According to research, the average human body can survive between one and three weeks without access to food and water. If you have clean water but no food, you can make it to two months. But technically, your body can only cope without water for three days. All that said, does lemon water break a fast? Not really, but let’s explore this matter a little deeper and see.
What is a Fast?
Fasting is when you voluntarily go without food and/or water for a predefined period. The idea of fasting is to eliminate all calories during the designated period. Some people do a dry fast, which means you stay away from any food or beverage during your fasting periods. Or you could do a water fast, which means you can sip plain water at intervals during the day.
In the modern world, some people fast religiously, pun intended, while others fast for lifestyle reasons. You can find people refusing food for political purposes, but that’s not called a fast – it’s called a hunger strike. And its mechanics are completely different from your typical fast. Hunger strikes are a form of voluntary starvation for a designated cause.
Some people think of fasting as a diet or detox, while others see it as a spiritual exercise. For the latter, depriving your body of nourishment is a way of focusing on your higher self. By not eating and choosing to ignore your physical needs, you’re consciously giving priority to your soul, higher power, or your spiritual deity. Below are some reasons why people fast.
Reasons for Fasting
- Medical – You can stop eating then deliberately re-introduce certain foods when you’re trying to identify an allergy trigger or reverse a diagnosed immune reaction.
- Surgical – Before certain medical procedures involving anesthesia e.g. surgery, your doctors will tell you not to eat or drink for 8 to 12 hours. This prevents complications.
- Religious – Christians fast during Lent and Muslims fast during Ramadan. Their fasts are typically accompanied by introspection, prayer, and acts of religious service.
- Intermittent – This type of fasting is a popular lifestyle option. It involves a rigid schedule of restricting calories by avoiding food at certain hours e.g. 6 pm to 11 am.
- Dietary – This is a specific type of ‘fast’ where the goal is to trigger ketosis by cutting the body’s access to carbs. This forces the body to burn stored fats and make ketones.
Types of Fasts
Lemon water doesn’t break your fast. If anything, if you’re fasting for calorie restriction, it could help you trim down! Drinking lemon water before meals can help you eat a little less food because you’ll feel partially full. Also, lemon water can raise your overall water intake. It feels more substantial than plain water, so you’ll feel motivated to drink more (lemon) water.
Good lemon water should contain at least one squeezed lemon and minimal added sugar. It’s a safe low-calorie recipe if you’re fasting. But first, let’s look at some common types of fasts.
- Complete fast with no food or water e.g. Moses and Jesus did 40-day fasts.
- Partial fast e.g. Catholics typically give up meat for the 40 days of Lent.
- Daylight fast e.g. Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for the 30 days of Ramadan.
- Juice fast with no slid food but unlimited water and juice.
- Water fast with no sweeteners or additives, not even lemon.
- Nutrient fast e.g. Daniel (from the Bible) only ate fruits, vegetables, and water.
The reason and type of fast you’ve chosen will affect how much lemon water you drink. For a juice fast, lemon water is ideal because it has less sugar than most fruit juices. But be wary of drinking too much, because the citrus can soften your enamel and weaken your teeth after prolonged exposure. On the upside, Vitamin C helps hormone production and hydration.
Christian vs Muslim Fasting
For most Christians, fasting is a quiet thing. Contemporary denominations insist that no one should know you’re fasting and that you should continue with normal daily activities. These Christian fasts will often allow you to drink water and can last from 3 days to 40 days. But with a Muslim fast, you shouldn’t drink water or even swallow saliva during the fast period.
Another difference is while Christians typically fast for 24 hours, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Families and communities get together before dawn and share a meal called suhur that will sustain them during the day. At dusk, they come together again for iftar, a mini snack to break the fast. Later, after evening prayers, the family enjoys a larger meal together.
For Muslims, lemon water always breaks their fast because they’re not allowed any liquid during daylight hours. Similarly, lemon water might break an intermittent fast because you have to avoid all calories during your fasting period. But for a Christian, or for someone who is fasting for non-religious reasons, unsweetened lemon water would not break their fast.
