The one-day (36-hour) water fast

Mugshot 2018 Kisoroszi garden (square)Most people in the modern world have never gone 24 hours without eating. You too? If so, the one-day (36-hour) water fast is the perfect way to begin your journey into water fasting.

I remember when I did my first one-day water fast. My plan was to eat dinner, then fast through all of the following day, breaking my fast with breakfast on the day after this. This format is ideal for anyone wishing to try out a 36-hour fast.

Psychologically, the experience was hugely challenging. Like most people, I’d hardly ever even skipped a meal in my life, and the idea of not eating anything for a whole day seemed almost inconceivable. Every time my stomach rumbled, it felt like the end of the world: I was going to starve! Of course, logically I knew that I wouldn’t, but the rational mind so easily collapses when your deeper, instinctive emotions emerge from out of the subconscious. By the evening, all I could think about was food… In the end, though, I did it. And so can you. Anyone can survive 36 hours without food!

So why put yourself through such a terrible ordeal 😉 ? (By the way, contrary to my own experience, many people do actually enjoy their first one-day fast, feeling full of energy and without existential worries.)

The benefits of a 36-hour water fast:

There are two reasons to face your fears and reap the benefits of a 36 hour water fast. The first is psychological. Precisely by facing your fears and emerging victorious on the morning following the fast, you become a stronger person. We all have a built-in survival response. By breaking the psychological barrier of no food for a whole day, you’ll find that the next 36-hour fast goes much more smoothly. Equally important, it also then becomes much easier to move on to longer water fasts in which you fully unlock the body’s healing metabolism.

The second reason is physical. At the very least, you give your digestive system a break for a day. It can rest and recuperate. This is hugely beneficial for maintaining health and to prevent aging. Mahatma Gandhi, for instance, used to fast one day every week. Following his assassination at the age of 78, the doctors at his autopsy described how Gandhi’s inner organs looked like those of someone half his age.

Perhaps even more importantly, by fasting for 36 hours you prompt the body to begin unlocking its healing metabolism. This can take place only when the body is burning fat for fuel, in a state otherwise known as ketosis. In everyday life you normally burn carbohydrates, either directly from digested food or from the glycogen stored in your liver. When you stop eating, though, your glycogen stores run out after about 24 hours, and your body must begin switching over to ketosis in order not to run out of energy. (This process is described more fully in the article on the 3-day water fast.) There are two main reasons that you can heal while in ketosis. Firstly, the body stores toxins in fat cells, where they can’t cause damage. Only through ketosis can these toxins (continued below)


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be released and expelled from your body. Secondly, the immune system gains extra energy to repair and replace damaged cells when you stop eating, and the energy normally used for digestion can be used instead for healing.

Beyond the 36-hour water fast:

To complete the switch over to ketosis you need about three days, which is why it’s so important to learn the 3-day water fast at some point. But don’t rush into anything too soon! If you don’t feel ready to fast for three days, keep practising the 36-hour fast. If 36 hours feels too long, then try 24 hours instead. You can begin a 24-hour fast after eating dinner and then break the fast with dinner the next day (lunch to lunch is another option). 24 hours does less to nudge the body into ketosis, but still allows you to benefit by flushing out the toxins accumulated from the air you breathe, the water you drink, the food you eat – not to mention any medications and drugs you take. If a weekly or fortnightly 24-hour fast feels too much, then perhaps you should try intermittent fasting instead. Whatever you do, your body will thank you for it!

Dietary transition and refeeding:

One final note: there’s no need to prepare for a one day fast by changing your eating habits beforehand. Likewise, you don’t have to transition gradually back to eating normally afterwards.

RELATE ARTICLES:

— Facing your ego (click here)
— Overcoming addictions (click here)
— Physical and spiritual cleansing (click here)

117 Comments

  1. Chris says

    You spoke about Gandhi having an autopsy and his organs appearing like someone half his age. There is no record I could find of an autopsy being performed on his body after his death. Only a forensic investigation of the bullet wounds. Can you please show the source for this information so that others may read it?

    • Tallis Shivantar says

      Hi Chris,
      This is an anecdote I’ve read on multiple occasions – although I don’t know the original source. Do you have the source for the records of the forensic investigation? I should think there would be reference to it in there, as obviously the pathologists would have seen his organs when they opened him up.
      Tallis

  2. Thomas says

    I currently follow a 16:8 time-restricted eating programme 7 days a week. Would I benefit from adding weekly/bi-weekly longer fasts?

    Also, I visit the gym 4-5 times a week. If I were to include extended fasting periods, should I avoid training during these?

    One final question!! Following on from the previous comment about chewing gum, does using toothpaste during a fasting period trigger the digestive system in any way?

