What Are the Dangers of Not Eating Anything for a Day?

Empty plate and silverware over wooden table
Fasting for a day can cause unpleasant side effects. (Image: karandaev/iStock/Getty Images)

Skipping food for a day may seem like a quick solution for slimming down, but the reality is that fasting can be harmful to your health and probably won't cause lasting weight loss. For sustainable results, forget the diet schemes and stick to the tried-and-true method of eating healthier foods in moderate portions and engaging in regular exercise.

Dehydration Danger

About 20 percent of your water intake comes from food, and mealtime is when many people consume a significant portion of their daily beverages. Given these factors, dehydration often accompanies fasting. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, reduced urination, dark yellow urine and muscle cramps. In severe cases. dehydration can make you feel dizzy or confused and cause rapid heartbeat. It's also possible to lose consciousness or go into shock from dehydration. To stay well-hydrated, men need about 16 cups of water per day and women need about 11 cups of water per day, including water from food.

An Uncomfortable Day

Fasting is a generally unpleasant experience that can cause headaches, heartburn and constipation. Not eating also affects your mood, and you may grow irritable as your body craves food. Without calories -- or energy -- you also won't have the fuel you need for optimal mental focus or vigorous physical activities. Therefore, you may be less productive on the job and get less healthy exercise than usual.

Metabolic Slowdown

You may be skipping food to try to shed pounds, but starving yourself may have the opposite effect and eventually lead to weight gain instead. When you don't have enough calories, your body prepares for starvation by expending as little energy as possible. You may start burning fewer calories than you used to, even while performing the same activities. When you start eating again, you're likely to exceed your newly reduced calorie needs -- and you'll store any excess calories as fat.

Smart Food Choices

Instead of starving yourself, lose weight with sensible calorie reduction and healthy food choices. Most women will lose weight and get proper nutrition eating 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, and most men will do the same eating 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day. Choose nutrient-packed foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, tofu, salmon, whole-wheat bread and quinoa, all of which will fill you up on fewer calories than heavier fare such as full-fat cheese, bacon and pastries.

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