That said, you should also consider the recipe for lemon water. Some variants are sweetened with maple syrup, aspartame, agave, or honey. It might be just a touch to dim the tartness of the lemon, or you could add so much sugar that it’s closer to soda than water! That glass of goodness would surely break your fast! Add unsweetened mint, ginger, or cinnamon instead.
Why Fasting Works
Religious fasts are about taking the focus off your body and shifting it to your faith. When you wilfully deny your physical needs, you acknowledge, honor, and celebrate your spiritual self, which helps you connect better with God, Allah, Buddha, Jehovah, Krishna, or your chosen higher power. But fasting has tangible and scientific benefits too. Let’s explore a few.
- Your body manages its blood sugar more effectively.
- Short-term fasting reduces inflammation and boosts immunity.
- It can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Brief fasting sessions can help you stay alert and focused.
- It sometimes increases the hormones that cause growth spurts.
If you’re fasting for religious reasons, speak to someone at the church, mosque, or temple first. They’ll guide you on the tenets and requirements of your faith. But if you’re fasting for your health or lifestyle, speak to a doctor that’s trained in nutrition. They’ll show you how to fast in a safe, effective manner so you don’t overdo it and end up in their emergency room!
What is Lemon Water?
Lemon water is any amount of lemon juice mixed into water. The more lemons you use, the more concentrated your drink is. A single lemon has about 20 calories and produces maybe 3 tablespoons of juice. Some carbs are in the rind and pith, so the juice has fewer calories. But a lemon-flavored energy drink or sports drink is not lemon water – it has added calories.
Typically, a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice has 3 to 4 calories, so the juice from one lemon would be 10 to 12 calories. But lemons are naturally sour, so when they’re squeezed into juice or water, they’re often sweetened with a few drops of honey. This basic recipe works, but if you add anything extra, or if it’s sweetened, store-bought lemon water, calorie counts go up!
It’s unlikely that you’ll drink straight lemon juice – that’s way too tart! It’s more palatable to mix a tablespoon or two in a glass of plain water, which will keep you well under 10 calories. Ideally, you want lemon water that has juice from ¼ lemon and zero added sweeteners. This way, you’re sure that the lemon water won’t break your fast. Stick to one glass though!
Why Would You Drink Lemon Water?
Lots of people use lemon, lime, or cucumber water as a dieting aid. Conventional wisdom says we should drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. And if that water is lemon water, you get a few extra calories in the process. Not enough to pile up the fat, but the psychological boost can be useful. Plus, it has antioxidants, Vitamin C, and can help you digest your food better.
Water can make you feel full, so nutritionists advise you to sip some when you’re hungry. As a rule of thumb, if you’re feeling peckish, have some water first and see if it kills the craving. This might help you avoid snacking between meals, which keeps your calorie count down. If it’s lime or lemon water, those negligible calories can safely help with that feeling of fullness.
Of course, not all lemon water is dietary. Vitamin C is good for infections, and lemon-ginger tonics are a common treatment for coughs, colds, and respiratory congestion. Lemon makes a useful astringent, and drinking it helps your body absorb iron and make collagen, so it’s good for your skin. The scent of lemon is soothing, and some people like the citrus flavor.
Apart from the standard Vitamin C, lemons contain trace amounts of B vitamins (B1, B2, and B5). They also have folate, potassium, and iron. Lemon water is tart, so you’re likely to sip instead of gulp. This is helpful because sipping water offers more benefits. When you gulp a glass or a liter of liquid in one go, your body is overwhelmed and releases most of it as pee!
Lemonade and Fasting
Does lemon water break a fast? Short answer – no. It carries just under 10 calories, and a typical person needs at least 2,000 calories a day. So those 9 calories are negligible if you compare them to your daily diet. But if you drink lemonade instead of unsweetened lemon water, then those added calories in the sugar, honey, or maple syrup will break your fast.