    • Tallis Shivantar says

      Hi Thomas,

      Thanks for your question. You’d almost certainly benefit from longer fasts – the main question is exactly how you could fit this into your lifestyle. I would think of the main benefit of 16:8 as giving a daily rest to your digestion, whereas that of longer fasts is detox and cleansing. In that sense, it makes more sense to go for less frequent but longer fasts.

      If you regularly go to the gym, it IS important to back off on working out while fasting for anything longer than 24-36 hours. This video goes into the question in depth:
      https://waterfasting.org/2018/11/27/working-out-and-exercise-during-a-water-fast-is-it-safe/

      Toothpaste probably does minimally trigger the digestive system. Comparing it to chewing gum, though, you won’t be swallowing so much saliva, which means that the stimulus from brushing your teeth comes only from the mouth, and not the mouth plus the stomach. To be honest, I wouldn’t worry about it!

      All the best,
      Tallis

      • Thomas says

        Thanks, Tallis.

        So would daily 16:8 fasts with a once-weekly 36hr fast work well or is this is some way detrimental?

        Also, despite the clear health benefits, as a naturally lean body type, I am a little concerned about losing weight (muscle mass) from missing a day’s worth of calories – should I be increasing my calorie intake over the remainder of the week to make up for the ‘lost’ calories during a 36hr fast?

        • Tallis Shivantar says

          Hi Thomas,

          There’s no reason why 16:8 plus a weekly 36hr fast shouldn’t work if you’re eating a nutritious diet in between. The most important thing, though, is not to turn the 36hr fast into a weekly drudgery, but rather do it because you can feel your body asking for it – which itself may require a few fasts in order to be able to tune into what your body is saying.

          If you’re already very lean, then eventually your body is going to start cannibalising muscle mass to compensate for any long-term calorie deficit. This isn’t going to be related directly to the weekly 36-hr fast but rather the overall calorie intake versus output. So to answer your question: yes, it does sound like you should be compensating for the lost calories of a 36-hour fast over the rest of the week.

          Tallis

  3. Rimantas says

    Hello! Great source of information, thank you!

    I was wondering, if a drink in the morning with juice from half a lime, few drops of apple cider vinegar and some salt following with some coffee and spoon of butter is a good way to go?

    Also, should I be taking my supplements (Vitamin D3 and K2) during a fast? Are there other specific supplements that would help during fast?

    Thank you again!

    • Tallis Shivantar says

      Hi Rimatas,

      Glad you’ve found the website helpful.

      About the juice, lime, vinegar, salt, coffee and butter: I’m not sure what context you’re thinking of. This isn’t for a water fast, is it? Water fasts are supposed to be zero calorie!!! In every day life, a big glass of water with some lime and apple cider vinegar is definitely a good way to start the day. Not so sure about the spoon of butter though…

      About supplements during a water fast: if you’re a healthy person who has been eating a healthy diet, there’s no need for supplements – even for long extended ones. Here is an article with plenty of information:

      https://waterfasting.org/2017/12/03/pills-powders-and-potions-the-reality-of-taking-supplements-while-fasting/

      Hope this helps,
      Tallis

  4. Adrienne Amato says

    Just found your site. Great info. I was wondering, is it ok to chew gum on a fast? I’ve read some sites that say it’s not helpful because it can stimulate your appetite but will it actually interfere with the process? I get really dry mouth and oddly enough the more water I drink, the more noticeable it becomes. Gum and mints help a lot.

    • Tallis Shivantar says

      Hi Adrienne,

      Chewing gum isn’t the end of the world but it’s not the best either. It doesn’t involve ingesting calories and therefore doesn’t interfere with ketosis, but it IS going to stimulate your digestive juices to a degree. This usually does prevent appetite from receding as quickly, and, of course, keeping your digestive system awake is going to divert some of your energy away from the healing process – but, quite honestly, the degree to which a little piece of gum is going to decrease your ability to cleanse and heal isn’t going to be very significant.

      All things considered, I’d avoid chewing gum and instead sip from a glass of water when you really need to. The dry mouth is a detox symptom, and this is why drinking often doesn’t help – because another glass of water simply isn’t enough to complete the cleansing process. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink. Quite the opposite. Without any doubt, the dry mouth (like thirst) is a signal from the body to drink more, because fluids help to facilitate cleansing. Chewing gum, on the other hand, isn’t going to help you cleanse at all. It just hides the body’s message to you that you should be drinking!

      The situation here is similar to taking a paracetamol for a headache. All it does is suppress symptoms without addressing the root cause.

      I know having a dry mouth feels annoying, but, in terms of detox symptoms, at least it’s not uncomfortable. If you continue your fasting journey it will pass – either on this fast on during future fasts. My advice would be to follow your body’s first instinct and drink instead of chew 🙂

      All the best,
      Tallis

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