access ketosis and the healing metabolism of water fasting. What you describe is completely normal: that even by someone’s second water fast, the body is able to cope much more easily. Of course, every fast is different (especially once you reach fasts of a week or more), and some will always be harder than others. But the underlying trend does confirm the old saying: that practice makes perfect!

      Since you mention it, I did used to have a “donate” button on the website, but it didn’t get any response so I dropped the idea. In the end, though, people can contribute by making a purchase, just like you say.

      Thanks 🙂
      Tallis

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