Fasting for a day can have various effects on the body, such as affecting the way the body uses energy.

Fasting is a longstanding part of many religious traditions, including the Jewish and Muslim observances of Yom Kippur and Ramadan. A form of fasting known as intermittent fasting has also gained popularity as a weight-loss tool.

Many studies have examined the benefits and risks of giving up food for a day, including how it affects weight loss.

This article examines what happens to the body during fasting and what a person can do to make fasting safer.

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Whether a person is fasting or not, the body still needs energy. Its primary energy source is a sugar called glucose, which usually comes from carbohydrates, including grains, dairy products, fruits, certain vegetables, beans, and even sweets.

When glucose in the blood sufficiently meets the energy demands of the body, the liver and muscles will store some of the extra glucose in the form of glycogen and release it into the bloodstream whenever the body needs it.

However, during fasting, this process changes. The liver will use the last of its glycogen reserves around 18 to 24 hours of fasting. At this point, the body enters into a state called gluconeogenesis, marking the body’s transition into fasting mode.

With no carbohydrates coming in, the body creates its own glucose using mainly fat. Eventually, the body runs out of these energy sources as well. Fasting mode then becomes the more serious starvation mode.

At this point, a person’s metabolism slows down, and their body begins burning muscle tissue for energy.

Although it is a well-known term in dieting culture, true starvation mode occurs only after several consecutive days or weeks without food.

So, for those breaking their fast after 24 hours, it is generally safe to go without eating for a day unless other health conditions are present.

Learn more about fasting.

According to a much older source, it does appear that fasting can help with weight loss. However, studies make it clear that this is not the case for everyone.

Popular diet plans include 12-hour or 16-hour fasting periods, as well as the 24-hour fast. Some diets require people to drink only water during the fast, while others allow zero-calorie beverages.

Fasting is not necessarily better than any other weight-loss method, including reducing daily calorie intake by a small amount.

In a 2017 study, people with obesity who fasted intermittently for 12 months lost slightly more weight than those who dieted in a more traditional way, but the results were not statistically significant.

The limits of fasting appear to have less to do with its physical effects than how it fits into a given lifestyle.

For example, the same study found that people who fasted were more likely to give up on weight-loss efforts than those who dieted more traditionally, such as counting calories. The researchers concluded that fasting might be harder to maintain over time.

Another possible concern is post-fast binging. Some fasting experts in an older 2013 study agree it is easy to derail weight-loss successes by overeating after fasting.

Fasting days can also offer a false sense of security, leading people to disregard positive eating habits on non-fasting days.

Learn more about the benefits of fasting.

As well as aiding weight loss, not eating for a day can have other health benefits.

Research suggests that occasional 24-hour fasting can improve cardiovascular health.

Some evidence from research on animals shows that fasting can help fight certain kinds of cancer or even help preserve memory.

Drinking enough water is essential for maintaining everyday health, whether a person is eating or not.

Many health authorities recommend drinking eight 8-ounce glasses (about 2 liters) of water every day.

Unless a religious observance forbids it, a person can take advantage of the fast by drinking plenty of water to help curb hunger pangs.

When fasting for 24 hours, some people consume other beverages such as tea, black coffee, or zero-calorie sweetened drinks.

Although it is generally safe, going a day without eating can be difficult for some people, including:

  • people with diabetes
  • people with a history of eating disorders
  • people using medications that they must take with food
  • children and adolescents
  • those who are pregnant or nursing

There are many ways to break a fast safely, including:

  • Drink water: This is especially important if circumstances prevent it during the fast.
  • Eat a small meal: Eating a large meal immediately after a fast can strain the digestive system.
  • Chew food thoroughly: Chew each bite thoroughly to get the full benefit.
  • Eat cooked foods: Go for foods that are easier to digest, such as cooked vegetables instead of raw.
  • Avoid experimenting: Trying new foods after a fast can make digestion harder and may make a person feel ill.

Here are some frequently asked questions about fasting for a day.

What does a 24-hour fast do for your body?

If a person fasts for 24 hours, the body runs out of its stored energy source, known as glycogen. Fat and protein are then used as an energy source. Effects on the body include weight loss, preventing certain diseases, and improving cardiovascular health.

What can you drink during a 24-hour fast?

A person can drink plenty of water to help curb hunger pangs unless a religious observance forbids it. Other beverages people may drink during a fast include tea and coffee.

What are the rules for 24-hour fasting?

A 24-hour fast includes not eating any food for 24 hours. People may still intake liquids, however.

Going a day without eating is generally safe and can be beneficial in several ways, including as a weight-loss tool.

Fasting, however, does not help weight loss any more than other conventional approaches and can be harder to stick with over the long term.

If a person is fasting for health reasons, it is essential that they do it safely and for no longer than is necessary. Long-term fasting starves the body of essential nutrients and can cause many complications.