Welcome to my science based guide on how to break a water fast.
And just to clear the potential confusion, breaking or ending a water fast means the exact same thing.In both cases, you start getting in some calories (foods and drinks) after you finish a water fast.
Because your digestion might not be ready to handle your normal diet right off the bat, I've prepared a simple food list you can follow to properly end a fast.
I've also included some strategies that can help you avoid any unpleasant issues like potential depletion of vital nutrients or deal with increased hunger and appetite.
Before we dive in, here's a quick overview of everything that I've covered in this guide (use it for navigation):
Follow this food list
Ok, let's just get something straight first.
There is no scientifically proven or research-backed food list to break a fast with.
So the list you're about to read contains some common-sense options you can follow when you end a water fast:
- fruit juices
- vegetable juices
- raw fruits
- raw leafy green vegetables (lettuce, spinach...)
- vegetable soups
- cooked vegetables (potatoes, rice...)
- raw vegetables (celery, carrots...)
- cooked grains and beans
- milk, dairy, eggs
- fish, meat
- everything else
The foods on this list are sorted according to how tough they are to digest.
The easily digestible foods are on top of the list, while the hard-to-digest foods are at the bottom of the list.
So as you end a water fast, you can simply start with the foods at the top of the list and slowly make your way down.
With every meal, you can include more and more foods from the list.
EXAMPLE: Break the water fast with some orange juice (food group #1).
Eat a banana (food group #3) a few hours later.
If everything feels ok, you can make a small salad with yoghurt topping (food groups #4 and #5) as your next meal, and so on...
Try to break your water fast with smaller meals, spaced at least two hours apart.
As you include more and more foods from the list, you can also start slowly increasing the size of your meals.
Since we're talking meal sizes, here's another tip for you.
Keep your meals small
One of the most beneficial things you can do as you break a water fast, is to stick with smaller meals.
And there's more to it than just ending a water fast properly.
You see, even if you fast "just" for a day or so, your stomach will already shrink to a degree.
This means that after breaking a fast, you will be likely be able to feel full and satisfied even if you eat far smaller meals than what you were used to before the fast.
So unless you don't need to lose any more weight, I suggest you hold on to this positive stomach-shrinking effect for as long as you can.
Because, as soon as you overeat just once or twice, your stomach will stretch again.
And you will, yet again, need to eat bigger meals to feel full and satiated.
So benefit from your reduced stomach size for as long as you can (and don't ruin it by overeating).
Restore the lost nutrients
If you're breaking a 100% pure water fast, then you must restore some of the vital nutrients (vitamins and minerals) you lost during the fast.
In one case, the scientists looked at the state the body was in, after a person did a 44-day water fast.
The reserves of vitamins B1, B6 and B12 were almost completely wiped out (extreme deficiencies of vitamin B1 can cause heart failure, meaning that the person barely survived).
This alone should be reason enough for you to NEVER do a water fast longer than 3 days / 72 hours (unless you can do it in a fasting retreat under strict medical supervision).
But even if you fasted "just" for a couple of days, it is still a good idea to take a quality multi-vitamin (or at least a B-complex) to restore some of the vital nutrients after you break your fast.
Tame your hunger and appetite
Look, there's no sugarcoating it.
Once you break a water fast after one to three days, your hunger and appetite will likely be a lot higher than usual.
This is a normal and perfectly natural response to water fasting, simply because you haven't been eating any calories for a couple of days.
So here are two options of bringing getting your hunger and appetite in check, after you end a water fast:
You can eat protein-rich foods, because those have been scientifically proven to bring down hunger and appetite.
If you're a coffee lover, then you'll be glad to find out that the hunger-taming effect of caffeine has also been proven by modern science.
Time to wrap up this part of the guide.
Summary (actionable takeaways)
In this part of my science-based guide to water fasting, we've covered several strategies on how to break a water fast:
- you can follow a simple food list to progress from easy to hard-to-digest foods (though my list has no scientific research behind it),
- you can keep your meals small, even after you've successfully ended a water fast, because this will allow you to feel full and satisfied with less food,
- you'd do well to restore some of the lost nutrients (with a quality multivitamin or at least a B-complex),
- you can use some specific foods and drinks (that contain protein or caffeine) to help tame a likely increased hunger and appetite after you break a water fast.