The Truth About Dirty Fasting

If you've tried a variety of diets and still can't seem to shed the pounds, you may be considering checking out the relatively new weight loss trend, dirty fasting.

While fasting has historically been associated with religion, it has become more part of the mainstream in recent years as a method for weight loss and other potential health benefits, according to Cleveland Clinic.

But what exactly is dirty fasting? Is it safe? And how is it different from clean fasting?  

According to Fasting.com, while there are different points of view about what classifies a fast as clean, and that clean fasting is not considered a medical term, they define a clean fast as "a fast when nothing other than water, black coffee, herbal teas, plain mineral water, or electrolytes is consumed. These additions to a fast are either non-caloric or extremely low in calories (≤5 calories), so they theoretically will not disrupt a fast through an insulin spike."

The main difference between a clean fast and a dirty fast is that a dirty fast provides a bit more leeway, allowing you to ingest artificial sweeteners, dairy products in your coffee or tea, and small amounts of protein. If you are uncomfortable with attempting a clean fast, dirty fasting might, therefore, be a bit easier in that it may make you feel less deprived.

How many calories are allowed?

While the definition for dirty fasting is still fluid, Healthline notes that dirty fasting is essentially a modified version of fasting, with people engaging in dirty fasting typically consuming 100 calories or less per day during a fasting window. While you inevitably do consume some calories during a dirty fast, the quantity is so far below what your normal daily intake is that there will inevitably be health benefits, such as weight loss.

However, at the end of the day, dirty fasting is not technically considered fasting by purists because of the intake of calories, even though they are minimal. That said, supporters of dirty fasting say this form of fasting makes it easier to keep to a fasting regimen.

Given that there is still little research available on dirty fasting, until there is more data, Healthline suggests that the most effective way to maintain optimal health is through methods supported by science, such as eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, and engaging in regular exercise.