Fasting has been practiced for thousands of years in one way or another, and there are still many popular fasting diets and protocols that people use today.
For example, there are quite a number of iterations of intermittent fasting diets.
Some intermittent fasting diets involve time-restricted eating patterns, such as 20/4 intermittent fasting, wherein each day includes a 20-hour fast and a four-hour eating window, or intermittent fasting 18/6.
When you want to do “advanced” fasting, you might even try a 5 day water fast. In this article, we will discuss the need-to-know details about how to do a 5 day water fast.
We will cover:
- What Is a 5 Day Water Fast?
- Is 5 Day Water Fasting Safe?
- How to Prepare for a 5 Day Water Fast
- How to Do a 5 Day Water Fast
- What Should You Eat After a 5 Day Water Fast?
Let’s dive in!
What Is a 5 Day Water Fast?
A water fast involves fasting from all food and caloric beverages and only allowing the consumption of water.
Some people do 24-hour water fasts or 36-hour water fasts, which essentially involve abstaining from all caloric food and beverages for one day or one and half days, respectively, as a form of intermittent fasting.
For example, someone may do a 24-hour fast once a week as an ongoing diet plan to help support weight loss rather than restricting calories to a moderate amount every day.
A 5 day water fast is an even more extreme protocol of water fasting, requiring the complete abstinence of all food and caloric beverages for a full five days.
It is often performed by people who want to work up to water fasting for a week.
Although such a prolonged water fast can certainly support weight loss and may improve other markers of health, most medical providers say that water fasting for a week is an extreme practice that is unsuitable and potentially dangerous for most individuals.
Therefore, if you are interested in embarking on a 5 day water fast, it is highly recommended that you speak with your healthcare team to discuss the potential risks and important safety considerations.
Is 5 Day Water Fasting Safe?
Long-term fasting can result in dangerous electrolyte and sugar imbalances or deficiencies that can potentially affect your cognition, decision-making ability, focus, nerve conduction, fluid balance, muscle contraction, and even heart rate and rhythm.
It’s very important to speak with your doctor before trying prolonged fasting.
Medical supervision will help ensure that 5 day water fasting does not put your health in danger, and your doctor may have specific concerns or recommendations for safer fasting practices.
How to Prepare for a 5 Day Water Fast
As mentioned, before you actually start your 5 day water fast, you should speak with your doctor to obtain medical clearance and discuss alternatives.
If you get the go-ahead, you should begin physically and mentally preparing for your 5 day water fast—both aspects are important.
To physically prepare for a 5 day water fast, it’s typically helpful to try shorter water fasting protocols, such as 24-hour fasting or intermittent fasting, with reducing your eating windows.
For example, you might try 20/4 intermittent fasting for a week or two leading up to your 5 day water fast. This time-restricted eating approach involves prolonging the overnight fast for a full 20 hours every day and then only consuming food during a four-hour window.
No matter how you decide to structure your “mini“ fasts, rehearsing some of the physical sensations you will experience during a 5 day water fast will help prevent your body from feeling totally shocked by a sudden cessation of energy intake for numerous days in a row.
Even if you decide that you want to jump right into the 5 day water fasting without trying a shorter fast, you should prepare your body by carefully controlling your diet in the days leading up to your fast.
Avoid highly-processed foods, such as refined grains, sweets and pastries, soda, alcohol, lunch meats and processed meats, hydrogenated oils and trans fats, and fatty meats.
These foods can irritate the gut microbiome and are very difficult to digest. Furthermore, if you are fasting for weight loss, processed foods will work against your efforts because they are calorically dense but not nutritionally dense.
It’s also a good idea to prepare yourself mentally because 5 day water fasting is going to test your willpower, determination, and mindfulness.
Make sure that you have gathered a few ideas for how you will deal with difficult emotions and challenging moments during your fast, such as meditation, journaling, and yoga.
How to Do a 5 Day Water Fast
So, how do you do a 5 day water fast?
Once you feel that you are ready, begin your 5 day water fast by abstaining from all food and caloric beverages for a full five days.
Some people choose to also have non-caloric beverages like green tea, herbal tea, club soda, or very low-calorie beverages such as black coffee during the fast.
It’s also advisable to consider supplementing your water with noncaloric, unsweetened electrolyte powders or having electrolyte tablets or capsules.
However, according to some water fasting gurus, during strict 5 day water fasting protocols, you are only technically allowed to lick pure pink Himalayan salt.
Of course, if you experience any concerning symptoms as you are fasting, you should consult your doctor immediately.
What Should You Eat After a 5 Day Water Fast?
When you fast, the digestive system gets a break from needing to process, digest, and absorb all the different foods and drinks you normally consume.
While this can be beneficial, and there are quite a number of potential health benefits of fasting in general, jumping right back into your normal diet after a period of prolonged fasting (longer than the regular overnight fast) can be an unwelcome shock to your gut, especially if you were fasting for upwards of 24 hours or more.
Going from having nothing in your digestive tract—and thus allowing your digestive system to have a mini “vacation“ of sorts— to suddenly having a rich, heavy, calorie-laden meal can be a recipe for not only undoing some of the potential weight loss and health benefits of your fast, but also for a very uncomfortable and unhappy digestive system.
Furthermore, there is actually a condition called refeeding syndrome that can occur if you eat too much too soon after prolonged fasting.
This dangerous condition is a result of the rapid changes in electrolytes and water balance that can occur once you finally give your body some nutrients after a prolonged fast.
Certain electrolytes, such as potassium, magnesium, and phosphate, are required for digesting and absorbing nutrients such as carbohydrates, but because these electrolytes are depleted during extended water fasts, your body‘s ability to properly digest carbohydrates becomes significantly impaired.
Therefore, you need to gradually ease back into eating and choose foods to break your fast that are lower in carbohydrates, rich in electrolytes, and gentle on the stomach.
Avoid processed foods and fatty foods like meat, fried food, and sweets, along with alcohol and some dairy products like cheese, ice cream, and full-fat milk.
After fasting for nearly a week, it is also best to avoid food such as raw cruciferous vegetables, legumes, seeds and seed bladders, and nuts and nut butters.
Although these are typically considered healthy foods and should be incorporated as part of your everyday diet, they can be difficult to digest.
It is not uncommon to experience excessive gas or sharp gas pains when trying to digest high-fiber after a period of fasting because the digestive system is completely empty.
Therefore, ease slowly back into eating beans, peas, lentils, nuts, peanut butter, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, and raw broccoli, cauliflower, kale, or Brussels sprouts after fasting.
You can eat cauliflower, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables after fasting, but it’s a good idea to cook them because this helps break down some of the indigestible fibers.
In fact, many people find that steamed cauliflower, brussels sprouts, or broccoli can be some of the best foods to eat to break a fast, but it is important to cook them thoroughly to reduce the risk of gas pains or a stomachache.
Most importantly, the worst foods to eat after fasting are those that you are not very accustomed to eating, particularly if they are high in sugar or fat.
For example, if you normally follow a very healthy diet filled with whole, natural, unprocessed foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, eggs, seeds, and nuts, it’s not a good idea to break your fast with toaster pastries, a couple of donuts, or a huge muffin from a coffee shop chain.
Typically, fermented foods, bone broth, and cooked vegetables are a good starting place, but it’s important that you speak with your doctor to get individualized guidance about what foods to eat after fasting for 5 days.
To maximize the benefits and minimize the risks of 5 day water fasting, work with your doctor and discuss potential concerns.