Fasting 101: Do Electrolytes BREAK a Fast or HELP?!

Date: 2020-05-04 12:59:06

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Special Thanks to my team and Nicholas Norwitz – Oxford PhD Researcher and Harvard Med Student – for working diligently on research as well!

Electrolyte Depletion During Fasting

Study – The American Journal of Medicine

This study, entitled, “Fasting—A review with emphasis on the electrolytes” stated that:

Potassium excretion is rapid during the early part of fasting and then tapers off to a constant level of about 10 to 15 mEq/day = 390 to 585mg/day

Sodium excretion is also enhanced early in fasting, declining progressively to between 1 and 15 mEq/day = 23 to 345mg/day (losses that persist even through prolonged caloric deprivation)

During a prolonged fast, your kidneys can excrete magnesium quite quickly – in a study from the The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, the kidneys of participants on a 2 month fast, were excreting magnesium at a rate 4-5 times higher than normal

The average magnesium loss per day when it comes to fasting (typically) ranges from ~80mg to ~200mg (per The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, respectively)


When we have lower insulin levels, our kidneys excrete more sodium, which can lead to a lower sodium/potassium ratio – sodium is the major cation (positively charged ion) found outside the cell and regulates the total amount of water in the body


Potassium is dependent on sodium to be effective…

In water, potassium (K) ionizes and gains one positive charge (K+)

This property allows potassium concentration gradients to create electric currents that are absolutely required for muscle cells (skeletal, intestinal, & cardiac) to contract and for neurons to fire action potentials and communicate with each other.

Potassium and Neuron/Nerve Function – “Reset Button” Analogy

Neurons and nerves work by firing electrical signals to one another called “action potentials.” To create these action potentials, they need to create an electrical current, which they do by changing the concentrations of ions – sodium and potassium – across their cell membranes to change “electrochemical gradients” and, thereby, change voltage.

By letting potassium out of the cell (potassium is more concentrated inside cells than outside cells, while sodium is the opposite), the neuron resets its voltage so it can fire another action potential.


Magnesium, as we know, is a cofactor in over 350 enzymatic reactions in the body – it also plays a role in transporting calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes


What is called ATP is often actually Mg-ATP

Magnesium vs Norepinephrine & Epinephrine

Per a study in the Journal Hypertension, magnesium blocks mainly N-type calcium channels at nerve endings, and thus inhibits norepinephrine release, which decreases blood pressure

Another study, published in Anesthesiology, found that magnesium inhibits the hypertensive but not the cardiotonic actions of low-dose epinephrine

Additional References

Fasting Guides

How to do Intermittent Fasting: Complete Guide:

Complete Women’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting:

Fasting Guidelines: What You CAN and CANNOT Drink:

Nicholas Norwitz – Oxford PhD Researcher and Harvard Med Student:

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